First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in June 2015
Badly written press releases, while sometimes hilarious, are annoying. Typos and yo-yoing content display incompetence, something no PR wants to be associated with. “Writing is the single most important trait or talent for a public relations practitioners,” says Els de Bundel, acting executive manager at Provox Centre.
By Remy Raitt
“The ability to write easily and coherently distinguishes the public relations practitioner from others in the organisation,” says De Bundel. “It is a skill that transcends the entire public relations function, equipping the skilled writer with abilities that make him or her indispensable in the organisational communication function.”
Journalist, media consultant and trainer Marion Scher says it is imperative that PR professionals produce perfect copy as they are the mouthpiece for the organisations they represent. “No one will take you seriously if the work you produce is rubbish, and this goes especially for the media,” she says.
Don’t make the media mad
Scher says that sloppy copy and typos are an easy way to find your press releases in the trash. “The media find it disrespectful,” she says. And if you aggravate the press, the chances of your client’s content finding a public stage dwindles.
“Another thing with PRs is they send too much,” says Scher. “They must bear in mind, especially when sending to the media, that they’re lucky if it’s opened from the subject line.” She says that the first two or three lines are the most important.
Clean copy is capital
“Generally we’re in a crisis in terms of spelling and grammar, even in the media,” says Scher. She says without proper training, PR professionals and their work will continue in a downward spiral. “This must be taken very seriously,” she warns.
De Bundel agrees, and believes all PRs should be able to effectively edit their own work. “In the writing process, editing and proofreading form the critical safety net that ensure that the end product is free of grammatical, stylistic and other errors, and that it conforms to the organisation’s editorial style and policy.”
Write like a professional
“The ability to produce excellent public relations writing, in essence, requires strategic thought processes and training,” says De Bundel. “It extends an existing organisational persona by positioning its values, governance and leadership to a specific readership. The responsibility that comes with this skill is massive.
“Ethics come into play,” adds De Bundel. “The use of accurate and appropriate context lends itself to meaningful and sincere communication. Public relations writing, in essence, requires critical, factual journalistic thinking coupled with a creative, strategic flair that narrows and underpins the essence of what needs to be shared.”
And although PR professionals can learn how to write, prTINI’s Heather Whaling believes some natural talent is advantageous. “People can learn to pitch media, be more organised, measure, or use social media for business; however, if you can’t write, it’s nearly impossible to execute any of these tasks well. As communicators, writing is our foundation. And, while some communication is becoming more conversational, clearly articulating ideas is what we do.”
De Bundel says writing is a skill that transcends the entire public relations function; “equipping the skilled writer with abilities that make him or her indispensable in the organisational communication function”.
Scher agrees that the need for proper writing and editing training is paramount for professional success. “What it boils down to,” she says, “is if the PR professionals, are having to write anything that the public will see, it has to be done well and correctly.”
What are your thoughts? Do PR professionals need writing and editing training? Tell us below.