How to Manage Edits From the Legal and Executive Teams, While Maintaining Your Sanity

Image: Nic's events
Image: Nic's events

The phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen" holds true for the editing process, as many PR pros can attest. A perfectly good press release or, worse, investor-relations memo, can be transformed into a Franken-doc by the time everyone has made their tweaks.

Beth Haiken, VP of corporate citizenship and communications at Waypoint Homes, and Stephanie Corns, director of corporate public relations at Charles Schwab, provided a three-step guide to managing legal and executive edits—while keeping your message, and sanity, intact.

Step one: Have the courage to push back—and the expertise to explain why

Make sure that you have your grammar skills in line so you can demonstrate why your original wording made sense. For example, "less" refers to bulk amounts (like water), while "fewer" is applied to countable items (like people). Other ones to remember are farther versus further (additional distance versus additional time, amount or other abstract matters) and between versus among (the former is used when talking about two people, the latter about more than two).

Step two: Spot the difference between legal or compliance requirement and editorial commentary

Learn to differentiate between editorial preferences and legal necessities, and do so by asking. For example, if you see your phrase, “This morning, we finalized terms for a merger,” was changed to “This morning, we signed a preliminary agreement in principle to discuss a merger,” ask for clarification on the reason behind the change.

Step three: Pick your battles

Whether it's a company president wanting his title to be capitalized (in turn, defying AP style) or a sentence full of legal jargon that keeps finding its way back into the last paragraph, you have to let a few things slide. Yes, it offends your fine-tuned editorial eye, but life is too short, and you're not going to win them all. Plus, there's something to be said for inter-departmental cooperation and goodwill.

Follow Lucia Davis: @LKCDavis.

  • Brooks McKinney, APR

    My approach as a writer is to tell my reviewers that I will work to reflect the “spirit” of their comments, but that we’re not going to “write by committee.” In the end, I try to “own” the release/feature while having the grace/courage to not insist that it be perfect.