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5 Game-Changing Writing Tips

We have all heard the typical do’s and don’ts of writing:

  • DO: Include graphics.
  • DON’T: Use clichés.
  • DO: Have a consistent voice.
  • DON’T: Write in the passive voice.

While these are all valuable pieces of advice, we have five of the more fundamental, yet overlooked tip to improve your writing. Whether you are a novice or a professional writer, following these tips will benefit your writing.

  1. Start in the middle.

Ernest Hemingway, when asked what was the most frightening thing he ever encountered, answered: “A blank sheet of paper.” There are times when words come easily and times when we it feels like our brain is empty. Don’t let that discourage you.

Get some words on the page—it doesn’t matter if you start in the beginning, middle, or end of your piece. Don’t worry about perfecting your writing at this stage. Once you begin, your main points will reveal themselves buried a few paragraphs down.

  1. Stop being wishy-washy.

When you’re done writing, go back through your copy looking for weak words and phrases. Delete any attempts you made to justify what you are saying. You are allowed to have an opinion. These are some other common offenders:

  • In my opinion
  • Personally
  • Honestly
  • I believe
  • I think

These act as unnecessary fluff, and they weaken your voice. Be confident and use decisive language.

  1. Read it out loud.

Make sure your writing sounds natural. The goal is to write the way people talk in everyday conversation. Don’t try to get fancy with your vocabulary. For example, don’t write:

  • Accordingly if you mean so
  • Commence if you mean start
  • Utilize if you mean use
  • In close proximity to if you mean near
  • Facilitate if you mean help

Good writing is simple, clear and concise. As Mark Twain said, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.”

  1. Walk away.

There is a difference between struggling to make your point and fixating on minor details to the point of actually making your writing worse

When you’re stuck down this rabbit hole — you have written way more than you need, your sentences aren’t making sense, and your words are jumbled — there’s only one thing you can do: Take a break. Focus on something else. Do anything except write. Step away from your computer, and return after some time has passed.

  1. For the love of God, get an editor.

Yes, you need an editor. Why? It is so much more difficult to edit a piece of writing that you are familiar with. You need a new set of eyes, a fresh perspective on your work.

An editor is worth your while. Don’t just believe me, take it from these professional writers:

“Pay for an editor. Not just to fix the typos, but to actually make your ramblings into something that people will choose to read.” —Seth Godin

“Editing turns something great into something even greater.” —Neil Patel

“Use an editor. Editors are not optional. Period.” —Ann Handley

Universal Truths of PR

Unfortunately, we can’t have an answer to every question. Some things in this world are just commonly known and have to be accepted as so.  PR is no different.

Here are a five universal truths about PR:

  1. PR never ends: You may think you have completed a task, but your job is never truly done. PR professionals are essentially storytellers for their clients. We are always thinking of innovative ways to express to others why our clients are the best of the best. Along with this, we are constantly looking to build connections in order to share our client’s stories to a greater audience.
  2. You can’t scare easily: We never plan for bad things to happen to us, but that’s life. As PR pros, we pride ourselves on thorough planning and time management. However, crises can never be programmed into our calendars. Because of this, we must prepare our team and our clients to react accordingly to the issue at hand. Panicking will only make matters worse.
  3. First impressions matter: Whether this occurs through face to face interaction, email exchanges, or any other form of contact, the first outreach can tell a lot about a person. Always act professional, and in return, you will be treated as one.
  4. Relationships are important: The more personal your relationships are, the more connected you typically are to that person. Especially with technology being as big as it is now, genuine face to face contact makes a huge impact and can lead to strong, successful relationships with both your clients and the public.
  5. You are worth more than you get credit for: People often times do not understand the value behind a well-written press release, or a brochure that has an eye-catching headline, but don’t let that discourage you. You are keeping your client’s brand alive and increasing its worth as each day passes. Keep up the good work and more opportunities to get noticed will come your way.

Getting It Right– The First Time

The Republican National Convention is over, but the controversy about one particular speech given continues on. While there were some interesting and important speeches given during the convention, the one moment that will live on forever was one that the party wasn’t hoping for.  It was the moment that Mrs. Trump uttered words that sounded very familiar – nearly word for word familiar.  And in fact, as social media started to blow up within an hour after the conclusion of her speech, it was clear that she had lifted a paragraph right out of Mrs. Obama’s speech given in 2008.

The party immediately started damage control but it only seemed to make matters worse until nearly five days later, the speech writer who had assisted Mrs. Trump admitted that the speech was not properly fact checked.

Wow.

As journalists and public relations professionals, we know you rarely get a “do over.” So you need to make sure you do everything you can to get it right the first time.

So here are a few tips before step out onto the stage to deliver that next speech:

  • Write the outline in your own words: Sometimes, we take ideas from others as a reference and forget to reword it in the final draft. To avoid this, rephrase your sentences or, if you are going to use an exact phrase or section, give credit to the author.
  • Vet the speech for plagiarism: There is no such thing as checking your work too many times. Read it thoroughly numerous times, and have others do the same. And then, do it again.
  • Use online plagiarism-checking tools: Sites such as Turnitin.com allow for you to paste your text and have it scanned for similarities with any online text. This will make it impossible to plagiarize anything that is already online.

And…..If for some reason something still goes wrong, acknowledge the mistake. Covering ups only lead to more distrust and lack of credibility on your part and the part of your organization.

Do what it takes to get it right – the first time.

Reasons to Travel After College

As a senior in college, it seems that every conversation revolves around the dreaded question: “What are your plans after graduation?” Unlike those rare people who knew exactly what they wanted to do since they were five years old, many of us are frantically searching for an answer to this question.  When I was tired of not having an answer, I hesitantly approached my parents and dropped the hint that I wanted to travel after graduation.  As it turns out, they were behind this idea 100%.  After hours of thorough research, I finally had an answer to the question I spent years of my life avoiding.  Well, an answer that would work for the time being that is.

My friend and I left a week after graduation to explore the diverse landscapes of New Zealand and Australia for two weeks, and here’s why you should do the same:

  • You’re young: As you get older, you not only gain more responsibilities, but your health comes into question as well. Would you rather be traveling with your best friend in your twenties when you can still fall asleep in uncomfortable hostel beds, or be trying to comfort a crying baby during your 13-hour plane ride? Clear winner there. Your body can also handle a lot more when you’re younger. You won’t have to question if you can go blackwater rafting through the Waitomo glowworm caves, bungee jumping off the Auckland Sky Tower, or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, you’ll just do it.
  • You’ll become more independent: While college is a time where you are most likely living far away from home, your parents are still just a phone call away. But when a call costs you fifty cents every minute and you are without Wi-Fi, you have to be confident in everything you do. Things such as: knowing how to fill out a customs form properly so you aren’t quarantined, being able to use city transportation without getting lost, and knowing who to complain to when they try and charge you $350 to check a bag and then bargaining them down to $130 (still bitter about that). Whether it took a time or two to figure out, every challenge was a great learning experience.
  • You’ll never forget the people you meet while traveling: We chose to travel with a tour group where we met individuals from Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and more. Having such a diverse group of people surrounding us allowed us to learn more about other countries’ cultures and even more about our own. Better yet, now we are connected with people and have places to stay if we choose to travel more.
  • You’ll experience things you never imagined: I can now say I have been scuba diving in the one of the seven natural wonders of the world, witnessed someone get sick 200 meters in the air on a parasail, went platypus hunting (it was as weird as it sounds), and saw the movie “Finding Dory” in Sydney, which was sadly a dream come true. No matter what it is, traveling is a unique experience that will supply you with memories that you will never be able to replicate.

 

Overall, graduating from college means that you just worked harder than you ever have. Celebrate your success rather than diving into the real world right away.  Whether it’s for two weeks or a year, traveling somewhere new is something everyone needs to experience, and what better time to do it than after graduation.  You’ll be working for the rest of your life, so enjoy your free time and minimal responsibilities while you can.  I promise you won’t regret it.

Meet Kristen! H&A’s Newest Intern

Kristen Daugherty, a recent graduate of the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, has joined Heying & Associates as an intern account coordinator.

During her four years at UCSD, she was a member of the Collegiate Track and Field team. Throughout her internship, Kristen will serve as an account assistant with several of the agency’s public relations and marketing clients.

 

To Be Discontinued… 6 PR Habits to Break

Not all habits are bad, but there are definitely some worth avoiding. When it comes to PR specifically, image is everything.  Although it is nearly impossible to elude all negative stereotypes, understanding the effects that bad habits can cause will aid in the improving of the PR image.

Here are some PR habits to break, or better yet, never get started with:

  • Giving clients unrealistic expectations: While this one can be hard to avoid, it is the most important one to pay attention to. PR professionals are only as good as their word. If they do not live up to it, it is damaging to both them and their clients’ reputations. It is important to set realistic deadlines and stick with them.
  • Using empty words and phrases: Adding fillers into your writing can come off as being exaggerative and highly cliché. In the end, they add nothing to your story. It is much more beneficial to write with some substance and originality.
  • Pitching across every social media platform in existence: Social media has proven to be a good outlet to reach the right personnel. However, there is no need to message a journalist the same thing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Try to research how the individual would like to be contacted rather than bombarding them and turning them away.
  • Sending lengthy press releases: Most individuals do not want to write or read more than they have to, which is why a short pitch will often times do the trick. Sending drawn-out press releases too often will only overload the receiver’s inbox and cause “real” news to be disregarded.
  • Failing to listen: We’ve all been called out by our moms for not listening to her when she talks, but imagine being yelled at by a potential client. If you do not actively listen to what they have to say, you might not have any clients at the end of the day.
  • Being one dimensional: Everyone has their likes and dislikes, but when you are involved in PR, it is important to be knowledgeable in many different areas. Avoid being uninformed and pay attention to those trending topics and world events that are constantly flooding your screen.