An informal poll shows that the average public relations practitioner can spend up to half their day writing. This includes memos, strategic communications plans, creative PR pitch letters, blogs and press releases. It is a challenge to keep the writing fresh, concise, and interesting! The best writers often accomplish that by avoiding words and phrases that are overused, meaningless, and boring.
Obviously some writing demands use of industry terms that, although repetitive, offer a business shorthand to the reader and will never go away. A plan typically has objectives, strategies and tactics, for example.
But where a writer in a PR agency is given some creative latitude – for pitch letters and blog posts – here are some guidelines to keep your writing “sharp as a tack.” (No, don’t say that, ever!)
Tweak. If you must use a hackneyed expression, give it new life and meaning with some simple wordsmithing. For example, we recently blogged about the trend towards piling up cell phones before a meal to keep everyone’s attention and titled it “[Not] Left to their own Devices.” For another post, we led with , “Guy Walks into a PR Firm” to evoke the old joke.
Elaborate. Let us suppose that the simplest way to convey your new tech PR client’s persona to an editor is by calling him a “whirling dervish” or a “mad scientist”. Go with that, but then go a little overboard with a colorful follow-up sentence illlustrating a terrific example and piquing the interest of a journalist.
Read. When PR pros aren’t writing, they should be reading, and not just industry blogs or entertainment columns. Look at film and literary criticism (some of the best writing out there), literary fiction, and magazines that cover news and culture. These different types of writing will open your mind to new turns of phrase to get your own creative wordplay flowing.
Create. So many clichés and expressions are meaningless for anyone born in this century or most of the last. And even veterans are tired of them.
Do most people working today even remember how and why it became a problem to “drink the Kool-Aid?” And when did “best of breed” leave the kennel? Can we toss “throw under the bus” under there right now? Let’s put “out of the box” back inside, and while we’re at it, just “move the needle” on out as well.
You get the picture, use a relevant expression, or make up a different one to propagate. Think hard and try to come up with something completely new to use in your next missive.
Perhaps a replacement for “for immediate release?”