Anyone that works in PR can tell you, there is a lot of writing. We write case studies, press releases, contributed articles, pitches, FAQs, media alerts, award submissions, speaking abstracts, event materials, website copy, bios and probably a hundred other things during the course of an average month. While some of these types of writing overlap in terms of style, most require a unique style of writing to be effective. With each, you’re telling a story, but how quickly you tell it, and how you structure the writing will be different.
Add to this, is the need to hone your voice as a PR person so that when you reach out to media, write a blog, correspond with clients or present at conferences, it is authentic so people understand who you are. Developing an authentic voice is hard because the strictures that govern so much of our writing don’t support creativity or originality. When I work with people on our team, editing things they’ve written, I rarely rewrite it for them; instead I prefer to provide guidance as to what the piece needs to cover. It’s up to them to put the language in their own voice.
When I write, I know which message I think should be given the most weight, where to use humor or make a particular point with the voice I want heard, but I don’t often find it in the first draft. Like any writer, I can get caught up in my own head as I write, running an idea down until there is nothing left to say in the first draft. It’s usually on the second or third pass that I layer in the right tone, craft the right symbolism and make the piece my own.
Going beyond the voice we need to develop as a PR person, is ensuring that our voice doesn’t obscure the voice of the client or company for which we write. We have clients that like their writing loose and edgy and others that are as conservative as they come, focusing on the bits and pieces of what they do by habit.
Additionally, as a PR practitioner, you will regularly be asked to ghostwrite for an executive. This can be a speech, blog, press release quote, etc. The challenge will be to step out of your own “voice” and into the voice of the person you’re writing for. To do this, you have to know them, which can sometimes be a challenge if you’re just starting out and get limited face time with an executive. If this is the case, try and find videos of the person speaking at a conference or listen to interviews that have been recorded. It’s easy to fall back into writing in your voice when you don’t have access to the person or any samples to review, but you have to remember that the person is not you, does not have your experiences and doesn’t necessarily want to project the image that you might want them to.
Having the ability and talent to be authentic and help others sound authentic is a skill to be nurtured and will be highly valuable in today’s competitive marketplace.