An axiom in pro sports is that there is no such thing as an off season. Athletes keep themselves in shape year round and sports execs constantly seek ways to improve their team’s competitive edge. Ditto for PR. Your C-level execs may not give speeches often, but you have to keep your speechwriting muscles in shape so you are prepared when you get the call.
The head game matters.
Good speechwriters always are on the lookout for good material. By watching CEOs on television, listening to radio interviews, watching movies and reading a speechwriter develops a repertoire of phrases, analogies and metaphors.
Train the writing muscle.
Professional athletes are always training. Even in the off-season, star athletes never stop working at their craft. The same is true for professional speechwriters. Even if you aren’t writing speeches everyday, try to do some level of professional writing daily.
Develop a rhythm.
When the pressure to write something spectacular on a quick deadline hits, it helps to have a well-developed rhythm. If you write better in the quiet, establish the habit of closing your door when writing. If it helps to be surrounded by people, your local coffee shop may provide the best atmosphere. I love the library—it’s my security blanket. If I need information, insight or inspiration at my fingertips, the library provides.
Plan the end zone dance first.
The most important and lasting legacy of a good speech is how the audience feels after it’s over. In that spirit, a good speechwriter considers what emotion the speech should evoke before writing the first word. If you put yourself in the audience (or the end zone) first, it will help balance fact-laden material with the necessary emotion.
It takes a team to win.
Lean on those around you when writing speeches. Seek out and listen to input, ask for ideas and then do your research. I have learned that often the best insights come from unlikely sources. By using the strengths of those on your team, your speaker and the audience will benefit.
Source: Katherine R. Fleck is visiting assistant professor in public relations at Ohio Northern University. The information above is an excerpt from PR News’ Writer’s Guidebook. To order a copy, please go to prnewsonline.com
This article originally appeared in the May 11, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.
How to Take the Temperature Internally
PR execs need a clear understanding of your speaker’s expectations. This also takes a bit of research and a well-developed set of questions. For example, if you are writing a set of remarks for the CFO to deliver to a group of mid-level managers on a conference call, you will want to ask:
- What are the three key messages the CFO wants to make clear?
- Will the text of the speech be sent to the audience members after it’s delivered?
- Is there new material for which the managers may need some additional background?
- Will questions be allowed?
- What is the maximum amount of time allowed for the remarks?
If the CFO will be delivering a strong message about spending restrictions to a group of 50 or more managers on a conference call, you may choose to get the most important information in at the beginning rather than slowly easing into your topic. All of us have been on conference calls, and the likelihood of missing important information after a discussion drones on for 10 minutes is pretty high. If someone catches your attention quickly, however, you are more likely to stay engaged longer.