PR: The Good, Bad and Ugly
Proofreading In PR Is Impotent – Er, Important : 3 Tips To Remember
by Wesley Hyatt on 10/02/2012
In this age of cutbacks to traditional media, one area that has taken a particular hit has been proofreaders and editors. This loss means that you, the public relations professional, have more responsibility now than ever to ensure that what you create for your client has the right punctuation, grammar and spelling. If not, chances are good that no one else will catch what’s wrong and change it – no matter what the size of the document is.
Consider this recent egregious example. New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) unveiled a new subway transfer station with a sign proudly announcing the new stops served. There was just one problem. It misspelled “downtown,” leaving out the first “n,” in a font so big it could be seen 50 feet away.
How did a major organization like the MTA in the most populated city in America allow such a blatant gaffe to occur? It could have been carelessness, or a rushed deadline. But the reasons for such glitches matter little. The final outcome is what everyone remembers.
That is what you have to keep in mind when proofreading the news releases, blogs, articles, brochures, scripts, tweets and other documents you create for your clients. These pieces are a reflection of their professionalism to the public. Your errors indicate carelessness on your client’s behalf to the reader.
Three key areas to remember that need to be spotless before you email or post anything include:
1) Names and Places
Remember how as a child you took it as a personal offense when someone spelled your name or hometown wrong? Well, such mistakes upset clients just as much, if not more so. Everyone should be correctly identified by their proper names and titles when needed. So should the names of their businesses, locations and similar details.
2) Times and Dates
If your client has an event and you give the wrong day or starting time, the announcement is worthless. If they have an event and you do not list a day or starting time in the announcement, you’re worthless.
Keep in mind when you are sending out dated material. Are any items mentioned going to have happened when it is released? Put them in the right tense so that you will not be tense reading the final version.
Are you using the shortened version of a word without having written it out fully in its first context? That is n.g. – I mean, no good. At the same time, know when and where you should be using abbreviation – the AP Stylebook website is a big asset in case you have questions when to do so.
These are only the key areas to focus. More than anything else, take time to read and re-read what you are sending out for approval to clients and for publication to the media. An extra few minutes is worth avoiding the grief when written blunders appear in public and are hard if not impossible to correct.
There are rare times when publications make mistakes in editing what you submit them. In that case, make sure to keep your original submission so you can show your client whose fault it was with the final product.
But in general, the end product will be your end product, period. It should shine in terms of style as much as content. As Tim Gunn would say, “Make it work!”
What are your thoughts about proofreading and PR? Please share them in the Comments section below.