If every PR professional in the world crammed themselves into a (fictitiously large) conference arena, the room would be filled with driven, creative, detail-oriented, thick-skinned individuals. It’s no big surprise that the industry’s brightest minds share similar traits, but there is one often overlooked skill that most people take for granted. If all the people in that conference room were handed a pen and asked to write a pitch, there’s no doubt they could do it … but would they all be effective?
Writing smarts are a PR professional’s most important tool. It takes conscious practice to craft the most effective messaging, even if it’s just a one-off email to a client – and there is always room for improvement. Here are three tips to stay sharp:
1. Read it all.
One of my favorite quotes is this: “Never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word. It means they learned it by reading.” This translates to more than words. If you’re not reading, you’re missing out on worlds of content that could be leveraged for brainstorms, bylines, or that perfect pitch. Start with scanning the news every morning from your smartphone and ingesting every article you see, even those outside your vertical. Then, make it a goal to read at least one book chapter a night before you go to sleep. Not only does this reduce stress (by as much as 68 percent!), it can also make it easier for you to empathize with others, according to research from Science. Who wouldn’t want a boost in their mind-reading superpowers to help mitigate clients and the media?
2. Take it in small chunks.
Editing an entire press release may seem daunting, but editing a Tweet? Less so – though I’m not knocking the challenge of cutting your thoughts down to 140 characters! When you have time to spare, try practicing your grammar in small chunks, such as on a client email. Go back, re-read, and cut, cut, cut. Did you use a cliché? Are you speaking in active voice? Are there extra thats or justs you can snip? I’m just saying that An email can always be more direct! Pro tip: Keep a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook on your desk. You never know when you’ll question when to use “because” over “since” (“because” denotes a specific cause-effect relationship; “since” doesn’t)!
3. Give it a voice.
Every person has their own voice, and their writing should too. This is especially important when ghostwriting for another party. How many times have you written a guest column for a client, only to have them send it back covered in red edits? Consider yourself lucky if this happens – it’s the perfect opportunity to learn the nuances between your own voice and someone else’s. On client calls, listen intently when your thought-leaders speak. It’s no easy feat to channel another individual’s personality when writing on their behalf, but if you conquer the challenge, it will increase the article’s readability (and chances of placement) tenfold. Next time, grab a conference room and read that LinkedIn Pulse post aloud. If it sounds natural, it’ll resonate with readers.
Sharp writing skills can’t be underestimated. Most recruiters desire jobseekers with excellent communication skills, but surprisingly, it’s an elusive quality. Fortunately, this gives you a better chance to show off your smarts. To be at the top of your PR game, it’s essential to chisel your writing – it’s the golden tool in every step of the pipeline, from email to article.