Whether they're writing media pitches, RFPs, blog posts, white papers, social posts, content marketing pieces or press releases, PR pros are usually serving several entities. These entities could include clients, direct supervisors, the C-suite, customers, would-be customers, boards of directors, organization members, journalists and influencers. PR pros are never just serving themselves when they're in the act of writing.
The net result of writing on behalf of so many entities: messy, vague word hash. No PR writer is immune to this syndrome and the amount of native talent one has is no defense against it.
All PR pros—and all corporate writers, really—need specific reminders of how they're likely to go wrong. Tracy Zampaglione, public information officer for Orange County Corrections in Florida and Bailey Jacobs, director, communications and marketing for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in Washington, D.C., have compiled this concise list of business writing sins to help you keep your prose clean, honest and to the point. The beauty of this list is that its form expresses the greatest of all writing virtues: concision.
1. You don't follow the three C's.
Compelling. Concise. Content (that's worthwhile). There's nothing more that needs to be said here.
2. You're not real.
Authenticity in writing is everything.
3. You don't tailor your writing for your audience.
Writing needs to fit the tone, format, style and grammar of your intended audience, not the other way around.
4. You're sloppy with style.
For PR professionals, style matters. Always. Choose a style guide ("AP Style Book," "The Chicago Manual of Style," your own house style) and make sure everyone on your team sticks to it consistently.
5. You think you're proofing perfect.
Spoiler alert: Even the best writers need a proofing buddy.
6. You're not a writing leader.
PR professionals make an entire organization stronger by fostering a culture of strong writing.
7. You think writing is a natural talent.
Writing is a skill—and one that can always be improved.
—Steve Goldstein, editorial director, PR News @SGoldsteinAI