How To Train Your Writers

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Imagine, for a moment, you are a fresh college graduate at your first PR agency job. You have worked there for a few months and, so far, everything is going well.

You’ve landed a few media placements on behalf of your client, you are killing it at media monitoring, and your weekly call recaps are must-read material for account team members.

One morning, you arrive at the office to find you have been assigned to write an article on the topic of, say, autonomous vehicles on behalf of your client’s chief technology officer. You need to write it in the “voice” of the executive, yet, you’ve never heard the CTO speak.

So you open a blank Word document, start and re-start the piece 27 times, then cry because you are a failure.

Sound familiar?

If you haven’t experienced the crippling agony of struggling to write something in the voice of an executive who has decades of experience on the very topic you are banging your head about, then you’ve never really lived.

The sad part? It happens a lot, usually under pressure to get a final draft in front of the client.

But when that new writer struggles to put together a good first draft, the agency is forced to bring in a more seasoned writer to quickly clean it up and ship an acceptable version off to the client to meet the deadline.

You might be thinking “Hey, what’s wrong with that? The client is happy and that’s all that matters.”

The problem, dear reader, is that we are bound to live in this never-ending cycle of turning over writing projects to the better writers at the last minute. If the only practice junior staffers get is a first draft that gets completely rewritten, what’s the point in having them write that draft in the first place?

Not to mention the fact that those senior writers have deadlines to meet and projects to handle. If we have to bring them in at the last minute on a regular basis, it throws off everyone’s schedule.

It’s pointless.

This type of activity isn’t sustainable.

To be an effective agency, you need the right mix of personnel who are all-star writers, as well as the future stars who are ready to break into the big leagues.

To do this, there are a few steps that can be taken to get started down the path of grooming the next generation.

  1. Practice, Practice Practice – I know everyone is busy, what with billable hours and client demands. But nobody ever got better at something by not practicing. Consider building writing practice into your team’s time, even if you force them to mark it as non-billable. As content creation and marketing becomes a more integral part of PR, we will need more writers who can cut it, not less. If they have put in the practice time, rest assured they’ll produce better content.
  2. Plan, Plan, Plan – There isn’t really a good reason to rush to deliver a piece to the client at the last minute. Putting together a simple editorial calendar for client content is one way to ensure those who need practice have ample time to write the first draft, and those who need to review have ample time to review and provide feedback.

The need for good writing is only going to increase, especially as the journalism industry continues to shrink.

The ability for a company to tell its own story becomes more attractive, so it’s in your agency’s best interest to retain a stable of solid writers who can grasp the intricacies of a client’s business and put it out there so it’s easy to understand, all while doing it in an efficient manner.

Not only does it save time and energy, but great writing and content creation can be a boon for your agency’s business, so it makes a lot of sense to have people on the team who are great at it.