By Tawanda Carlton, PR Account Executive
As communications professionals, writing is often a huge part of our day. From refining pitches, drafting and editing content, or even crafting and sending emails, we spend a lot of time writing. Creating bylines, specifically, can become a huge undertaking when you factor in all of the other moving parts that come with managing client accounts – e.g. major brand activations, attending industry conference and events, lunch with journalists and constant media pitching. The list goes on.
Despite all of the moving parts, there are methods you can use to ensure you can develop quality content even under a looming deadline.
Here are a few tips for getting it right:
Talk About It
Many times, PR professionals start writing a byline without having had a meaningful conversation with the client or person they are writing for or about. My preferred approach begins by arranging a call with my client where we talk through themes, ideas and angles to ensure my work is aligned with the company’s mission, temperament and business objectives. I also identify words and expressions that enable me to capture the client’s “voice.” This helps cut the writing process down significantly and allows me, as we say here in the office, to “get on with it.”
Adjust Your Style to Fit Your Audience
My natural tendency when writing can often be tongue in cheek. While there are occasions when humor can be effective, I can’t take that approach when writing for most clients. When writing, you must have the ability to switch it up and develop content for the topic, client and audience at hand. Don’t take a formal white paper approach if you’re writing a blog (or vice versa.) Strive to be distinctive. Get to the point. Avoid jargon. Be flexible and know your reader.
Manage Expectations Before You Start Writing
It is essential to start with a clear outline that includes the headline, themes, key data points and what the reader should get out of the piece. When you have a roadmap, you’re less likely to get off topic and more likely to stay the course and finish with a great piece of copy.
As PR professionals we understand the power of research. This should be a part of the planning stages in the writing process. Thorough research often reveals how a particular subject has been handled by other companies and other publications, enabling you to take a distinctive angle that will appeal to the reader. Research also yields critical information and details on a topic that may or may not be familiar. Also, when claims are made in content, they should be attributed to a credible source. This practice is not just for journalists; it’s also PR 101.
Read and Write
I’ve found one of the best ways to become an efficient writer is to keep writing. You can read every article (like this one) on how to become a better writer. However, you have to put in the work and the practice to hone your skills. I’m pretty sure Michael Jordan or Serena Williams didn’t just read books on basketball or tennis. They practiced their craft relentlessly, and PR professionals should apply the same discipline to writing. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I make a concerted effort to read nightly. Not just blogs or short-form content but long-form content like novels and research findings. Toni Morrison, for example, writes clearly in a variety of styles. Management consulting firm, McKinsey publishes hundreds of reports each year based on their research. Their findings are often found in publications from national media publications such as Fast Company to trade publications. Reading other writers work has expanded my vocabulary, helped me become a stronger writer, and even broadened my knowledge on my client’s industry. It’s a win-win all around.
Take a Class
Contrary to popular belief, school never really let out. We are always learning, and we should always be students of our craft. There are online and on-site courses that can help you become a better writer. Local writers’ groups are also a great resource; it doesn’t’ matter if the writers work in communications or not. They can provide feedback on your writing style and provide suggestions to help elevate you style and take your work to the next level.
Don’t Go at it Alone
Always have a colleague proofread your work before sharing with the client. Another set of fresh eyes helps you to further refine your thoughts and word choices. I often revel in the feedback from my writing as colleagues can see where I may have failed to expand on a thought for enhanced clarity or even identify a key point that I may have overlooked. (And they might catch that inadvertent typo!)
Whether short or long form, the writing process takes practice and creativity should never be rushed. Hopefully, these tips will help you write your next byline better, stronger a bit faster.