My no. 1 career advice for young PR professionals:

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

Learn blog post writing, press release writing, interactive copywriting, SEO writing, sales copywriting, case study writing, article writing, social media updates, presentation writing, speech writing 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):

The No. 1 Communication Skill

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. Synthesising 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.

Why Writing 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 Aren’t 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.

How to Improve PR Writing Skills

I 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.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash.

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  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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Edwertz
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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.

Paul
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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.

Paul
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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.

mr.peg
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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

Petya N. Georgieva
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Petya N. Georgieva

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

Petya N. Georgieva
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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

Jasper
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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.