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THE NEED FOR EXCELLENT WRITING SKILLS IN TODAY’S PUBLIC RELATIONS’ PRACTICE

Needless to say, the aim of Public Relations is to cultivate favorable relations between an organization or a product and its key publics, using a variety of communication’s channels and tools. Basically, Public Relations deals with images, as its main goal is to enhance an organization’s reputation. For this reason, the people involved in Public Relations; or PR, for short, as it is commonly known, are skilled publicists. They are expected to be able to present an organization or individual to the world in the best light.

However, to live up to his expectations, nothing short of excellent writing skills are essential to the twenty first century‘s Public Relations professional. It is therefore worrisome that many departments offering degrees in Communication studies or PR related courses in the polytechnics or universities choose to focus more on ethics and strategic thinking than advanced writing skills.

The essentiality of ethics and strategic thinking to PR and Communication Studies, and their inclusion in the curricula of the disciplines, cannot be over-emphasized. However, focusing on them at the expense of writing courses in disciplines which are much oriented to the written word, will be an aberration. A professional in the field of Public Relations requires, essentially, advanced and excellent writing skills. For this reason, he  not only has to acquire the skills but also has to improve on them from time to time as long as he remains in the practice of Public Relations profession.

Why should a PR professional have excellent writing skills?

Though PR has evolved overtime into a management discipline, and it is important that curricula for Communication Studies and PR related courses in the Universities and polytechnics be reviewed to provide for the teaching of courses that enhance skills like critical thinking and ethics, this should not be done at the expense of courses that teach advanced writing skills.

There is no gainsaying the fact that devising appropriate tactics for communication requires strategy, and one vital skill for the survival or performance of business is that of critical thinking; yet, the essentiality of excellent writing skills for a PR practitioner cannot be discountenanced. I therefore dissent with the school of thought that opines that excellent writing skills are no longer necessary for today’s PR jobs.

The opinion of many people has been that advanced writing skills are not really vital for  PR jobs. However, notwithstanding the fact that PR  has evolved into management, excellent writing skills are now more important than ever. And, to put it succinctly,  the value of excellent writing skills in today’s PR practice cannot be overemphasized. 

Here is why:

Excellent writing skills provide the fulcrum holding all aspects of Public Relations, especially the following:

  • Writing is essential to content marketing in PR

No doubt, the advent of the social media has changed the outlook of PR writing. Before, the practice has been to churn out news release after news release. But now, that has waned; as the order of this modern day is words cleverly crafted in just about 140 character snippet, which is why a school of thought led by the University of Carolina’s Shannon Bowen, Ph.D. interrogates the value of advanced writing skills for PR practice. However, it should be realized that, today, PR campaign has to do with a more variety of written, and visual content than what obtained in the days of press releases. Today, PR campaign involves writing longer-form advert content or brand storytelling; and, in a day, a PR practitioner may be required to write a web copy, a white paper, or a strategy document. Therefore, to excel in today’s PR practice, a PR professional needs to acquire excellent writing abilities and ensures to improve on them.

No doubt, the advent of the social media has changed the outlook of PR writing. Before, the practice has been to churn out news release after news release. But now, that has waned; as the order of this modern day is words cleverly crafted in just about 140 character snippet, which is why a school of thought led by the University of Carolina’s Shannon Bowen, Ph.D. interrogates the value of advanced writing skills for PR practice. However, it should be realized that, today, PR campaign has to do with a more variety of written, and visual content than what obtained in the days of press releases. Today, PR campaign involves writing longer-form advert content or brand storytelling; and, in a day, a PR practitioner may be required to write a web copy, a white paper, or a strategy document. Therefore, to excel in today’s PR practice, a PR professional needs to acquire excellent writing abilities and ensures to improve on them.

  • Writing is at the core of Media Relations

The advent of the social media may have changed the face of some practices in PR today; truth is, at a time,  writing of press releases was a major functional area of PR practice. While things may have changed in some PR agencies or departments, it does not mean that writing skills are less desirable for a PR specialist today; for the social media has not  decimated the practice of writing of press releases to media organizations.

A PR practitioner still needs excellent writing skills to  cope with the demand of writing blogs, long-form ad content, social media content that connects a meaningful story to a client’s content, e-mails to follow-up with clients and journalists, emails to clients or customers and influencers, and many more.  Emails that are concise, clear and credible will communicate transparently, if it is free of misinterpretation(s). A well written press release has the potential of being readily published in the press, but a badly written press release is sure to lay on the table  for days, or  end in the trash bin. Besides, the idea in a PR media content may sound good, but if the grammatical constructions are awful and the story comes off ambiguously, much of its impact will be lost to the readers. And an educated client may be  turned off by the content. 

In addition, it can be said, without the fear of being challenged, that ‘strong writing translates into media results’. When a Public Relations practitioner is capable of skillfully writing pitches loaded with messages that often capture the attention of journalists, he becomes an asset to his organization. It takes excellent writing skills for PR professionals to write journalists’ attention-catching pitches.  Therefore, it will be unfortunate to entrust PR  tasks into the hands of a person who does not have excellent writing skills, but who will be expected to write bylines, op-ed, speeches, media statements, press releases or other material for publication.

  • Writing is essential to persuasion in PR

The major way for PR practitioners in business or government to communicate with their publics is through the written words. Besides, the ability to create a convincing content requires good communication skills, the goal of which should be honest persuasion.  Without good writing skills, strategy and communication ethics alone cannot convey ideas as envisioned. They also can neither evoke the intended emotions nor build the desired influence. Therefore, no matter how savvy a PR practitioner is, if he does not have good writing skills, he cannot express his thoughts clearly, let alone convincingly persuade others in an easily understood and acceptable way.

PR Writing Requires Creativity and Crafts

In order to evoke the intended emotions or build the desired influence, it is important for the PR professional to build a deep connection between his organization and its publics. It is therefore about how the story is told professionally to build readers’ emotions and tie their feelings to the organization, brand or product. This task demands creativity and good writing skills.

A PR professional may have mastered the specific structure or format which press releases follow, and he may have acquired skills and understood different platforms, but it is the excellent writing craft that will move the copy along the target-goal.

Public Relations Practitioners are Professional Communicators  

PR practitioners should, in the course of their professional practice, be able to make friends with the news media and cultivate online relationships, especially in this age of the social media. These aptitudes are key elements of success in Public Relations.

Moreover, it is essential that PR professionals should be able to communicate his thoughts in writing concisely, adequately, unambiguously and transparently with the busy executives. Emails emanating from PR teams should show credibility so that the client is not left struggling to discern the impulse of the message, or questioning the functional abilities of  the so called PR professionals. Nevertheless, if a PR practitioner lacks the good writing skills, it will be near impossible to accomplish any of these successfully. It can then be argued that the ability to write well is one of the most important skills, if not the most important skill, needed by a Public Relations professional to function well. Therefore, for excellent career in Public Relations practice, my advice is: be a writer as much as a PR practitioner. And if you aspire to become a better writer, you must also decide to be an improved reader. Write as often as you can, even on any subject; and read extensively, even outside PR. It is then you are set to hone your writing skills.