In every successful communicative business or public organisation, public relations (PR) and speech writing function in a symbiotic and complementary manner. PR professionals cooperate closely with speechwriters to craft speeches and presentations that effectively announce an organisation’s messages and values to target, secondary, tertiary, and even incidental audiences. This article shows how the PR-speech writing partnership operates in theoretical terms. The following also demonstrates how closely theory and practice are – and ought to be – entwined and mutually informative in the case of public relations/corporate communications. (And this should to be true of all business theories; after all, what is the value of theory that does not improve practice?)
Messaging and Strategic Alignment
Speechwriters and PR professionals perform highly similar meta-tasks, namely the positive representation of the firm to various known (and less well known) publics. Both speeches and more typical PR media communicate the company’s values and ambitions, for strategic purposes.
PR professionals sculpt, sustain, and dynamically adapt an organisation’s overall communication strategy – shaping it to respond to events, trends, and external and internal developments and goals. Speech writing is one of the tools they use to help the organisation execute its strategy.
Speechwriters collaborate with PR experts to ensure that their speeches align with and express (with the appropriate degree of subtlety) the organisation’s key messages, values, and goals.
Both PR practitioners and speechwriters perform structured, conventional audience analyses to understand the demographics, preferences, wants and needs of the audience(s) for their thus configured output.
The information they obtain from such analyses helps them determine the content, tone, medium, and style of their communication, so that it resonates maximally with the audience and achieves the company’s specific communication objectives. Thus, the content of both speeches and more familiar forms of PR product is very purposefully designed according to receiver appropriateness, characteristics, and requirements.
PR producers play a very significant role in influencing public perceptions of their organisation. That is their job. PR creators shape public opinion/perception by presenting planned, calculated, and directed core messages. Speechwriters do the same through their output, although their primary audiences are traditionally internal. Nevertheless, speeches are tactically crafted to inform and influence. Because speeches are a form of PR, speechwriters play a signifcant role in influencing perception and opinion of the organisation.
Speechwriters – like PR producers – hone and present strategic messages. They fashion these into compelling narratives, persuasive arguments, and informative insights that engage, and ideally, influence various audiences.
PR professionals fully appreciate and exploit the nuances and formulae that characterise effective planned communication through various media, including speeches.
Speechwriters leverage writing expertise to ensure that their speeches effectively convey intended messages. Both product and process of the speechwriter are contemplated, focussed, concise, critically purposeful, and “on-point”.
PR concerns the management of an organisation’s reputation and public image; speeches delivered by well known executives or spokespersons significantly impact or amplify reputation (for better of for worse).
Speechwriters should, whenever possible, cooperate with PR creators to ensure that their speeches enhance the organisation’s reputation and feature consistency in both voice and message. High-level PR creators may have a strong understanding of the company’s long-range strategic goals (they may even have had a say in their design) and therefore want to facilitate progress toward them by laying a trail of micro-messages in the company’s communications, thereby seeding vines. Hence, they may want key speeches to include certain less obvious messages or emphases that the speechwriter, who will typically not be privy to the long-term gameplan, would likely omit.
During crises and other sensitive situations, PR professionals may work closely with speechwriters to create statements or speeches that address urgent issues and convey the organisation’s postion or response.
Speeches are vital tools for managing crises and maintaining/obtaining the public’s trust.
PR practitioners engage/utilise the media to promote positive coverage of their organisation. Speeches function similarly, since they present opportunities to convey important messages directly and indirectly to the media and the public. In the age of social media, a notable speech (good or bad) can “go viral”. This assumption should be considered by the speechwriter during drafting. The phenomenon of distribution through social media can be either blessing or curse. It can (and probably should) be embraced for its potential to spread an intended message far and wide, because social media does nothing if not spread information effectively. Of course, the power of social media can be downplayed or even ignored, but, at best, neglect will incur opportunity cost and, at worst, have perilous results, as publics dissseminate content purely on their own terms and the consequent conversations occur in wildfire mode, i.e. without the company’s involvement.
Speechwriters help PR professionals craft speeches that will be received and positively regarded by both journalists, other media creators, and the general public.
PR teams often organise events or conferences where speeches are delivered by company leaders or spokespeople.
Speechwriters contribute to PR events and structured campaigns by creating compelling and memorabe elements in the form of speeches that communicate strategic messages through key persons to specified audiences.
Measurement and Evaluation
Both PR professionals and speechwriters seek to measure the effects (impact) of their efforts. This can be by formal and informal means. However it is gathered, the feedback will be used to craft better communication products in future.
Both practitioners are reflective; both apply the methods of continuous improvement, to simply their work and enhance its effects.
After a speech is delivered or posted online, the PR team should assess its effectiveness in achieving the company’s communication goals and may adjust subsequent strategies according to leasons-learnt.
To sum up, PR and speech writing share a close relationship: both contribute to reputation management via message design and dissemination. PR professionals provide the strategic framework and messaging guidance, while speechwriters apply their writing skills to crafting speeches that express these messages in a way that is appropriate for both speaker and target audiences. The relationship is collaborative. The PR-speechwriter coupling helps organisations communicate with their stakeholders and achieve their general and specific communication goals. The theory and practice of public relations accomodates speeches as strategic corporate communications practice quite comfortably.