Many college PR and communications degrees have started to de-emphasize upper-level writing skills in favor of ethics and strategic thinking. Those are good areas to add to the courses, but passing on the writing courses regarding a profession that is still very oriented to the written word is a mistake. Here are some of the reasons a PR professional still needs to have excellent writing skills and to continue to improve them throughout their career.
Press Releases to Media
At one time writing press releases was a primary function of a PR specialist. That is not as much the case in most agencies now, but that doesn’t mean writing is not still a much-needed skill. A specialist on any given day may find themselves writing long-form ad content, social media content connecting a meaningful story to a client’s content, white papers, emails to follow-up with clients and journalists, emails for clients to send to customers and influencers, and more. The list is extensive.
Just imagine you’re working at a PR firm. Your content goes to a client for their review and then goes up on their website, blog, or social media accounts. The ideas in the content are good, but the grammar is horrible and comes off sounding a bit like it was hijacked by a hillbilly or foreigner. How much of the impact of a great story will be lost to the readers? How will the educated client feel about receiving the article in the first place? PR people have to know what they are doing when they write anything, or it’s going to haunt the agency and their clients.
PR Writing is More Than Grammar & Wordsmithing
Getting the punctuation, grammar, and effective words is only the first step to PR writing. You definitely don’t want your work to look unprofessional, but it goes beyond that. If the client needs to build a deep connection to members of their target audience, it’s about how the story is told, building readers’ emotions and tying feelings to the brand or product.
Creativity is needed, but not just a bunch of adjectives. Telling a story clearly, cleanly, and concisely is also needed in many situations. Twitter is 140 characters, Instagram is mainly about pictures, Facebook posts that are not sharing an article from another location work best if they are about 150-200 words maximum with a great picture.
While press releases follow a very specific format, almost everything else that will be written by PR people is an acquired skill and demands understanding different platforms, but if the storytelling isn’t up to par in the first place, all the tech savvy in the world won’t move the copy along the way a client needs.
Without Good Writing …
What’s the point of learning strategy and communication ethics if the writing skills behind them are too weak to get the job done in the first place? No agency or their clients will be impressed with how savvy you are to the marketplace if you can’t express those thoughts in an easily understood and acceptable way. Get the writing skills down first, and while you are learning to do that, you’ll pick up work ethic because improving writing is ongoing.
You’ll figure out many strategies because you research them for writing projects, and as you appreciate your ability as a writer, you’ll respect what others do as well, learning about the ethics of communication to a great degree by participating in the system. So, even if a college degree in communications doesn’t require you to improve your writing game, don’t let it fall by the wayside. The more skills you bring to the table, the more of an asset you become to future employers.