Thursday, June 5, 2008

PR Skill #1: Reading

Of all the PR skills that make up my PR Skills trifecta, reading is definitely the most difficult for me. I remember back in my youth going to the library with my three older siblings, coming back with maybe one or two books while they carried them home by the armful.

As a grew up, I never saw the value of lying down in my bed or on the couch with a good book. I was too busy going out playing sports with friends or playing video games. Although now I still enjoy the occasional marathon playing Call of Duty 4 on Xbox 360 or the day out in the park playing soccer with the guys, for some reason I have now made the time to read a book.

The reason for this is simple. To fully maximize my potential as a PR practitioner reading is vital, as it flows directly into what is one of the most valuable skills we must possess in PR, writing. In fact I was considering combining both reading and writing into one post, but I decided to differ, as I have much to share about writing that needs it own place.

So what turned on the light for me to embrace reading? Don't get me wrong I enjoy reading. I read the daily newspaper, sports magazines, and the like. But what I had never done since my youth till now was reading books.

Books give the PR practitioner more than just the day to day, current events knowledge that a newspaper provides, as they probe deeper into a particular subject matter. They are able to make you look at an topic and understand it in a way that you didn't think of before in an effort to increase your knowledge about it.

Now that I've cleared up my reading IQ, back to the reasons why I was able to get on the reading bandwagon like so many other of you hardcore book lovers. Firstly, the environment of readers that I'm surrounded by was a big reason for my change. It is sort of hard living in a family where reading is a top priority in so many people's lives.

However it is on the advice of one of my professors, a challenge in fact, that got me to gear up and really hit the books.

My professor gave us as a class a simple challenge for the summer. He wanted us to read. Read books about famous Canadian writers, like Margret Atwood or Douglas Coupland. Read books about writing, as he is a firm believer (like I am now as well) that your writing can improve drastically by increasing the books you read.

After mulling over these tidbits, I realized that this was my chance to do something. I wanted to try something to improve my skills, so I went for it, went to the library and took out a great book on non-fiction writing called On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

This book by William Zinsser, a former teacher of writing at Yale University, who also worked for the New York Herald, made reading this book a breeze by providing great examples of non-fiction writers mixed in which his clear and concise writing style.

By being able to read this book, which is highly entertaining as well as educational, I proved to myself that doing something I wasn't so into can actually happen...and work. Nowadays you will see me at the library picking up books for a nice afternoon read. Just don't tell that to my soccer buddies about this, ok?