Brain Training for Better PR Writing 

By Matthew Schwartz

Influencer marketing. Gamification. Online video. The list of relatively new PR channels goes on and on, with little room for PR firm owners to catch their breath before they have to consider the next investment.

Even the most seasoned PR executives—who possess total recall and a photographic memory—may be hard-pressed to keep up with all the new marketing vehicles coming down the pike.

But, to effectively communicate via any of those channels is predicated on solid writing, which, let’s face it, has gotten a bit marginalized in a 140-character, Microwave world.

However, those PR firm owners who continually emphasize the importance of quality writing—and back it up with regularly scheduled training programs—will gain the upper hand with clients and prospects.

Clients will appreciate clear, concise, jargon-free copy that tells a compelling story about the brand/organization and helps to separate it from competitors.

Yet transmitting the writing gene is difficult, especially when account executives are scrambling to create the next social media campaign or engage an influencer from XYZ market.

Help is on the way, compliments of Don Bates, who teaches writing at New York University and is a senior counselor for Gould+Partners, and CommPRO.

Bates shares two stories about teaching quality writing from the late, great Nora Ephron, (who was nominated three times for the Academy Award for best writing, and Professor David Poulson, the associate director of Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental journalism.

The major takeaway for firm owners to deploy for writing training: Write short and sweet and practice brevity.

Sure, it sounds pretty basic, but brevity is a problem in PR writing. With more and more executives time-poor, people simply won’t take the time to read press releases or email pitches that run longer than, say, three of four short paragraphs.  Still, that’s no excuse for corporate-leaden, flat or florid PR writing, with quotes from the CEO that go on for two paragraphs alone.

PR firm owners and C-suite executives need to hammer the lessons home, especially to younger employees conditioned by visual communications: Write clearly, fewer words are always better, avoid industry jargon and, as Poulson stresses, what’s the big picture? What are the most salient points to get across to readers before they lose those eyeballs?

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