Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We are rebels…

Admit it. You liked high school English. While your classmates were going all Hulk Hogan with adverbs and plural possessives and homonyms (“old school” terminology), you were as comfortable as a snuggly blanket on a three-dog night.

Going old school, Brother!
In college, you were the one your dorm-mates came to with their papers, desperate for you to proofread. Your agreement to do so was contingent on being permitted to have free reign.

You went all-giddy with your red pen, didn't you?

Let it bleed!
Well-played, PIO…well-played.

In the public information world, we should be writing on a daily basis. It’s one of the foundations of our profession. It tangibly illustrates our ability to communicate. It suffers when we are out of practice. You should also be the “go-to” person when others in your office need help with spelling, grammar, syntax, and just plain getting across the intended message.

Don’t limit yourself to proper usage only when it’s a formal document such as a press release, technical paper, or interdepartmental memo. You probably spend tons of time polishing those, but ironically, their intended audience is usually fairly limited. Before clicking that mouse, do you proofread what you post on social media? I’ll bet the potential readership of those pieces of prose is exponentially greater than the aforementioned items.

Check BEFORE releasing the hounds
And don’t delude yourself into thinking that no one pays attention or cares. One of my “other duties as assigned” is performing background investigations on firefighter candidates. We are ruthless in our review of every piece of information we can obtain, and that includes the ability of the candidate to express themselves in writing. From their multi-page personal questionnaire to their Facebook posts, we look (within context) for the flavor of how they communicate. It doesn't take a lot of analysis to spot their default style, and we take this ability (or lack thereof) into account when examining the overall “package” that they present.

So write…write every day. It keeps your skills honed to a fine edge.

You know, just in case ...
(And keep plenty of red pens in your PIO go-kit.)

Dan Kochensparger
Public Information Officer
Upper Arlington, Ohio Fire Department

1 comment:

  1. Write as if you're being judged not only on the content, but the style in which you craft - because you are.