There’s no doubt about it; good writing is an essential skill for anybody working in PR. Starting a career in PR with limited writing skills is like bringing a knife to a gunfight; and even with a good level of experience it can be a very steep learning curve.
With a background in features writing I considered myself fairly well-armed when I started at Orchard but I soon learned that this aspect of PR is more varied and challenging than it first appears.
To start with, no two tasks are the same. Whether writing news releases, articles, tweets, online content or diary notes, each has its own set of rules to contend with.
With Orchard’s broad range of clients one day I could be penning an announcement release for headliners at the Guernsey Festival and the next tackling an in depth report on a financial seminar investigating regulatory reforms.
I have found that the key is to try to cut through the jargon you encounter in the research stages and make the client’s message as accessible as possible.
Hemingway claimed that to be a good writer, “all you have to do is write one true sentence.” To him, this dream sentence was short, declarative and to the point. He might have made a good living in PR; from day one on the job I had to focus on clear, concise and crisp writing – particularly in news releases.
The variety of writing briefs is just one of the hurdles though. You must also learn to quickly adapt your writing voice to suit the intended audience.
Often, this audience is journalists and the challenge is to communicate the message clearly and provide a skeleton for them to develop into an article showcasing their own style. These days news releases are often reproduced without significant changes – particularly online – so a release needs to work as a story in its own right as well.
I initially had some reservations about the nature of PR writing; was it going to neuter my style or turn one of my passions in to a mundane chore? I’ve found the opposite to be true.
In PR you have to put yourself in the clients’ shoes and capture their voice and message in a way that satisfies their tastes and goals. For me, being able to challenge and develop my skills as part of my daily work is what makes working in communications so interesting.
Posted by John.