My best advice for college graduates seeking a career in PR or Marketing is simple: become a better writer. It’s not as painful as it may sound. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to finish your first novel before you can land a PR or Marketing gig that suits you. It doesn’t mean you need to be an accomplished writer, or proficient early in your career. As with other professional skills, writing takes time and effort to improve.
Every PR/Marketing pro is a generator, consumer and evaluator of content. No matter the form or channel, writing is the foundation of all the digital content we see and experience, and brands and businesses are turning to agencies to help them create more compelling, engaging content.I’ve found that writing often, whether in your personal or professional life, is the best way to consistently grow your writing competency. Another tip is reading about writing, which I realize sounds dreadfully boring, but give it a try—it might just unclog that writer’s block, relieve anxiety about an upcoming writing task or simply provide tips you can file away to aid in your goal of better writing.
The best news is, studying the art of writing well isn’t expensive or time consuming. Here are a few resources that have tremendous value for PR and Marketing pros as writers:
- Stephen King’s On Writing: fear not, this is no horror novel. In this short book, King doesn’t offer to make the reader the next great novelist, but outlines practical and incisive thoughts on what conditions and habits can produce better writing.
- Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It: your writing needs help, and you know it. Pressfield presents advice in almost a how-to style, and the storytelling recommendations are especially useful for new or aspiring writers.
- Advertising genius David Ogilvy wrote to staffers at his firm in 1986 with prescient advice that holds up today: “use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs”, and “if it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.” Read here for the rest of his top 10 tips.
- The same subject was featured in collected tips in an article in The New York Times. It’s worth a read to discover the perils of zombie nouns, and why punctuation is as important as the words you choose to use.
- Finally, if in your undergraduate classes you weren’t assigned to read the classic On Writing Well by William Zinsser, it’s worthwhile to purchase your own copy, and keep it with you. It can serve you well at every stage of your career. The book is filled with the type of advice that can benefit PR pros in a fast-paced, always-on lifestyle. My favorites—avoid jargon and clichés, and hook your reader with the first sentence.
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