Why PR pros should enlist the help of proofreaders

It’s not just that journalists are nitpickers about spelling. They must trust you to deliver clean, accurate copy. How about baking a quality-control fee into your efforts and hiring an editor?

PR_Enlist_Proofreaders

When a reporter sees a mistake in an email pitch, it’ll probably get deleted.

Worse, it could end up on Twitter for your clients and the world to see.

PR pros are expected to be many things: a storyteller with Hemingway’s chops, Pulitzer Prize-winning wordsmith, well-connected media maven, therapist and psychic—not to mention a social media guru (with a following like Kylie Jenner’s), content strategist, Google analytics algorithms expert and data scientist.

No wonder PR was just rated the eighth-most-stressful job in the U.S.

Even though words are our business, the editing and proofreading phase often falls short.

We miss things—especially if we wrote it. How often, for example, have we overlooked a double “the”? Unfortunately, mistakes often rear their ugly heads after we’ve hit “send.”

In a perfect world, all PR and marketing agencies would have experienced proofreaders.

That task is usually left up to account executives, publicists, interns—even the receptionist. (At my agency, we stopped short of cornering the Fed Ex guy in the hallway.) This happens because most agencies probably consider an onsite, full-time proofreader a luxury.

However, these eagle-eyed gems are worth their weight in gold. They could even be profitable if quality control—specifically, proofreading and editing—were baked in to client programs. For every piece of content in a campaign, from a social media post to a bylined article, a QC fee would be calculated in the price.

Some might bristle at having to take another step (running it by the proofreader) when time is tight, but readily available software can facilitate and expedite the process: That urgent email pitch gets flagged for immediate—and essential—attention.

It’s well worth it.

Jon Chesto, a veteran journalist and business reporter for The Boston Globe, has seen his fair share of mistakes in email pitches—ranging from a misspelled addressee’s name to a major factual error.

From an acquaintance, maybe it’s forgivable, but when he gets an error-riddled pitch from a stranger, he says, “It’s just one more reason to hit delete.”

If your agency can’t make a case for full-time quality control, consider the next-best thing: a freelancer who can work onsite or remotely. If either option isn’t feasible, here are some tips before you hit “send”:

Do’s:

  • Have a third party read your content, even if it’s a short email.
  • Fact-check numbers, names and other specifics (there is zero excuse for misspelling a reporter’s first or last name).
  • Make sure links lead to the right place.
  • Hold off on sending your content until the next day, if no one is available to proofread; this is especially helpful if you are a sole practitioner.
  • If you’re not 100% sure, look it up. If you are 100% sure, look it up anyway.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t rely on spell-checking or grammar functions.
  • Don’t think reporters, editors and producers don’t notice or care about errors
  • Don’t abbreviate or use slang just because they’re OK for social media and texting.
  • Don’t send anything out without someone looking at it first, regardless of content. (Email pitches are just as important as bylined articles.)

Consider this tweet from Andy Hollandbeck, an editor at The Saturday Evening Post.

Let yours be the positive exception in a barrage of mostly flawed email pitches.

Lisa Rinkus is a Boston-based consultant and PR industry veteran. She ran her own boutique agency, LJPR, for 20+ years but is transitioning to her passion for editing, proofreading and writing. Follow her on Twitter at @LJPR and on LinkedIn.   

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COMMENT

4 Responses to “Why PR pros should enlist the help of proofreaders”

    Ford Kanzler says:

    Great article! Suggest all writing requires editing and every writer needs a good editor. If you’re working solo, take the time to let the copy cool off and come back to it with fresh eyes. Just blowing stuff out as fast as possible usually isn’t conducive to clear or effective writing. Sloppy writing kills credibility.

    Whitney Blalock says:

    Public relations practitioners wear many hats, which is one of the most exciting aspects of the job. On the flip side, with so many responsibilities comes the opportunity to overlook something. In an industry where credibility is huge, it is extremely important to ensure everything is spelled correctly. I’m sure I can speak for a large group when I say having a proofreader would be a luxury! – Whitney Blalock, writer/editor for Platform Magazine

    Harriet Finck says:

    This is great advice for anyone who writes as part of her job. I used to prepare a lot of grant applications and always tried to wait a day before doing a final proof before sending.

    Elizabeth says:

    I’ve worked as a copy editor at several news organizations. I’ve also worked as a reporter. I can tell you that they are two different thought processes. If a scientist told me that copy editing and writing engage different parts of the brain, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    A little-known secret is that the best copy editors are worth their weight 100-dollar bills. They not only correct your errors, they contribute small changes that make your writing sing.

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