Even if you're not an award-winning writer, you still deal with the concept of writing almost every minute of the day in Public Relations. You're writing press releases, tweets, heck, you're writing emails. It may be what you lovingly (or sarcastically) call communications, but writing is the lifeblood of your entire job, and it's up to you, dear reader, to understand how much ignoring it can do to you.
After writing two books, a few hundred thousand tweets and far too many blog posts, I've found the following tips can revitalize even the most tired publicist's writing style...if adhered to.
Everything Has A Word (or Character) Count
One of the greatest difficulties I had when I was starting out as a reporter wasn't filling the page, but editing the page down, because I initially didn't think of the space I was filling. When I started realizing (and focusing upon) the fact that I had only 600 words to do something, my writing actually flowed faster, as there was a finishing line and I didn't have much space to mess around in. Any time I'm not given a word count I tend to go way, way over the top.
So do the same for yourself. That email pitch? 115 words. Max. Not 116, not 117, but 115. That client agenda? 200 words. Blog post? 600 words. Proposal? 1000 words. Focus yourself on both an attainable goal and a strict definition of exactly how long whatever it is your writing can be.
Write Like You Talk
This is a classic writing lesson my first editor gave me - and one that shockingly few people stick by. If you're writing something, mumble along to it, or at least speak it out in your head. If it doesn't sound right, it probably doesn't read that way either. The more "you" whatever you write is, the more human you'll sound (unless you're incredibly insufferable). It also makes writing easier because you'll (forgive me for the somewhat silly-sounding phrase here) be talking with your fingers.
Read More, And Read Differently
One of the best life lessons I got was that I should read a lot of fiction at as advanced a level as I could to broaden my vocabulary, and read a lot of different non-fiction that was totally outside of my own comfort zone. If you're deep in the tech industry, you should absolutely be considering reading something different every day - a psychology blog, an art blog, something totally different to your tastes and your comfort zone. You should also try and read at least two books a year that are utterly different to your regular choices. Your mind will expand, and your ability to communicate will increase.
If You're Worried About What You've Written, Have Someone With Another Job Read It
My dear friend Phil Broughton often reads things I write when I'm not sure about them simply because he isn't in Public Relations. He gives an opinion on the content, the communication, the writing itself over any potential stigma someone in PR may give me. This isn't to say I don't seek the counsel of my colleagues - quite the opposite - but it's powerful to get an alternative voice on anything you write. PR isn't nuclear safety (which is actually Phil's job), so don't treat your work as some sort of Rosetta Stone requiring a brain genius to understand (or correct.)
If You're New To PR, Forget About College
The biggest writing mistake any new PR person makes is remembering how they wrote in college. Sadly, many bad PR managers also remember college and the writing style they developed there - the idiocy of the introduction, body, conclusion methodology. This is usually then turned into some sort of "who what when where why" nonsense if the person went even near a college news class.
The grizzly truth about the Who/What/When/Where/Why is that the What and the Why are probably the most important things in PR. If you have a pitch, it's probably a case of What/Where/Why at best - the Where being a hyperlink.
College professors (and a lot of writing courses) tell you to cram everything with incredibly long words and bulky, awkward paragraphs. The best communication is done quickly and cleanly. Don't mince words. Don't give an abstract. Get to the point.