Good writing is the heart of good PR.
I’ll always remember Mrs. White, the passionate, white-haired third grade teacher I was blessed with.
“Yeah is not a word,” Mrs. White would repeat as she forced us to use the proper reply of yes or no when asked a question. “We do not say ‘yeah’ and ‘nuh-uh’ in this classroom,” she would say with her hands neatly clasped one on top of the other, resting on the soft belly of her flowered cotton dress.
Through this small exercise she opened a life-changing door. She sought to instill in us a true love and respect for the language and knowledge of its proper use in both the spoken and written form. She was passionate about this, and as a result she unknowingly became my first mentor as a writer.
Practice, read and practice some more.
As the year unfolded with Mrs. White, we learned the basics of grammar and sentence structure, easy tricks to remember confusing spellings, the importance of pronunciation, the proper use of to, too and two; their, there and they’re; your and you’re and the rest.
We experienced the joy of hearing a passage come alive by selecting the right descriptive words. Through the simple exercises of writing for each other and reading aloud, she instilled the joy of reading and writing, respect for the importance of punctuation and the thrill of becoming part of the story. As we grew in our clever new skills, she integrated more difficult lessons through story telling by sharing her life-long love of birds, and through creative writing using various forms of poetry.
Mid year, she gave us an assignment to write a poem. The rules were that it had to adhere to a certain poetic form and it had to be about something that was meaningful to us. I wrote about my love of the forest and the sights, sounds, smells, creatures and adventures that were part of my childhood forest world. I’ll always remember her beaming, cherubic face as she selected my poem as her favorite and posted it on the bulletin board. In that moment I knew I wanted to write forever.
What does all this have to do with PR, you say? Everything, I say.
What is public relations? The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently unveiled its modern definition: Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. Yes, but public relations is more than that. I think PR is also the art and science of message design and delivery to inform, educate, and develop or change public opinion, impact behavior, enhance or protect reputation, and prevent or address crisis in an open, honest and ethical manner.
Can we help organizations achieve specific and strategic communications
goals and objectives without skill in the area of creating messages that are uniquely created for each receiving public and each communications channel? The ability to craft the message is one of the keys to success. And, that is why good writing still matters and will always matter. Content, as they say, is still king.
A final thought
Now a contributing journalist, published poet and occasional blogger, I still correct myself often and say yes rather than yeah. I still toil over sentence structure, punctuation, word selection and grammar with delight. I still ask myself, what do we want people to know? What do we want them to do? How can I write this in a way that will engage, excite, educate, enlighten, entertain, inspire or awe the receiver? I still pour over the AP Stylebook. And, I’m still thrilled by every opportunity to read and read some more, as I am to write and write some more. I’m still learning every day.
Someday I hope to be fairly good at this writing thing. In the meantime, just like Mrs. White taught me so many years ago, I practice and read and practice some more. If research, audience evaluation, strategic planning, measurable objectives, strategy, tactics, implementation and evaluation are the head of good PR, then good writing is the heart. Think about it!
Copyright 2012, Tracy L. Teuscher, APR