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Friday, June 16, 2006

Is there a draft in here?

One thing I've noticed since being in PR is that we call writing 'drafting'. Now, this small difference may seem trivial. But it sums up - often subconsciously - the blurred line between journalism and PR.

When a PR person writes - even though it's a huge and critical part of the job - they draft. It's almost as if the task isn't worthy of the verb 'to write'. Often it's done as quickly as possible to a tight brief, with scant detail and little direction. Most of the time, PR drafters are given one shaky fact and a gigantic heap of 'messaging' and told to get on with it. It's also something that needs to be cleared as soon as possible so the media relations execs can get on with their core task of actually relating with the media.

In the last three months or so, I've found myself drafting things. It's not that I don't want to write, but drafting seems to fit the brief so much better. I get my fact - two if I'm lucky - then refer to the messaging, corporate profile and previous material to fill in the rest. Once my draft is drafted, it's sent to the client, who makes some tweaks and sends it back, normally because they want to soften it, or fine tune the messages. Then, the second draft is drafted and hopefully gains approval if the messaging is right and the sense is inoffensive. End of story. (Come to think of it, is it called 'drafting' as the only outcome is a 'draft'? Would anything more suggest to the client we were being cocky?)

Anyway, I actually wrote something the other day. It was an article that had been placed with a magazine (more PR terminology there - it means the editor had agreed to run it) on a particularly meaty and interesting subject. I got into it, did a lot of research, undertook some interviews, took my time and actually wrote. As a journalist, I was proud of the end result.

Predictably, the client I wrote it for hated it and changed almost every word.

But my goal here is not to whinge about my precious creative powers being curtailed. I'm only interested in happy clients - we'd be failing in our jobs otherwise. What I want to do is point out that bloggers are writers too, but they never admit it.

Most bloggers I read write more than journalists and are often funnier, more compelling and quicker with the news. Yet they seem petrified to call themselves writers. What gives?

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