One of the goals in public relations classes is that we want our students to come away with certain skills sets. Public relations professionals in many ways have to be excellent in handling multiple tasks – they have to have confidence in their public speaking abilities, have to think quickly and effectively on their feet while being calm and collected in a moment of crisis, and they have to be up-to-date on the latest design techniques and technologies that their stakeholders are using.
However, one of the most important skills that is stressed in our classes is that we have to be good writers as well. But public relations professionals have come under fire recently due to criticism about how they write their press releases. From being repetitive, impersonal, and even using the words “leader,” “innovative,” or “best / revolutionary” too much – these are all important things to consider for both public relations professionals, and students studying PR. Of course, when it comes to who to blame for the status of PR writing – it goes from the school systems (ex. middle and high schools) to the focus on math and science skills in the classroom instead of writing – the list goes on and on. It is time to move forward – we as a profession need to stop complaining, do an environmental scan, and be proactive in addressing this issue with a sound action plan for PR education.
There are ways of course that PR professionals can overcome this for PR Education. Instead of having a set template in which they base all of their press releases on, make it more personal and creative. Make sure that you are tailoring each release to the specific outlet that you are wanting to target – and if this means that you have more variations of the press release and spend a little extra time on this – well, that is the cost of doing business and managing your personal reputation as a skilled writer effectively. Also, make sure that the words that you use in the press release are concise and simple – this is not the time to practice the vocabulary words that you studied for during the SAT or GRE exams! In many ways, the most skilled PR professionals that are out there can take a complex and sophisticated issue and be able to communicate it to the vast public. Brian Solis made an excellent point on why it is important for PR professionals to write clearly in their press releases in his latest blog post and that we use the appropriate language:
“Honestly, who speaks this way? Remember, before we’re marketers, we’re human beings and consumers. We don’t communicate with our friends, peers, and family in this language. Yet, we reinforce these stereotypes with every piece of marketing collateral and press release we write and distribute.”
Students in PR also are doing more group projects for their classes – which is good to a point – but I believe that there should be more individual writing opportunities for students to practice and learn how to write effectively and clearly. This is one thing that I will be doing in my PR Cases class this fall at the University of Tennessee – the best way to learn how to write well is to practice, practice… and practice some more!
So, in many ways – PR education has a way to go with providing students opportunities to practice their writing skills in both the classroom and outside the classroom. I believe that one way to fix this is to encourage students to not only write for their class, but set up a blog where they can comment, write, and discuss issues that they find interesting in Public Relations. I know since I have had my blog, my writing has vastly improved. It takes practice and dedication, but it does help in a person’s writing skills. Plus, it is a lot of fun!
Hope you all are having a great day!