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Worker, Writer, Watcher: Telling Stories


Writing is a process, often of elimination. This is true in creative as well as professional writing. One of the hardest lessons, in both, is how to put your ego aside and actually learn from the editing process.

Here are a few simple mantras to help you embrace the experience:

A Story is a Story

Whether you are writing a press release or a short story, you need a solid narrative.  When we retell personal stories, we don’t drone on and use lots of jargon.  Instinctively, we make sure to have a clear beginning, middle and end.  For example, on a trip to Greece several years ago, I was expected to ride a mule (whose better days were behind him) up a 1,000-foot narrow cliff path with no guardrail to reach the beautiful town of Santorini. I don’t begin the story with what I had for breakfast that morning, but at the decisive moment when I heard the echoing shouts of the other mule-riding tourists bouncing up the narrow, steep, curving dirt trail and decided I would brave the path on foot.  In other words, cut out “the runway” leading up to event and get to the drama (or, in the case of PR, the news).

Remember Your Audience

We tailor stories to fit our audience and we rely on our listeners for cues for what’s working. In PR, we work within a strict time frame and with specific messages. We know who is writing the news and who is reading it, and we want them to read and write about our clients’ news too.  The best stories are those that get better with retelling, and that is what we want most in public relations—someone to pick up and retell our clients’ story.

Communication is a Two-Way Street

While your skills as a communicator may work well when you are relaying news in conversation, sitting down to write can feel like a monologue.  That’s okay. You need to process and understand all the information and get it on the page before you can edit. There are no perfect sentences. Anticipate and learn to embrace revisions.

Editing is Writing

There are no short-cuts.  You have to get past the brain dump of information before moving on to the actual writing.  This will not be easy, but you cannot get to a finished product by jumping around.

Take Advice from the Masters

“Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.” — John Updike

And remember: Loving the process is an uphill battle.




Worker, Writer, Watcher: Where the Professional and the Creative Collide – The Art of Award Submissions

The planets have aligned perfectly for the 3 Ws this week—an advertising agency with whom we work, Central Coast, is going to be featured on AMC’s “The Pitch” (tune in this Thursday), AND, our own agency was thrilled to find out that we were named Bulldog Reporter’s 2013 Small Agency of the Year.



Awards and contests, whether on television or otherwise, have much in common:  promote yourself while letting your work/skills do the talking. That said, writing about and promoting your own agency’s PR expertise is a bizarre experience—like the scene in the surreal “Being John Malkovich” when the actor John Malkovich slips into his own consciousness and finds himself in a restaurant filled with infinite John Malkovich’s all repeating one word, “Malkovich,”over and over again.  I’m sure our friends at Central Coast will find it equally strange watching themselves pitch potential clients on national television.

Sure, PR is work, the work we do every day. But when it’s under the microscope, it starts to look very different. Writing is the same, when no one is watching there is an immense freedom, creating the story, finding your voice, etc. –but how do you find it and how does it change when you know others are watching?

We work in PR! We make our living tooting horns, spreading the word and leveraging our relationships and our knowledge of the industry to do so.  However, this is all behind the scenes, we prefer our clients capture the limelight—we are the worker bees, not the Queen.  When the tables turn and you do that very same thing for your own agency, you see the process from a new perspective.   It touches on the duality of our culture: Do not be a braggart, but be successful! (Exhibit A: The Unsinkable Donald Trump).

The experience of writing the submission, working together to find our agency’s “voice” to tout our accolades, was an interesting exercise. When pulling together our awards submission and writing the narrative, zeroing in on “our story,”  all that we have done as an agency, it was easy to miss the forest for the trees.  Certainly the honor of winning and the exposure is amazing—excellence is what we aim for after all. But that doesn’t account for the experience of working with the team on the submission—passing edits back and forth, pitching in with our various expertise, working late into the night—which was a rediscovery of the core of what makes our agency tick.

Worker, Writer, Watcher: Where the Professional and the Creative Collide




First, a disclaimer: I understand that television is entertainment and by no means should be utilized for choosing an occupation.

I work in PR, I am a writer, and I love watching television.  It is inevitable that I inhabit one of these identities while engaging with the other.  This Sunday evening, along with about 2.2 million others, I tuned in to the HBO premiere of the second season of Aaron Sorkin’s latest stress occupation gabfest “The Newsroom.”  Of course, you can’t separate PR from the news or television these days, nor can we apparently separate either from having some connection to reality.

Having worked in a corporate newsroom as well as in crisis communications and PR, I feel I have a fairly good handle on what life is like in a newsroom. While watching the premiere, a battle ensued between my internal Writer, Worker and Watcher. While the Writer and Watcher were both thrilled to the core with the buzzy, fun and witty dialogue and the careful narrative balance between the personal and the professional  (oh my!), the Worker was very stressed out wondering how any of these crises could possibly be effectively dealt with while everyone was busy buzzing?

In my experience as a Worker, when things go down in the communications field, you are lucky to be able to string a cohesive sentence together, let alone have the time to engage for more than 30 seconds with your colleagues. Yes, we may come together to frantically order pizza or step outside for a breather, but the highest level of communication is left to email or phone conversations. Witty remarks may be met with an appreciative smile, but most likely will be forgotten until the next day when reliving the crisis. While the dramatized version of life is much more exciting, events are collapsed for optimum drama, and we are always prepared with a great comeback line—the truth is often a lot less glamorous.

What strikes a chord with all three of my internal W’s is that the more I know about the real life occupation or situation on shows like “The Newsroom” and the closer such a show strives to bring in “reality,” the more I critique its creative license.  Television is a powerful tool, combine it with the trend toward reality-driven drama and ease of finding information, and it is not difficult to see how viewers might make the assumption that what appears on the screen is real life. As a Worker, Watcher and Writer, I do think the distance between reality and fiction needs to shrink just a bit, especially for the next generation of professionals trying to choose a career.