By Don Bates, APR, Fellow, PRSA
If you’re a writer in public relations, public affairs, advertising, marketing, fundraising, human resources and other communication pursuits who wants to write better, you must do something soon if you haven’t already: Publish a piece of writing under your own name, outside your job.
Doesn’t matter if it’s a blog, letter to an editor, how-to guide, editorial, or other contribution so long as it has your byline and photo. Doesn’t matter if what you write appears in a newspaper, newsletter, magazine, bulletin, website or blog. Doesn’t matter if it’s international, national or local. Doesn’t matter if it’s read by handfuls or hundreds.
If it isn’t used first time out of the gate, try again. Write something on another topic for a different publication and purpose. But before you do that find out why you weren’t published initially. Ask the editor, colleague, friend. Get feedback, pro and con. Did your submission lack facts, quotes, examples? Was it clear, logical, objective? Was it interesting, engaging, insightful? Was it credible?
Or maybe what you wrote wasn’t the problem. Perhaps your target medium didn’t have space for it or had already published a lot of what you addressed and needs to wait a few months before publishing anything similar. Perhaps they’ll entertain another piece on a different subject. Ask.
Once you’re published – and you will be if you stay committed – you won’t look back. You’ll have been stung by the publishing bug. You’ll have become enamored with sharing your words with interested readers. You’ll have become and will continue to become a better writer.
Your writing gets better because you’ve put yourself on the line like other published writers. The psychological benefits alone can be profound. Publication fuels ego, confidence, ideas, desire, requests for other submissions, social invitations.
George Orwell, one of history’s journalist journalists, published a famous essay entitled “Why I Write.” In it, he said there are “four great motives for writing”:
“Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc.
“Aesthetic enthusiasm. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed.
“Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
“Political purpose (Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense). Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.”
Orwell’s essays or writing are free here.
Publishing helps you to take part in the world’s discussions, however mundane or profound. Doing so, you inform, enlighten, educate, inspire, activate. Then there are the perks that often follow: job offers, writing gigs, peer recognition, and admiration of loved ones, colleagues, friends.
Most important, you become a better writer because of the work you do with words, sentences, paragraphs, arguments and explanations to talk intelligently and intentionally to others, both online and off. This I guarantee.
Don Bates, APR, Fellow PRSA, teaches writing and PR management courses at New York University. He also teaches business writing workshops worldwide. For over 40 years, he has handled public relations for corporations, associations, nonprofit organizations. He owned The Bates Company, Inc., a global PR agency, which he sold after 12 years. He has taught at Columbia University and the New School University and is founding director of the strategic public relations graduate program at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM), Washington, D.C. In recent years, he has taught scores of daylong writing workshops for the PRSA National Capital Chapter, of which he is a member.