Monday, June 11, 2012

We're Pleased to Bring You a Short Essay on Public Relations Writing

Writing for public relations is different than other kinds of writing. If I am at work and something bad happens, I must present it in such a way so that it appears as if something bad has not happened. (Failing this, I should present it in such a way that does not make my organization appear negligent or broken-down.) Public relations writing must create a fantasy that everything is going perfectly well. Organizations are always excited to present something, proud of something else, pleased to announce this, and regretting to inform you of that. I must spin negatives into positives, and when I share bad news, it is with an apology for the inconvenience. I cannot show you any of this writing, for I am embarrassed to have created it. You would not recognize me in it.

However, if I’m writing for myself and something bad happens in that writing, I am always honest about that bad thing and how it affected the characters involved. I do not want bad things to happen in my writing any more than I want bad things to happen in real life, but in describing them honestly, as they occurred, they take on a power that people can feel, understand, and appreciate. That thing becomes real, and we can appreciate the full power of that terrible thing.

The terrible lows of writing not bound by an organization’s constraints also brings with it dizzying highs; for when our minds are open to honest writing we also become receptive to all the emotions that come with it. No one could ever be open to a novel that began A friendly reminder that... for readers, knowing that the reminder is not at all friendly (and may actually be less friendly than a normal reminder), will shut off their minds to what follows. We live in a world saturated with the worst kind of bland, uninspired, official-sounding English meant to disguise truth in a cloud of euphemism.  How frightening to think that it might affect our ability to digest the writing that really matters.