Preview of PR Writing Tips Workshop

Thanks to Emma Finkbeiner, those not able to attend the 2015 PRSSA National Conference in Atlanta next month get this sneak peak of what Ryan McShane (RM) of Tattoo Projects and I will discuss during our session, “Writing Right: The Number One Skill Employers Want”. Emma is PRSSA publications editor, so our topic was a natural area of interest for her.

Below is Emma’s interview with us:

1. What “sneak peek” can you offer students about your session at National Conference and why should students attend this session?

RC: Students will learn the 10 grammar faux pas that drive supervisors crazy. Avoiding these mistakes will make you look smarter than fellow employees who consistently make writing errors.

RM: Students will leave the session with a better understanding of how to make their writing more purposeful and efficient.

2. What role has writing played in your everyday career?

RC: During the early days of my career, bosses noticed that I enjoyed writing. As a result, I got tapped to attend meetings “above my pay grade” and that often led to my being asked to help senior management write and edit major communications ranging from merger and acquisition announcements to the hiring of a new CEO. Without question, my career advancement was aided by my writing skills. A CEO once thanked me for my initial draft of his annual report letter to shareholders. He said he felt the writing style communicated a complicated matter in a very understandable way. Shortly afterwards, I was asked to rewrite a speech that had been written for him by a highly paid professional speechwriter. I was promoted shortly after that speech.

RM: Written communication is a fundamental skill within public relations that plays a pivotal role each and every day of a practitioner’s career. We write to inform, persuade, educate and entertain; we distribute our writing to colleagues, clients, media contacts and consumers; we write on behalf of our agencies, the brands we represent, corporate executives and celebrity spokespersons. As communications professionals, we are in the business of words.

Ryan McShane

Ryan McShane

3. Why is quality writing such a valuable skill to employers?

RC: Unfortunately, too many public relations professionals hate writing. It shows up quickly and is noticed by supervisors. Meanwhile, good writers are promptly identified and generally become involved sooner in higher level assignments. Not all, but most chief communications officers and agency heads are good writers.

RM: All writing has a purpose, and quality writing helps inform the intended result. Employees who can write are efficient because they avoid confusion and misinterpretation of their words. They also establish thought-leadership, because their words resonate and elicit a positive reaction.

4. What’s the most frequent mistake students/interns make in their writing?

RC: Singular nouns require singular pronouns, yet this is the most common mistake of many writers, not just students and interns. Edelman is a singular noun so the right pronoun is “it” or “its” not “they.” I know it sounds odd at first, but it’s correct grammar. And, yes, I make the mistake myself from time to time, especially in conversation.

RM: Beyond simple grammatical mistakes, inexperienced writers often overuse unneeded phrases that do not add to the intended thought. A teacher once challenged our class to imagine having to pay for every word we use in our writing. This simple exercise is effective in making us think about the words that truly communicate.

5. What is the best way to practice writing in college?

RC: Read your writing aloud. This exercise alone will catch errors, including typos because you focus on each and every word. If you struggle with writing, go to your college’s writing center. Most colleges have such services, usually staffed by English majors or recent graduates. They are there to help, not judge. It’s far better to face their “criticism” of your work than frustrate your professor. Do this now rather than take bad writing habits to your full-time job.

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