Inside the Profession

Embracing Language as a Storytelling Tool for PR in 2018

This month, PRsay will feature posts by a variety of thought leaders on the year ahead for communicators and the PR profession. A shorter version of this response first appeared in the January issue of Strategies & Tactics.

So, I studied Latin in high school and college. Conjugated verbs. Translated “The Aeneid” (at least some of it). Today, if I’m in Italy, I can interpret words on ancient monuments. In France, I understand the gist of a newspaper story. I can even speak Portuguese so that it sounds correct, even if I don’t know what I’m saying.

Language is everything. As professional communicators, it’s our obligation to preserve and nurture it. No matter how words are used, they are the basis of sharing information. Without words, we, as communicators, would not have jobs. Our jobs require us to use language to tell stories, describe events and provide perspectives to help people understand the world around them.

To be sure, we’re using language and words differently these days. Some argue that lengthy, in-depth storytelling has seen better days. Others accept the challenge of making fewer words count. Journalists often prefer one-paragraph summaries as story pitches, reading less and being swayed by fewer, meaningful words.

If you’re wondering if there’s a best approach, the answer is: I guess we’ll see. However, language does provide a beacon. Language is a constant. It will always provide the infrastructure for storytelling.

Just look at Latin, my personal favorite language. Today, when you sit at your desk to write something, you will use many words with Latin roots. You may not think about how fundamental this is to your profession. Latin has given us thousands of words and concepts.

Words matter — whether we use them in short bursts on Twitter or in a long-form magazine feature, we must respect them. Proof your content with your eyes and the eyes of your colleagues, and don’t rely on a spell-check program. Use complete sentences, which, for centuries, has been a superior means of expressing complete thoughts.

Trifle with language at your own peril. IMHO, that is. (In meus opinio humilis.)”

Lee Echols is vice president of marketing, Northside Hospital Atlanta.

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Lee Echols

1 Comment

  • I think this is an interesting take on words. The fact that we are entering into a world where less words are more is crazy. In high school I was taught that the longer the better; the more sophisticated the words the better. It’s been a hard transition from that into my public relations classes. I’ve had to work hard on cutting everything down to be short sweet and simple. But is that really the best way? In the world of communication it appears to be so, but I often am concerned with how my message will sound. Will they understand it correctly? Will my point make it across the page? Words can help us convey so many messages. Maybe the shorter is better.

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