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Public relations

Robert Leaf: PR people just can’t write as well as they used to

I’m not one for the meme that things always used to be better. But Robert Leaf, in his autobiography, may be right when he talks about the writing skills of PR practitioners:

In those days [the 1950s], the average PR man was a better writer than today… A number of editors have told me or even shown me examples of material they have received… from PR firms and in-house departments that are so bad it was embarrassing.

And then he continues by saying:

And possibly because, back then, PR people had more time than in today’s far more demanding and competitive world, they read much more and so had more factual data on which to base their releases.

That second part is interesting because I’m sure that many PR practitioners do spent their entire lives under massive stress, constantly unable to get everything done. Indeed, a survey has shown that PR is the fifth most stressful job in America.

However, I would suggest that not reading widely or building up a good general knowledge or developing relationships are actually causes of both stress and shortness of time.

A PR practitioner who understands a product and its industry, and who reads the relevant media outlets, will devise a press release about the product extremely quickly. He or she won’t be desperately and depressingly having to “sell in” a story to media outlets that regard the story as worthless.

Reading really does save time.