My no. 1 career advice for young PR professionals:
“Learn how to write well, and how to write well fast.“
Putting things into words is a valuable PR skill. If you know how to write, then there will always be something important for you to do:
Learn blog post writing, press release writing, interactive copywriting, SEO writing, sales copywriting, case study writing, article writing, social media updates, presentation writing, speech writing etc. Being a solid (and fast!) PR writer will be invaluable both to you and to others. It’ll be the cornerstone of your PR career, even.
You don’t need a lot of industry-specific experience, either. You could just listen and ask questions on behalf of the potential readers, and with them in mind, put it together. Synthesising what brilliant and more senior colleagues and clients are discussing is massively important. Creatives will feel good about themselves when they see their crazy ideas coherently presented; readers will understand what’s going on; your team members will ask you to do more of that thing that you do so well — again and again.
Why writing speed is your edge
If you combine solid writing with speed, then there will be nothing stopping you. But how do you get faster at writing? Most people make the mistake of thinking too much about each and every word. They carefully build sentence after sentence, slowly.
I recommend another approach:
Get the first draft down, fast. Never worry about the details; that’s what the second and third draft is for. What’s important is to keep going without stopping. Will your first draft be perfect? No, it won’t. And that’s fine. In the words of Ernest Hemingway:
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
Revising is best done afterward. Also, lots of people can go into a draft and suggest improvements once there’s an actual text to work with. Now, I’m not trying to be mean to copyeditors or proofreaders. Their job is important. However, they depend on someone being brave enough to tackle that empty document.
As soon as you start to excel at writing fast, you’ll become a member of a small but well-respected club of PR writers. Those who understand the worth of your skill will keep you close. Those who don’t will try to jump in, add or remove a few words here and there — and that’s fine, too.
How to improve your PR writing skills
I suggest these considerations for anyone aspiring to become a great PR writer:
1. Write in stream-of-consciousness mode
Don’t stop, finish your piece. You can always go back and take care of any details later.
2. Don’t try to finish your text in one attempt
Even experienced writers are expecting to do countless of revisions, so don’t try to write a perfect text directly.
3. Keep a notepad beside you when writing
Unsure about how to spell a particular word? Or do you need to double-check a source? Add a note and fix it later.
4. Start a “sandbox blog” and hone your skills
For instance, I use this blog to practice writing in English1. Since people can see all my mistakes, it pushes me to improve.
5. Take pride in your work and have fun
Don’t let any editor put you down. Good editors make you a better writer without making you feel bad about yourself.