Chapter 16 in Seitel’s “The Practice of Public Relations”, elaborates on a subject introduced briefly in Chapter 15: writing for the eye and ear. We’ve talked about this idea a lot in class (COMM 306), and I’ve really come to find this to be pretty valuable stuff. There is such a difference in writing pieces intended for reading compared to pieces meant to be listened to. Sietel says it perfectly on pg. 324, “Writing for reading emphasizes the written word. Writing for listening emphasizes the spoken word. The two differ significantly”.

Traditionally, writing for the eye was one of (if not the most) important skill for a public relations professional to possess. But times have changed, and while print journalism remains important, it may no longer be considered the most important strategic communication avenue. Writing for the listener is equally as important as writing for the reader, and a 21st century PR professional must be proficient at both.

It seems like the majority of my life in academia, almost all of my writing courses have been focused on writing for the reader. The techniques for effective print writing have been drilled into our brains since elementary school. Until last year, when I took a Public Speaking course, I had almost no training in gearing a message towards a listening audience. In Communication courses especially, I’m having to write less and less papers, and having to do more and more oral presentations. So I found the second portion of the chapter, which focuses on speeches & presentations, to be more a lot more engaging.

Advances in modern technology have made writing for the listener increasingly relevant to public relations. Newspapers and magazines are no longer the sole media avenues. A listener could be watching a video, listening to audio, or sitting through an oral presentation. These communication avenues require much different writing styles than print, and the chapter points out that speech writing has become of one the most coveted skills in most PR fields. Writing for the ear requires the writer to write like the message is being spoken. I think the coolest part about writing for a listener is that the effectiveness of the message depends on how well the writer adapts the message to the situation. Sietel breaks this aspect into the “4W checklist”: who, what, where, when.  A speaker may wish to communicate the same message to various audiences through numerous speeches, but he/she may not be able to use the exact same speech every time. A speech may need to be altered each time it’s given, depending on the type of audience, the setting, and even the time of day that the speech is being delivered.

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