As a young ‘professional writing and public relations’ major coming out of college, I thought I knew everything there was to know about writing in the PR industry.
Needless to say, I was mistaken.
In my first year at a busy agency, I struggled to perfect content for different industries and client preferences. Simply put, I wasn’t taking the time to understand my audience or dig deeper into the clients’ business.
Thinking my first draft was also my final, I dreaded the inevitable (yet invaluable) feedback from colleagues and edits from our proofreading team.
Writing should be a young PR professional’s greatest skill. So, I knew I couldn’t let it ruin my reputation—or worse, drive away clients.
That was the year I decided it was time to set some ground rules, starting with getting my head out of my computer screen and working more closely with my colleagues. Here are a few of those rules that changed the way I write and vastly improved the final product.
1. Know your industry and audience.
Starting with the headline, make sure every piece of your content is tailored to your audience. If you want them to read your work, do the necessary homework and make it personal.
2. Don’t make your first draft your last.
Use your first draft to simply get the words on the page without overthinking your work. Then, write and re-write (based on suggestions for improvement from peers) with your audience in mind until it’s perfect.
3. Do your research.
Facts and figures can help tell your story and make it more dynamic. They also lend credibility to your writing and show your audience that you know your stuff.
4. Show (don’t just tell).
If you really want to impress your audience, work with a graphic designer to incorporate visuals. Researchers found that colored visuals increase people's willingness to read a piece of content by 80 percent (Xerox, 2014).
5. Proofread your work.
Read through your work several times: first for any glaring mistakes, second for clarity and tightening up lengthy copy and third for grammar and spelling.
6. Have others proofread your work.
After you proofread your work (at least a few times), ask someone else to act as your spell check, grammar guru and to generally make sure the content makes sense to an outside party.
7. Follow style guidelines.
Young PR pros should take the time to become intimately familiar with the Associate Press (AP) Stylebook and regularly reference it when writing.
8. Get inspired.
I find I’m most inspired and productive early in the morning at my local coffee shop. Find a time or even a different space around the office that works best for you and your creative juices.
Writing as a young PR professional in today’s landscape can be a great opportunity to boost your career if you listen closely, openly accept feedback and make sure your final product is perfectly polished.