Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

This Was the Week that Was about Writing

Posted on | August 24, 2007 | No Comments

It’s been in the water this week.

I had lunch today with Karen Tillman of Oracle and Wendy Allen, who works with us on Oracle. One of the topics during munchtime was the state of writing. These women are good writers with an appreciation for the craft and a mortification at the state of it in business. So we bemoaned the current state of affairs. It gets worse when you factor in the effect of texting and IMing on writing; that bill comes due in just a few years.
Communications is difficult enough in the InfoGlut Era. But if you can’t articulate a message, fergeddaboutit. So it’s a big concern. (I told an old UPI buddy of mine who has been in pr for years about my building a writing and editing curriculcum at B&O and he replied “Don’t waste your breath. PR people can’t write.”)
Well, not entirely. Many are good and thoughtful. There are a lot of journalists who can’t write either (without the help of fantastic, hard-toiling copy editors). But point taken. We’ll see how it shakes out.

My dream of course is to transform at least what we do into bracing communications, releases that are non-traditional, bold, provocatively written. (I know my longtime PR buddies are now chuckling at my naivete) Why? Because releases today are the white noise of the world. So if you can convince a client to write a release as if you’re writing a release like you would a Page 1 Wall Street Journal feature, some hack is going to read it and remember it and maybe even act on it. In an era of BizWire, PRNewsire, thisWire and thatWire, of RSS feeds and alerts, it’s gotta stand out. Otherwise it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
And if that happens, well maybe we’ll all drink to that.
In the meantime, let’s keep the drumbeat up, like Poynter has done very effectively, at least among us ink-stained wretches.
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No Responses to “This Was the Week that Was about Writing”

  1. Island Mike
    August 27th, 2007 @ 9:43 am

    First of all, congrats on your new job.

    It is not an insignificant occurrence in the context of your most recent post. I firmly believe all PR professionals should cut their teeth first in journalism, if for no other reason than to see first hand what life on the other side is like, but more importantly to learn how to write in a compelling way that influences the audience we purport to target in PR. You chose to stay around longer than most, and I am sure that experience will serve you well in your new role

    As significant, your departure from CMP speaks volume about the state of the traditional B2B media business today, and I can only imagine that a vision for a new way of communicating will be foremost on your agenda at B&O. I look forward to watching it all unfold.

    In the meantime. enjoy what’s left of the Giant’s season, even if it really ended months ago.

    Red Sox Nation

  2. Lou Covey
    August 27th, 2007 @ 11:17 am

    I think the problem with the state of writing in the PR world is more the concept that “the customer is always right” more than the lack of talent to write well. this is especially true in the world of technology.

    When creating copy for clients, I will follow the rules of Strunk and White, AP press guide and every lesson I ever learned in J school about how to create a lead (or as the old-timers spell “lede.”) Yet, nine times out of 10, the client will rewrite the lead to include the positioning phrase “a leader in…” while taking out all the informational news and replacing it with “messages.”

    And in the end, that’s what has to go out, because “the customer is always right.”

    Before we can change the quality of writing in technology journalism, we have to take the marketing out of the hands of the engineering division and put it in the hands of trained communicators. It would also help if instead of sending marketing, nee engineering personnel to MBA school, we need to send them back to school for basic education in communcations.

    What you could do directly is transfer your curriculum at B&O from internal training to external training for your clients. Training PR people is treating the symptom, not the disease.

  3. Brian
    August 31st, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

    My brief experience in PR was instructive: some of the agency’s clients occasionally demanded bad writing — replacing the specific with the vague, adding boilerplate they knew would be excised, etc.

    I’ve never attended a business school, but it seems to me that among today’s businessmen and -women there is a very common lack of understanding of advertising, marketing, and PR.

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