This is a post from guest columnist Alison Kenney.
Writing is an essential skill in a PR career. Writing under pressure is an essential-er skill.
PR people do more writing each day than they may realize – from the expected stuff, like press releases, contributed articles, bios, speaker proposals, award submissions, case studies and pitch letters to other forms of communication like blog responses and emails offering client counsel. Then there’s the way we represent ourselves with social media – the profile updates and community contributions or perhaps the blog posts we write. While it’s important that all of these written communications be sharp, smart and clear, many are done on the fly or with an expected tight turnaround.
From my experience, here are a few tips for writing well under pressure:
- Get rid of distractions – close down a few Windows on your screen, close the door to your office or settle into someone else’s office or a conference room. Tune out the buzz around you so that you can focus on getting the job done.
- Just do it – stuck on finding the perfect opening or headline? Sometimes it’s best to just start writing and get the juices flowing, then go back to edit later. One of my supervisors once told me that the key to writing in PR is to think about the news you are trying to communicate and imagine two old men sitting on a bench communicating it for you; the point was that if you could imagine their conversation you would have your headline, your sub-headline and your supporting arguments.
- Break it down – if the idea of writing an entire piece right now is overwhelming, create smaller, more do-able “homework” assignments. When I’m really stuck and not motivated to write something that really needs to get done, I set a schedule for myself. For instance, I’ll tell my lazy self that I must write for the next 30 minutes and then reward myself with another, more desirable activity.
- Start with the easy stuff –maybe thinking of a fresh way to write the CEO’s quote in a press release eludes you, but you can easily write the fact-filled introductory paragraph and company boilerplate paragraphs. Doing so makes it look like you’ve written more than you have and could be the inspiration you need.
- Imagine what the reader will think – every piece of communication you write has an intended audience. Put yourself in their shoes for a second and think about what they want to know, what their first question will be upon reading your headline or opening line or what their reaction will be to your news.
- Take a break – this kind of flies in the face of my first few tips where I suggest just focusing on the matter at hand, but honestly some of my best ideas come when I switch gears for a short time and get up from my desk to do something different.
- Keep a diary – a lot of writing experts recommend this because it gets you in the habit of writing, gets the ideas to appear on paper and is a fabulous way to get a sense of your writing style.
- Read – I recall a saying that good writers are good readers, probably because reading a variety of materials will expand your vocabulary, open you to new ideas and keep you current.
What are your tips for writing under pressure?
Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. Learn more her here.