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The 3 Essential Skills of Public Relations (Part 2)

Yesterday, I laid out the three skills every PR person should have if they want to succeed:

  • Developing strategy
  • Writing
  • Pitching
In yesterday's post, I talked about being a strategist. Today, let's talk about writing. Tomorrow, we'll talk about pitching.

As I've said repeatedly on this blog, the paucity of good PR writers is baffling. It may be the single biggest reason we are a fringe profession (Yes, we are. We are about 1% of the size of the advertising industry, for comparison, and we have fewer discernible industry standards than licensed plumbers).

It would be impossible to lay out a quick plan for becoming a better writer. But here are my essential tips:

  • Get a good editor. Everyone, including the best writers on the planet, run their work past editors. Good editors help you shape your work and your writing style, forcing you to dig deeper and provide your readers with more and better information.
  • Develop your ears and your eye. Your ears hear words and ideas you can incorporate into your writing. Your eyes draw you to good writers you can learn from. Pay attention to these senses and work to develop them.
  • Simplify. Use the fewest, shortest words possible. Believe me, no one is impressed with multi-syllabic words for their own sake. One of my favorite current writers is the Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon. He uses lots of complicated words, and so I started to read his books with a dictionary by my side. Damned if each of those words wasn't the exact right word at the right time to express the nuance and depth of his thought! That's when you use big long words -- when you have no other choice.
  • Rewrite if you need to. Unless you are sure that your draft is the best you can do, give yourself permission to rewrite. All the best writers do it. It's magic, really -- rewriting helps you clarify your thoughts and exposes whatever weaknesses were hidden in your first draft.
Good writing is hard, and good writers, generally, aren't born that way. They develop over time, with the help of good editors and by their own perseverance. If you want to be a better writer, and you should, commit yourself to it over the balance of your career.
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