Wednesday, May 18, 2005

On Writing 

I spent time last night with a journalist-author who has odd interests -- sports and history. He writes columns and books about baseball and football but also has a successful book on Wyatt Earp. When I asked how he shifts between the Old West and Yogi Berra, he shrugged. He said he had two pieces of writing advice in his life -- one good and one bad. The bad advice, he said, came from a teacher who said one should write about what one knows. The good advice came from a teacher who said if one wanted to make a living, write about what one doesn't know anything about. As a professional writer, he has spent a career tackling subjects he doesn't know much about at first.

This, of course, is an excellent description of what PR practitioners do daily, especially in the agency business. We're paid to learn, as a mentor in the business used to say. Actually, he said it a bit differently. His full statement was, "I love this business. Where else do you have clients who pay you to learn?" I agreed with him then and now.

Yesterday, a colleague and I spent time with a potential new client discussing a challenge that has enough elements to give one a headache. We don't know the details of the entire case, but the exciting part is that, if engaged, we will be paid to pick apart the problem, then develop a practical communications solution for it. What could be more fun?

I am at a loss whenever I meet PR practitioners who show little interest in topics beyond a narrow area, or who really don't want to know about a client's business. I ask myself why they are in PR. I haven't found an answer to that question yet. I'm still learning.


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