Much like people’s speaking styles, people’s writing styles are unique too—and that’s okay! Whether they’re writing media pitches, RFPs, blog posts, white papers, social posts, content marketing pieces, or Media releases, PR pros are usually serving several bosses. These bosses could include clients, direct supervisors, the C-suite, customers, would-be customers, boards of directors, organization members, journalists, and influencers. PR pros are never just serving themselves when they’re in the act of writing.
The net result of writing on behalf of so many bosses is often a messy imprecise mess. No PR writer is immune to this syndrome and the amount of native talent one has is no defense against it.
All PR pros—and all corporate writers, really—need specific reminders of how they’re likely to go wrong. They need writing prompts that nudge them when they’re falling into the most common traps.
Here are eight of the most frequent fumbles PR pros make in producing messages for external audiences.
Every industry has its own set of words, acronyms and phrases that can render messages incomprehensible to outsiders.
- You don’t follow the three C’s.
Clear. Compelling. Concise. Writing is supposed to be clear, concise and compelling. And every writer needs the right tools to make this happen.
- You’re not authentic.
Being real in writing is everything.
- You don’t follow the five Ws.
Who? What? When? Where? Why? Always make sure to answer each of these questions in your public relations message.
- You don’t tailor your writing for your audience.
Writing needs to fit the tone, format, style and grammar of your intended audience, not the other way around.
- You’re sloppy with style.
For PR professionals, style matters. Always. Choose a style guide (“AP Style Book,” “Modern Language Association Handbook,” your own house style) and make sure everyone on your team sticks to it consistently.
- You skip proofreading.
Spoiler alert: Even the best writers need a proofing partner.
- You think writing is a natural talent.
Writing is a skill—and one that can always be improved.