Strategic Writing for Emerging and Established Media
Ronald D. Smith
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Becoming a Public Relations Writer
Strategic Writing for Emerging and Established Media
Ronald D. Smith
Table of contents
About This Book
The sixth edition of Becoming a Public Relations Writer continues its place as an essential guide to the writing process for public relations practice.
Smith provides comprehensive examples, guidelines and exercises that allow students to both learn the fundamentals of public relations writing and practice their writing skills. Ethical and legal issues are woven throughout the text, which covers public relations writing formats for both journalistic and organizational media.
This new edition updates and expands its coverage of writing for digital and social media—including blogs, websites and wikis, as well as social networking (Facebook), microblogging (Twitter), photo sharing (Instagram and Snapchat) and video sharing (YouTube). This range reflects the current landscape of public relations writing, preparing undergraduate students for a public relations career.
Becoming a Public Relations Writer is a trusted resource for courses in public relations, media writing and strategic communication. Previous editions of this text have been adopted by more than 190 colleges and universities in the U.S. and among other English-speaking nations.
Complementary online materials are provided for both instructors and students; instructors have access to support materials such as test banks, chapter overviews and a sample syllabus, while students will benefit from career prep resources such as ethics codes, an overview of professional organizations and sample news packages. Visit the Companion Website at www.routledge.com/cw/smith.
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You already are a writer! That’s right. You’re already a writer—and probably a fairly good one—or you wouldn’t have made it this far. You wouldn’t have been allowed to register for a college writing course if you weren’t already a writer with sufficient skill.
The issue before you now is: Do you want to become a public relations writer? Do you want to improve your skills as a writer? Do you want to build skills to help you succeed in your career?
With this book and a fair amount of work, you can succeed. Repeat that thought: You can become a public relations writer! You’ll probably even find yourself carried to a higher level of enjoyment with all your writing.
As Desiderius Erasmus, the Dutch Renaissance-era scholar, observed: “The desire to write grows with writing.” Sharpen your writing talent and begin what can be a pleasurable journey toward developing a career in public relations and mass communications.
Part One of this book deals with the basics of writing in professional contexts. It begins with an exploration of your attitudes toward writing and follows with a brief refresher on writing principles.
It also features an overview of communication theory relevant to effective writing. It introduces a methodical look at some practices basic to all kinds of public relations writing, both as it is associated with established print and broadcast media and with newer emerging digital and social media.
Because it deals with the basics of writing, this section of “Becoming a Public Relations Writer” also should give you a footing for yet-undeveloped media opportunities that undoubtedly will come in the future. Work progresses on smart phones, computer tablets and related technologies that will offer quicker, more mobile, more interactive and more efficient multimedia opportunities.
Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population—more than 4 billion people—can access the internet, and nearly 40 percent use smartphones. At least 99 percent of residents in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are internet-connected. Internet users in Africa are expanding 20 percent each year.
Filipinos spend the most time online, almost four hours a day; Brazil and Indonesia are fast catching up. Interestingly, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and most of Europe log only half the time spent on social media by users in the Middle East, Mexico, and many countries in Africa and South America. Check out the WeAreSocial.com blog for additional info.
Meanwhile, engineers are developing technology that is becoming much less expensive and less reliant on digital infrastructures, so that one day computers likely will be in the hands of virtually everyone in the world, regardless of their socio-economic status or technological sophistication.
Software offering reliable and high-quality instant translations, both written and oral, may help us communicate with people across today’s political, cultural and language barriers. Let your imagination soar as you dream of the possibilities that the future may bring. Think about all the benefits they might bring to the professions of public relations and marketing communication.
Yet amid all these visions of what may take place next, the need also will remain for clear, effective, persuasive and ethical writing. That is the basis of Part One of this book, which includes six chapters:
Chapter 1: Writing . . . and What It Means to You.
Writing. It is the most important professional skill for public relations and marketing communications practitioners. Employers complain that job candidates can’t write adequately. Teachers fret that today’s students don’t write as well as their predecessors. In moments of candor, many students admit they are unsure about their writing skill. On the other hand, some are overly confident because their 7th-grade teacher told them they could write well but they never progressed beyond that level.
Throughout your academic career, you have been faced with many ideas about writing. Perhaps you have become aware of some mixed messages. If you have, that’s to be expected, because there certainly are a lot of different thoughts about writing—what it is, how we learn to write well, how we can use writing personally and professionally, and whether we are any good at it.
This chapter will help you begin to sort through what you have learned about writing and what you have experienced through writing. It will help you identify your own relationship with writing. We’ll start with freewriting, then look at the creative and functional aspects of writing and end with a discussion of how to become a better writer and your personal commitment to this outcome.
Eventually, these writing basics will lead you to apply your writing skills to the many and varied opportunities available to public relations writers. Some of these will be associated with traditional print and broadcast media. Others are associated with new and emerging media.
Here are your learning objectives for this chapter:
To use the technique of freewriting.
To understand the relationship between creative and functional writing.
Before we proceed, you need to learn a writing technique that you will be using a lot in this program—freewriting. As prescriptions for better writing go, this one is pretty painless when taken in moderation. Freewriting is a kind of stream-of-consciousness writing for a period of time without stopping and without self-editing. Its purpose is to get your initial thoughts on paper. Freewriting is a simple and effective procedure that can help you in several ways:
Getting started when you’re not quite sure where you’re going.
Organizing your thoughts.
Preparing to write more formally or to go public with your writing.
Overcoming writer’s block.
How do you freewrite? Take pen in hand, or fingers to keyboard, or mouth to microphone for speech-recognition software. Simply start writing. Keep writing for a certain period of time; five minutes is a good length. Much longer and freewriting becomes drafting, and then you’re not freewriting anymore.
The method is simple: Force yourself to keep writing throughout the five minutes. Don’t pause to ponder. Don’t edit. Don’t correct spelling or grammatical errors. Freewriting is very informal, and it’s usually not meant for anyone else to read. Rather, it can serve as the basis for a very rough first draft. Here is one of the author’s freewrites that helped set the stage for this chapter:
So, what do you think about writing? Like so much about the art of writing, this question has no right or wrong answers. Merely by considering the question you can begin to arrive at your own conclusions. Or perhaps you can simply become more comfortable in your ambiguity.
But, as you consider your own perspectives on writing, you are already in the process of becoming a better writer.
The 12th-century Chinese philosopher Zhu Xi urged his students to practice self-examination every day: “If you find faults, correct them. When you find none, try even harder.” Good advice! As you seek to become a better writer, take time to poke around the wrinkles of your mind. Probe your attitudes about writing. Consider your comfort level as a wordsmith.
Think about what you think about writing, especially your own. Have you been told, for example, that you are a good writer? If so, has the affirmation come from somebody who knows what he or she is talking about (that is, from a good writer, a knowledgeable teacher, or a competent editor)? Or was it your grandmother who praised your Valentine poem? Praise from family and friends is important for our emotional well-being, but you can’t necessarily build on it professionally.
On the other hand, do you think of yourself as an inadequate writer? It’s unlikely that strangers on the street or little children in the park have pointed this out to you, so where did you get the negative notion? What have you done to dismiss it as perhaps the exaggeration of your overly self-conscious ego, or perhaps to embrace it as a worthy opponent to be bested?
The point is, the more self-aware you are of yourself as a writer, the better writer you can become.
Self-examination is the first step toward excellence. You have already begun to become a better writer just by completing the first exercise. Now let’s tighten the margins a bit and look at two relationships within writing that are important to us as public relations writers: creative writing and functional writing.
Sometimes, students in public relations writing classes have said they are more comfortable with creative writing but are unsure of themselves with the functional writing they expect to find in public relations. That’s understandable.
The formats we use for various public relations purposes—news releases, organizational reports and proposals, persuasive appeals and so on—often have a number of “rules” to follow. It can feel like a paint-by-numbers approach to writing. Where’s the creativity? Where’s the fun? At what point does skill become talent?
All writing is creative and artistic. Creative writing emphasizes imaginative, artistic and sometimes innovative style. It is the result of creating an idea and sharing it with someone else. The idea may take various forms—a science-fiction adventure, a carefully researched historical novel, lyrical poetry, a corporate report, an informative news release, a compelling sales letter and so on. Writing is creative when we use it to shape a thought—molding it, wrapping it in a particular writing format, and ultimately sharing it with another person.
Creative writing is not solely a product of the imagination, although it may begin there. But it could just as well begin in an interview or through painstaking research. What fills writing with creativity is the insight and ownership a writer brings to the ideas and facts. A public relations writer will adopt the task at hand and, however fleetingly, will possess the ideas and thoughts surrounding the writing project. A good writer will caress a thought, coupling facts and ideas, giving birth to vignettes and parables, gaining insight and making observations.
But you say: All this to promote a supermarket opening? Ah, but that’s where the art takes shape, as the writer weaves words and phrases, facts and ideas, putting them before the reader in a way that serves the original purpose. We write creatively when we take a thought, wherever it originated, and artfully share it with others.
Citation styles for Becoming a Public Relations Writer
APA 6 Citation
Smith, R. (2019). Becoming a Public Relations Writer (6th ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/1524730/becoming-a-public-relations-writer-strategic-writing-for-emerging-and-established-media-pdf (Original work published 2019)
Smith, Ronald. (2019) 2019. Becoming a Public Relations Writer. 6th ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/1524730/becoming-a-public-relations-writer-strategic-writing-for-emerging-and-established-media-pdf.
Smith, R. (2019) Becoming a Public Relations Writer. 6th edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/1524730/becoming-a-public-relations-writer-strategic-writing-for-emerging-and-established-media-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Smith, Ronald. Becoming a Public Relations Writer. 6th ed. Taylor and Francis, 2019. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.