We do five things really well:
- Write outstanding PR news, websites, ads, speeches articles, sales material
- Shorten and improve websites and marketing materials with advanced editing techniques
- Teach employees in one day how to write better and more effectively
- Help companies make better business presentations
- Develop (with Marchese Design) branding and identity programs, and websites.
The PR Writer’s mission: make content more rapidly understandable. To make it simpler, eliminating all extra words but not change the meaning. In the blog section, see how we can remove 20-30% of news release content regularly—and make it better.
As the late, great Steve Jobs put it: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Moving mountains is what we aspire to do. Help our clients move opinion and attitudes toward acceptance of their brand, product or issue. We have done it for companies large and small and we’dlike to do it for you.
Currently, we are deeply involved in Canada’s cannabis industry, partnering with Marchese Design to create investor presentations, news releases and websites. I believe legalization will produce substantial societal changes but not immediately. Particularly noteworthy will be the scientific advances resulting from academics obtaining legal research-grade cannabis. Canada will be a global scientific centre, aiding in answering so many questions that were unavailable during cannabis Prohibition. We tackled the question of will it change society in our PR Writer blog. Basically, so many people have ignored the outdated laws for years and have enjoyed cannabis openly. Nothing will change for them. The medical population has had access to it for a long time. Many of those consumers have used it to get high, inventing a medical condition to obtain it legally. They may switch to legal retailers. But their consumption will be the same. When there are legal dispensaries in every neighbourhood, then the reality of legal pot will set in. That will be interesting to see.
At Legalization, many companies distributed laudatory news releases. We surveyed the PR Newswires and found these examples of writing ‘as flabby as a hand-rolled joint.’ Take a look.
You might wonder why I call myself The PR Writer. As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in words and language—and the media. Delivered newspapers in my hometown during elementary school, of course worked on school papers. During high school I fell in love with Hemingway. He was from a Chicago suburb, had gone off to war, entered journalism and tried to find the simplest way to convey stories and words. He even wrote for the Toronto Star. I went to see his boyhood homes in Oak Park and once went to an exhibit at a bookstore where all of his first editions were displayed and I remember all the books to this day. I have a few Hemingway firsts now but the person had every single one, even articles in long-vanished literary magazines. Later, not only did I go running with the bulls in Pamplona (featured in the Sun Also Rises) and lived for a while on the Left Bank in Paris, tried to write where Hemingway sat with a pad and pencils he sharpened with a knife. I wrote a story about it, called the “Last Glass of Absinthe.” Later Woody Allen wrote “Midnight in Paris” about the “Lost Generation” in Paris and he took the idea a lot further than I did, though my writing teacher at Bennington College, Bernard Malamud, liked my idea.
I then got a job as a copy boy at the legendary, around-the-clock City News Bureau newswire service in Chicago, and soon became a reporter as a teenager (the editor believed I was older), covering police, crime and fire and also being a ‘rewriteman.’ This meant either taking dictation from experienced reportersor getting facts from some hurried,less experienced person and quickly turning that into short, terse readable content. There is no training quite like writing and rewriting dozens of stories all day (or night…and I also worked on the overnight midnight shift).
The City News experience during high school led to a stint at the Washington Post during the most special time in journalism: Watergate. I got to observe all of the key figures in action: Mrs. Graham and Ben Bradlee, who chewed me out once, an experience I will never forget—because we turned out to be correct, not the legendary Senator Barry Goldwater, who complained about our coverage. Amazingly, I actually was in the Post newsroom on the night President Nixon resigned (the first president in U.S. history to do so) and watched the resignation speech with both Woodward and Bernstein in a small editor’s office. That’s one claim to fame; the other was that I was a Jeopardy contestant. Seeing Bernstein on CNN lending his substantial insights warms my heart; I always had a soft spot for him, as he cared about those on the Post’s lower rungs, like me. He even offered to help finance a new bicycle, when mine was stolen from the newspaper’s garage.
Soon public relations beckoned: I came by it honestly. My father, Morris B. Rotman, was an industry pioneer, having entered the field shortly after being discharged from the Army Air Force after World War II. A peer of other industry founders like Dan Edelman, Harold Burson, Kalman B.Druck and David Finn and Bill Ruder, he built one of the country’s largest firms, Harshe-Rotman & DruckInc., later Ruder Finn and Rotman, a large PR merger that simply did not work. The firm was most notable for having The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ‘Oscar’ awards as a client, along with Mattel and the Barbie doll. We used to look for our parents in the audience on Oscar night, and later attended the ceremony several times. I worked there for 12 years and ended up as Chicago general manager. Invaluable experience.
Relocating to Toronto, and becoming editor/publisher of Metropolis, my own publication, I got to live out that particular dream of running my own alternative newspaper. But time ran out for the financing and it was back into public relations, this time with Hill & Knowlton, a place interestingly I might not have been able to workat in Chicago. Too many personal rivalries. I was director of health care communications there, working on many pharmaceutical introductions and health-related issues, including HIV/AIDS and hospital reorganization. Still am interested in health care, and it’s carried out in my medical cannabis-related activities. That was my left brain.
My right brain gravitates toward the capital markets. Entrepreneurial public or soon to be public companies turn me on. I have been involved in IPOs and post IPO investor relations for such companies as Yogen Früz, XM Radio and now am involved with Aleafia Health Inc., Worksport, one of the coolest companies around, as it develops solar powered truck bed covers. and am assisting in pre-IPO communications for a soon to be issued cannabis company. Investor communications is my sweet spot. I have by my own account written at least 50 or more annual reports. I love writing speeches and investor presentations and investor news releases. I often untangle overly complicated wordy news releases that lawyers and financial types have written, shortening them and cleaning up misbegotten language.
All of this mania toward creating the most concise language possible has led me to write a book. How to be A Better Online Writer overnight contains everything I have learned about language, with specific examples and exercises. It will soon be published online and will be available on Amazon. There are such tips as ‘eliminate to for and on’and many more on the PR Writer Blog.
How it works
Each section contains examples of sentences that need help and the fix that’s applied, with the word reduction indicated. There specific reasons describing what was done and why. Exercises (and answers) help you to apply the lessons just learned. There is a section with additional writing tips, based on the most common mistakes. Most people have a specific range of repeated writing problems. Identify and eliminate them — and writing improves. This book helps readers find problems and quickly perfect their writing, while continuing to explore other difficulties.
How to be a better writer overnight– makes a bold claim, improving your writing in one day. It sounds audacious but it’s true. Once applied, this writing system immediately improves almost any sentence, and shortens paragraphs and documents by 20-30 per cent while maintaining the same meaning. Apply it and there will be clearer, more concise paragraphs with fewer words; mistakes will quickly disappear.
Who can benefit?
For people whose career involves online writing or journalism information must be conveyed concisely. Writing with flair and style then becomes the key to career success in PR, advertising, marketing, social media, websites, blogs, journalism and internal and external communications. As a result, it can attract positive attention from supervisors and managers who recommend promotions and salary increases.
My system is simple, it’s basic and it works. The technique has been applied and refined among thousands of college and university students, and at major international communications firms. If readers just master three watchwords — Of, Is and By – the changes are dramatic. And yes, it will happen overnight. I mean it.
The better writing book in part grew out of my teaching experiences at Humber PR and Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU, formerly Ryerson). For a decade I was an adjunct professor of media studies at Humber, the centre of PR learning in Toronto, teaching many PR writing courses, and also media relations, politics and public affairs, internal and marketing comm, and more. My student recommendations were very strong; my LinkedIn page will attest to that. My current course at Ryerson is called Strategic Storytelling demonstrating how to be more effective in conjunction with Power Points.
Out of this experience came involvement in conducting corporate seminars in better writing, story-telling and presentations.
In morning or day-long session, The PR Writer demonstrates the “How to be a better writer—overnight” writing system, often using participants’ own copy to demonstrate how it works. Exercises help cement the lessons, which are both humorous and deadly serious and point out mistakes participants make regularly.They have been very well received, and evaluations included such comments as:
“Highly satisfied (95%) with the training session and the trainer (98%)
Will use the knowledge…gained
Richard is so knowledgeable and helpful. He is a true expert on the topic of communication.
I really like how he came prepared with our material.
Very professional, good interactivity, applicable skills
I’d like to do many more of these seminars; they are really helpful. Contact meif you’d like to know more.
Lastly, students often asked me what were my favourite and oddest PR experiences? The oddest was writing a wedding speech for a CEO’s daughter. I interviewed family members and wrote a better draft than the client, and it was very well received and no one knew. Another speech resulted in a client saying: “I hate that. It sounds just like me.” Certainly one of the most exciting was being in the media tent at the Oscars. Being on Jeopardy was pretty neat, too, though it wasn’t a PR assignment.
My most interesting PR assignment, however, must be this one: helping Whirlpool Corp. CEO Jack Sparks create a presentation to his Board naming his successor. It was highly confidential. I was told not to reveal to my colleagues anything about the assignment and was very honoured to be selected.
The task was this: present two candidates to the board who would become Vice Chairs and function in tandem for a year before one would be elevated to CEO. The inside betting was on one candidate, David, a lifetime Whirlpool employee, who did become CEO from 1987-2004 and led the company to even greater heights. Sparks, however never let on in our discussions that there might be a favourite, someone with an inside track. My internal contact, however, knew who’d win in an instant.
To discuss the succession, we met off campus in his Frank Lloyd Wright home in St. Joseph, across the river from the Benton Harbor HQ. As a major Wright fan, this was even more of a special treat. It was a beautifully preserved Prairie Style home, with low ceilings and elongated lines so characteristic of the style.
Sparks unspooled his compelling theories on each person’s strengths, how they would add to the corporation. He told anecdotes about them and their accomplishments. I tried to listen for cues and code words about the presumptive winner but there were none. He laid out his case, and I wrote the words.
While communicators are often close to top management, they rarely interact with boards or hear their deliberations. This was a ringside seat close to what a CEO says to his directors and what considerations must be taken into account. At the time I didn’t know either candidate but in my first encounter with the winner, it was apparent why he would be the choice: that firm gaze, penetrating questions, a calm stillness and readily apparent but not egotistical intelligence. He expanded Whirlpool globally and had a great record of growth and acquisitions. In some ways he was very different from Sparks whose visible ebullience and joyful appreciation made him ideal to elevate from the line to the CEO’s chair.
By all measures, Jack Sparks represented a unique position on the Fortune 500: he was the only CEO to have started on the factory line. He came from the Benton Harbor, Michigan where the Upton family founded the company and employed thousands. Swimsuit model Kate and Congressman Fred Upton are descendants of these founders. Very conservative region, Kate’s revealing occupation notwithstanding.
Sparks was in the factory when World War II began and soon found himself in the U.S. Army Air Force, which also swept up my father. Military aptitude tests discovered their intelligence and Sparks became a pilot trainer, rising to captain. (My dad edited a base newspaper). Mustered out, Sparks came home and delighted in saying, “I went from captain to crater overnight.” He was a very charismatic individual.
Well that’s about The PR Writer. To work together, contact me at @rotmanprwriter