Friday, February 29, 2008


Words from Don Bates, Academic Director of The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management and a colleague.

Great PR writing isn't always about the "wordsmithing," though that's what people may think of first when they hear the phrase. The truth is great communications is really about the logic and insight behind the words on the page. So I think that's largely what's missing at a junior level in PR these days—the cursory research, talking to the client, backgrounding and true reportage that makes a release or whatever you're crafting solid, successful and really worthwhile.

I've often said I can teach anyone to write well. What I can't teach easily is how to think well. PR writing is explanatory first -- relating facts and the story in a clear manner such that reporters can use the information quickly. There is little need for adjectives and adverbs. Writing is nouns, verbs and objects. To some, it might seem flavorless but to journalists, conditioned to read hyped PR prose, clear writing is fresh air. It is bracing. It makes their jobs easier. It is credible. But, to write clearly means one must know what to write about and present it logically.

I disagree with Don in one point. Bad writing has been a chronic condition in PR since I started decades ago. It isn't recent. It has long disturbed me how little PR practitioners know about the clients, products and services they represent. They don't take the time to learn. They are too busy selling. The first rule of selling, however, is to know what you are merchandising.

I wish Don well in his effort to teach writing. It is needed.


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