In the past few months at industry conferences, the topic of good writing skills among PR professionals has stirred heated discussion, much like a support group for the grammatically superior. Everyone agrees that communicators need to know how to write well, communicate a message, and get the intended action/response from that communication. But are we walking the talk?
Whether it’s a press release, an internal memo, an email to a reporter, a white paper or, dare I say, a tweet — the art of writing is one of the most important skills any businessperson can have. We can blame our grade school teachers or our mother for not making us better writers, but let’s move on from that and start paying attention to how we write and demand better from our staff. Especially with our staff on the loose with social media 24/7, without editors by their side, their writing skills shine a big fat spotlight on your brand and its image.
This particular post is not about “what we write” – it’s about grammar skills, proper word and punctuation usage, choice of words. It can make the difference between a reporter responding to your email positivitely or sending that email to his friends snickering about the message. To wit: a colleague sent me an email from a PR professional that said: “I hope your doing well. Would u be interested in talking to our CEO about an amazing, new servce we just launched.” There is so much wrong with that opening paragraph and unfortunately for this company and its product launch, this story is unlikely to get covered by journalists who take writing pretty seriously and connote poor writing skills (perhaps unfairly) to lower intelligence.
If you are a hiring manager, what do you do when you get a cover letter and resume riddled with spelling errors and typos but the candidate’s experience looks great? Do you bring that person in and overlook the sloppy writing? I’ve asked some PR colleagues this questions and the majority (7 out of 10) said they would still bring the candidate in for an interview, overlooking the first-impression communique, because the candidate’s experience fits the job opening. And we wonder why we have so many communicators who can’t write. Let me know what you think — are you surrounded by great writers, mediocre ones, or those who need to repeat fourth grade?