Writing skills are highly prized by PR employers but if you’ve had three (or more) years of writing essays and dissertations, how do you go about changing your writing skills to be relevant to a PR career?
1) Write a blog. Often people start blogging but give up fairly quickly because they feel they are talking to thin air. No one comments and they wonder if it’s really worth it. Let me tell you this, the vast majority of people who view blogs, don’t comment. The most read post on this blog gets around 100 visitors a day – and doesn’t have a single comment. That doesn’t mean I’m not reaching people, it just means they have nothing to add, and that’s okay. Your blog should demonstrate your interest in the industry – so keep it focussed – and is a great place for you to demonstrate your writing skills to employers. It is owned by you, so should have your ‘voice’ and try to steer clear of sounding too academic. A good tip is to read what you’ve written out loud before you publish it. Does it sound like the way you speak? If not, it’s too formal.
2) Write thank yous. It seems that sending a thank you letter (or email, or Tweet at a push) is a forgotten art. A well written thank you can be the difference between someone remembering you or not. If someone gives you their time for any reason, be it an interview, a conversation at a networking event, some time giving you CV advice – send them a thank you.
3) Write a decent CV. Your CV may be the first piece of work an employer sees, so your skills as a writer need to shine. I give my tips for writing a CV here.
4) Write good covering letters. Do not send emails saying “Here is my CV, Regards, X”. I am constantly astonished by how many people do that. How are you going to persuade an employer that you really really want their job, unless you tell them why you are so great for it? Keep it short – under 500 words – and punchy. Split the letter into three sections, which job you are applying for, why you want to work there, and what have to offer.
5) Write a ten-point career plan. This is just for you, not to be shown to employers, but by drawing up a plan of where you want to be and how you are going to get there it will make you think about acheiving goals. It will also help you to work out how to write a decent to-do list.
6) Write on other people’s blogs and industry articles. A sure fire way to get noticed by potential employers is to comment on the articles they write. You will also have the chance to leave your blog URL with your comment, which will drive traffic to the content you’ve written. However, make sure your comments are relevant and don’t do it too often or they’ll think you’re stalking them.
7) Write media analysis. Choose a different newspaper each week and summarise the top stories. Or choose two different papers and compare how they’ve covered the same story. Then post a copy to your blog and start a written portfolio – on decent paper and neatly bound – that you can take to interview. It will be good writing practice and will be relevant content – and as a bonus you’ll increase your current affairs knowledge at the same time.
8) Write opinion pieces. Find an industry relevant publication or website (PR Week, Communicate Magazine, PR Moment, PR Examples, Gorkana, esPResso PR news… the list is endless), research a campaign they have covered then write an opinion piece on that campaign. Was it successful? What would you have done differently? You can use your blog platform to publish it, but you should also keep it in your hard copy portfolio to take to interview. It will demostrate that you can have an opinion and orginal ideas and that you are able to articlate them.
9) Write good emails. When writing to friends and family, practice writing in a businesslike manner. Stay away from smiley faces and LOLs. Use the correct punctuation and pay attention to capital letters. Work correspondence is not the same as writing to your mates and it can sometimes take some time to get used to not saying “cheers” and putting kisses at the end of your messages, so it’s good to get into good habits before you start in your new job.
10) Write a presentation. Pull together a presentation which sells you as a PR practitioner. Presentations are part of PR life – you’ll pitch for new business using them, you’ll use them for training, you may present to clients using them – so you might as well become a PowerPoint or Prezi expert now. You don’t have to use masses of text – in fact less is more when it comes to presentations – but relevant points and impressive visuals will make a great impression. Check out Slideshare.net for some fantastic examples.