Each week, we will strive to post content from a guest blogger with an expertise in an area of the field. This week, we are fortunate to have Jonathan Foerster, the communications director for Artis—Naples, a performing and visual arts organization in Southwest Florida. He has worked in both news and public relations and makes the case here that the skills you pick up in journalism writing courses and jobs are invaluable for anyone in corporate communications, marketing or PR. Interested in being our next guest blogger? Contact us here.
Like any communications job, the main role any public relations professional plays is storyteller. From press releases to pitch emails and from Twitter feeds to YouTube channels, if you don’t have a compelling story, no one is paying attention.
All of this is for the service of your company, product or event. We know that the best brands build layers of narrative around their products allowing for multiple points of entry and a variety of strong positive emotions. The style and content that appeals to one part of your target audience doesn’t work for another segment. So, you must have the ability to the same message and translate it to different groups.
The transformation of great ideas into stories that resonate with your audiences requires an understanding of narrative structures, the techniques used to draw in an audience and the ability to easily translate industry jargon into something anyone can understand.
To work in PR, you need to be a good writer.
There isn’t a day in my role as communications director for an art nonprofit where my writing skills, honed by years of working at newspapers and magazines, aren’t critical.
There are obvious areas where my journalism training comes in handy. For example, eight times a year we create a mini magazine that serves as the program book for our audiences. We treat these as not only direct marketing opportunities for performances and exhibitions, but also as a form of pre-concert infotainment. We want our readers to be informed and engaged with the content, which makes them more informed and engaged with our organization.
On a monthly basis, I write letters and speeches for our CEO, I craft language to be used by surrogates who promote the organization and I create uniform communications shared among departments so we always project organizational consistency. I also manage social media and work with vendors to create video projects.
These roles require the ability to subtly change voice from more formal language for the CEO to casual chatter for Facebook posts. I need to translate the same content from language suitable for a college graduate fluent in classical music to a middle school-level reader who doesn’t know an oboe from an elbow.
None of my work would be successful without writing skills and the dedication to keep them sharp and current. Understanding techniques (for example: framing and foreshadowing) and styles (inverted pyramid, anecdotal lede) opens up a world of possibilities that can help set your communications ahead of competitors in the marketplace.