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Seminar: PR Writing!

Writing for social media, thought leadership and community development were among the hot topics at “Getting Started in Public Relations Writing,” PWAC Toronto Chapter’s first professional development seminar of 2012-13.

According to veteran PR professionals Alix Edmiston, Virve Tremblay and Susan Crossman (read their bios here), these are high priority areas for corporate leaders and major companies—and that means opportunities for freelancers. 

Public relations is a broader field than many people know (areas include internal communications, crisis communications, government communications and consumer communications), and skillful writers are in high demand. (For an overview of PR writing projects, read Karen Luttrell’s recent NetWords post.
Highlights from the seminar:
- A recent large survey of communications executives found that budgets for corporate communications have recovered since the recession. Looking ahead, North American communicators feel optimistic and expect budgets to grow further in 2013.
- Larger companies with more communications staff are more likely to yield opportunities for freelancers. Start-ups generally don’t have money to hire writers. 
- Typical communications departments spend a quarter of their budget on vendors and a quarter on programs (newsletters, videos, etc.)—which need writers.
- Social media is the top priority for the majority of communicators. The second is measuring and monitoring. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has also grown in importance, although it’s less about monetary donations and more about providing services to charitable organizations that fit well with the company. 
- There is a trend towards separating marketing budgets from communications budgets.
- Freelancers should get to know their chosen industry well. Find out what’s hot—priorities vary in different sectors (though social media is a common concern).
- Freelancers have an edge when offering social media and other PR strategies to companies—their outsider perspective is an advantage. 
- Finding clients is a process—keep meeting people and be your best self at all times to develop a strong reputation. It may take many conversations before you have a breakthrough. 
- Not every client is a good fit—and that’s okay. 
- Manage your online identity. Be aware of how you’re presented on the Internet. 
- Be adaptable in your writing. Unlike journalism, PR writing is less about objectivity and more about protecting corporate interests (your client’s). That said, many journalists make the transition to PR easily, and journalists are especially well suited to media relations because they know what makes a story. 
- Before you start, get specialized PR training or mentoring to boost your confidence. Speakers’ recommended resources: International Association of Business Communicators including PIC (for independents), which is holding a workshop on project proposals on Nov. 7, 2012; the Canadian Public Relations Society; marketing webinars from HubSpot; articles from Ragan Communications; and Public Relations for Dummies. 
To read tweets from the seminar, search for #pwacpanel on Twitter. Check out our Storify summary of the evening’s presentations. For info about upcoming PWAC Toronto Chapter seminars, visit our Events page. 
Jaclyn Law is president of PWAC Toronto Chapter.