Imagine yourself back in college. You are going to classes (hopefully), working on an internship, studying endless hours and, oh yeah, having fun. As you approach the end of your last semester, you realize you can’t stay in college forever. You ask yourself, “What are my future employers looking for in a new hire?”
A few weeks ago, I attended a PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) luncheon where three journalism students from universities and colleges throughout Iowa had the opportunity to share their experiences in studying public relations. They also had an opportunity to ask PR professionals in the room a few questions. One of the questions for the group of professionals was “What is the most important skill you look for when hiring a new employee?” The answer: the ability to write well.
I looked around the room and saw heads nodding in agreement. One professional said she could train someone on the specifics of the job, but that excellent writing skills are something that she wants new hires to demonstrate from the start.
This struck a chord with me. It made me stop and think “What am I, someone who has been in the PR industry for 15 years, doing to not only maintain my writing skills, but continue to enhance them?” Writing is like any other skill; it requires practice, discipline and repetition to be effective. Writing everything from traditional press releases to feature articles ― even social media posts. If you don’t practice your skills, they can quickly diminish.
There are countless resources you can take advantage of to enhance your writing skills – one of them being the training area of the PRSA website, which hosts webinars on a broad range of marketing topics. In order to refresh my writing skills, I have participated in a number of PRSA webinars hosted by writing guru Ann Wylie. She takes the traditional inverted pyramid communication style and turns it on its head, so to speak. Her goal is helping communication professionals improve their writing and even make traditional PR writing entertaining. Yes, I said “entertaining.”
One particular webinar that caught my attention was a session she did last fall. It was focused on making writing more entertaining for our industry’s readers. Even if your topic may not be the most exciting, she shared ways to make your readers stop and pay attention.
Writing tips from Ann
Here are a few tips from Ann Wylie’s webinar that may help you on your next writing assignment.
• Make the lead paragraph in your article concrete, creative and provocative. Provoke a question from the reader, or use a scenario to illustrate a need for tips.
• Avoid putting all of the traditional five W’s and one H in the lead. She recommends a “nut paragraph” to summarize the key points after you have captured the reader’s attention in the lead.
• She follows with some background, body sections, wrap up and then, the “kicker.” She says the kicker paragraph (ending) should be like the lead: concrete, creative or provocative, such as a good quote.
Visit Ann Wylie’s website to learn more about how to improve your writing skills. You can subscribe to a complimentary email newsletter with writing and editing tips.
And now for my “kicker” … something to think about as you work on your next writing project. “Next time you write a press release, brochure or newsletter article, put the reader benefits first,” says Ann Wylie, Wylie Communications.