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PR career advice: Being able to write well and fast will be your no. 1 skill and become the cornerstone of your career in public relations.

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

My no. 1 career advice for young PR professionals is simple:

Learn how to write well, and how to write well fast.

Learn online writing, press release writing, interactive copywriting, SEO writing, sales copywriting, case study writing, article writing, social media updates, etc.

Being a solid (and fast!) PR writer will be invaluable both to you and to others. It’ll be the cornerstone of your PR career, even.

Here’s why (and how):

Writing: The No. 1 Communication Skill to Have

Putting things into words is a valuable PR skill. If you know how to write, then there will always be something important for you to do:

Getting brilliant people into a room is one thing. Synthesizing what the heck they’re talking about is equally important.

Creatives will feel good about themselves when they see their crazy ideas coherently presented; readers will understand what’s going on; your team members will ask you to do more of that thing that you do so well — again and again.

You don’t need a lot of industry-specific experience, either. You could just listen and ask questions on behalf of the potential readers, and with them in mind, put it together.

And since you’re a solid writer, you don’t string the words together; you also make those words sing.

PR Writing: Why Speed is Your Edge

If you combine solid writing with speed, then there will be nothing stopping you. But how do you get faster at writing? Most people make the mistake of thinking too much about each and every word. They carefully build sentence after sentence, slowly.

You should take another approach:

Get the first draft down, fast. Never worry about the details; that’s what the second and third draft is for.

What’s important is to keep going without stopping!

First Drafts Should Never Be Perfect

So you start writing, and you push yourself to write fast1. Will your writing then be perfect, you wonder?

No, it won’t. And that’s fine.

In the words of Ernest Hemingway:

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

Revising is best done afterward. Also, lots of people can go into a draft and suggest improvements once there’s an actual text to work with.

Now, I’m not trying to be mean to copyeditors or proofreaders. Their job is important. However, they depend on someone being brave enough to tackle that empty document.

As soon as you start to excel at writing fast, you’ll become a member of a small but well-respected club of PR writers.

Those who understand the worth of your skill will keep you close. Those who don’t will try to jump in, add or remove a few words here and there — and that’s fine, too.

5 Ways to Improve Your PR Writing Skills

I would suggest these considerations for anyone aspiring to become a great PR writer:

1. Write in stream-of-consciousness mode.
Don’t stop, finish your piece. You can always go back and take care of any details later.

2. Don’t try to finish your text in one attempt.
Even experienced writers are expecting to do countless of revisions, so don’t try to write a perfect text directly.

3. Keep a notepad beside you when writing.
Unsure about how to spell a particular word? Or do you need to double-check a source? Add a note and fix it later.

4. Start a “sandbox blog” and hone your skills.
For instance, I use this blog to practice writing in English2. Since people can see all my mistakes, it pushes me to improve.

5. Take pride in your work and have fun.
Don’t let any editor put you down. Good editors make you a better writer without making you feel bad about yourself.

Notes:

  1. Personally, I like to hammer my poor keyboard hard, just to show who’s boss.
  2. I’m a Swede, so I’ll probably never be as good writing in English as I am writing in Swedish, but practice helps.

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Behind the keyboard:

Jerry Silver is the author of Doctor Spin, a PR blog that's been around for 15+ years. Via his agency Spin Factory, Jerry is advising brands on how to adapt to a 'digital first' world. In 2016, Cision Scandinavia named him "PR Influencer of the Year". Jerry lives in Stockholm, Sweden with his wife Lisah, news anchor and television host, and their three-year-old son, Jack.

Add your comment:

Petya N. Georgieva

Completely agree. The skill to be a good writer is the fundamental requirement to be a good PR pro.

Reply
Doktor Spinn

Thank you for your comment, Petya!

Petya N. Georgieva

You are welcome :) I shared your post in the Professional Public Relations Group on Diigo, would be great if you take a look at it http://groups.diigo.com/group/professional-public-relations :)

More info you can find here: http://higher-and-higher.com/2011/02/10/an-exclusive-social-bookmarking-club-for-pr-pros/

Cheers,
Petya

Doktor Spinn

Thanks, I’m actually ahead of you – I’ve already requested to join! Great idea with a bookmarking site for PR, I’ll make sure to tell my PR friends about it! :)

Jasper

So now I’m getting links to this post from all over the place – it’s a small online world :) Anyways, great piece. It shows you’re the right man to give advice on this!

I will see to it your blog gets added to the PR Hamster directory as well.

Doktor Spinn

Great directory! I’ll make sure to spread the world to the Nordic PR community!

And thanks – sharing is caring! :)

Doktor Spinn

Thank you for your comment, Petya!

Petya N. Georgieva

You are welcome :) I shared your post in the Professional Public Relations Group on Diigo, would be great if you take a look at it http://groups.diigo.com/group/professional-public-relations :)

More info you can find here: http://higher-and-higher.com/2011/02/10/an-exclusive-social-bookmarking-club-for-pr-pros/

Cheers,
Petya

Doktor Spinn

Thanks, I’m actually ahead of you – I’ve already requested to join! Great idea with a bookmarking site for PR, I’ll make sure to tell my PR friends about it! :)

Jasper

So now I’m getting links to this post from all over the place – it’s a small online world :) Anyways, great piece. It shows you’re the right man to give advice on this!

I will see to it your blog gets added to the PR Hamster directory as well.

mr.peg

Jerry,
your “advice” really moved me…
I’m not a “natural born pr” but ‘ve started “to pay for myself”, a few decades from now, as translator (fron english and french, I’m italian) and as a ghost writer..
It’s surprising to see how rare are the colleagues confident with the type of skills you describe
I kept this little treasure with me and it’s amazing how useful it has been in my professional life; it may sound ridicolous to many but my biggest proudness is when my wife asks for my support…
Now I know that I need to keep on training, skills are like trees: they need no more than some drops of water but they need it every day…..
Grazie di cuore e un caro saluto
mr.peg

Reply
Doktor Spinn

Thank you for your sincere comment, mrpeg! Writers unite! :)

mr.peg

Jerry,
your “advice” really moved me…
I’m not a “natural born pr” but ‘ve started “to pay for myself”, a few decades from now, as translator (fron english and french, I’m italian) and as a ghost writer..
It’s surprising to see how rare are the colleagues confident with the type of skills you describe
I kept this little treasure with me and it’s amazing how useful it has been in my professional life; it may sound ridicolous to many but my biggest proudness is when my wife asks for my support…
Now I know that I need to keep on training, skills are like trees: they need no more than some drops of water but they need it every day…..
Grazie di cuore e un caro saluto
mr.peg

Reply
Doktor Spinn

Thank you for your sincere comment, mrpeg! Writers unite! :)

Miriam

I agree writing is essential in PR however you imply anyone can do it and that it should be done quickly. Wrong. You miss the many elements of style required for superior writing as well as an innate voice, not to mention the study of proper grammar. God knows the internet is filled with mediocre writing and it should not be encouraged.

You imply the editing and rewriting is a mere chore which requires no creative processing. Completely wrong. I suspect you wrote this very quickly which explains the many grammatical errors and sloppy use and knowledge of fundamentals. (Check “Elements of Style” for proper comma usage as well as sentence fragments, for a start. )

“Is the writing then perfect, you wonder?” << this is a statement, not a question and although it implies the reading is asking a question it requires no question mark. And if the comma is to be used properly, it goes before AND after "then" to separate it it as a clause. This is just one short sentence with two errors.

What you have written could have benefitted from a copy editor. It would never have gone to copy like this if I were the publisher. I am not trying to be mean. It is a very good first draft. The irony is in the message and the fact that this is poorly written.

I could go on …. and on … but I am just hammering things out.

Reply
Doktor Spinn

Thank you for your comment, Miriam. To begin with, English isn’t my native tongue. I could be a spectacular writer in Swedish, right? I mention this only because I think it would be sad if someone gave less weight to my advice for the PR industry because of your comment.

Also, when it comes to my private blogging, I just love to write and I never edit afterwards. As long as I get the message through, I see my blogging as putting urls on my thoughts – as drafts for people to elaborate on in the comment field.

Yes, if I’d gone over the text once or twice, it would have been better for sure. But I think the text does what it’s supposed to do. And I kind of like the idea of it getting through to people without copy editing. Sort of to my point, right?

I don’t know how it works for other industries, but in PR it’s a lot easier to find people who can criticize a text, but very difficult to find young talent who can create from a blank page. Maybe because language police officers in general aren’t very compatible with the role as consultants, I don’t know.

Miriam

Fair enough ~

Reply
Miriam

I agree writing is essential in PR however you imply anyone can do it and that it should be done quickly. Wrong. You miss the many elements of style required for superior writing as well as an innate voice, not to mention the study of proper grammar. God knows the internet is filled with mediocre writing and it should not be encouraged.

You imply the editing and rewriting is a mere chore which requires no creative processing. Completely wrong. I suspect you wrote this very quickly which explains the many grammatical errors and sloppy use and knowledge of fundamentals. (Check “Elements of Style” for proper comma usage as well as sentence fragments, for a start. )

“Is the writing then perfect, you wonder?” << this is a statement, not a question and although it implies the reading is asking a question it requires no question mark. And if the comma is to be used properly, it goes before AND after "then" to separate it it as a clause. This is just one short sentence with two errors.

What you have written could have benefitted from a copy editor. It would never have gone to copy like this if I were the publisher. I am not trying to be mean. It is a very good first draft. The irony is in the message and the fact that this is poorly written.

I could go on …. and on … but I am just hammering things out.

Reply
Doktor Spinn

Thank you for your comment, Miriam. To begin with, English isn’t my native tongue. I could be a spectacular writer in Swedish, right? I mention this only because I think it would be sad if someone gave less weight to my advice for the PR industry because of your comment.

Also, when it comes to my private blogging, I just love to write and I never edit afterwards. As long as I get the message through, I see my blogging as putting urls on my thoughts – as drafts for people to elaborate on in the comment field.

Yes, if I’d gone over the text once or twice, it would have been better for sure. But I think the text does what it’s supposed to do. And I kind of like the idea of it getting through to people without copy editing. Sort of to my point, right?

I don’t know how it works for other industries, but in PR it’s a lot easier to find people who can criticize a text, but very difficult to find young talent who can create from a blank page. Maybe because language police officers in general aren’t very compatible with the role as consultants, I don’t know.

Paul

I agree with your advice. I’m in a completely different field, but it’s the same idea. People who can represent the flow of ideas of a room full of creatives in diagrams and concepts will direct the work and make sense of chaos.

Reply
Miriam

Fair enough ~

Reply
Paul

I agree with your advice. I’m in a completely different field, but it’s the same idea. People who can represent the flow of ideas of a room full of creatives in diagrams and concepts will direct the work and make sense of chaos.

Reply
Edwertz

Word! It’s all about how it’s received not how it sent. Look at the traditional media, where you often want to be published, their language is seldom the best.

Reply

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