Heading into entry-level jobs, many new PR pros’ line of sight is straight on standard industry skills. And that’s expected, especially if they study communications in school. But as many employers are looking to hire, being a writer as much as a PR practitioner can set you apart from the competition. Strong writing skills provide a foundation for all aspects of public relations, particularly the following.
In traditional public relations, strong writing translates to media results. When you can craft a pitch that grabs the attention of journalists inundated with messages, you’re invaluable to your team. Pitches are often most successful when the writing mirrors the style of the outlet you’re pitching — whether that’s making your subject line like a headline or outlining your story in the format of published articles. Write so that the media can envision your story.
This should go without saying, but as a Cision blog post by Susan Payton puts it: “The more effort you put into your pitch, the more successful you’ll be at getting a journalist to write about your brand.”
Good writing is beneficial for more than just pitching, too. How many times have you written a byline, op-ed, speech, media statement, press release or other material for publication? All of these editorial pieces are often written in different styles. For example, a media statement may be brief and provide only the facts, while a speech can be longer with more repetition and examples to stay in the audience’s memory.
Whether you’re creating social media content or drafting new website copy, writing for digital is the modern twist on an age-old skill. PR pros who frequently write for social media must write concisely so that it fits within set character limits, and to catch the attention of readers on the go. If they are handling a large account with other team members, then it is also important that they keep the same brand voice, no matter who is posting.
Writing for websites also requires a unique set of skills, using SEO keywords that focus on readability. Whether you’re drafting a regular blog or a static page for a website, writing online often requires more subheads and shorter sentences than you may be comfortable with. Additionally, as online media is ever changing, it is important to make sure that the writing style can be quickly and easily updated with current SEO keywords.
Best practices for writing with SEO in mind are constantly evolving, so try to stay up-to-date. “Without making any concessions to the quality of your text, you should tweak and fine-tune your text to the specific demands of search engines,” Marieke van de Rakt says on Yoast.com.
You can’t forget about client communications when looking to stand out in your career. When writing emails, you must be concise, clear and credible. It’s crucial that new PR professionals learn to communicate transparently, free of misinterpretation and succinctly for busy executives. Especially if you are a new public relations professional, your emails need to show credibility so that the client is not questioning any approval or next steps.
“No one likes to send long, convoluted emails, and no one likes to receive long, convoluted emails either,” Polina Marinova wrote for Fortune. “So do yourself and the person you are emailing a favor by keeping your responses short and to the point.”
Writing emails to clients should always include details on what project you’re emailing about and clearly state what you need from them — whether it’s a simple answer, approval or acknowledgement. Your tone should be warm, yet authoritative. Also, writing to or for clients will vary, so learn what style of writing and communication each client prefers, just as you would within an internal team.
If you’re looking to become a better writer, then you also must be a reader. Write as often as you can, even outside of the office, and read a variety of publications to learn. For what other areas should new pros hone their writing skills? I’d love to hear from you.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of PRSA Tactics.