So, you want to work in PR? (2 experts explain what to do)

It may seem old school, but Thomas/Boyd founders say command of written word still is most important skill

A career at a public relations firm involves the need to know so many things (PR, marketing, advertising, crisis communications) and the ability to acclimate those skills to any number of clients and sectors.

But there’s one thing that’s more important than anything: The ability to write.

So said Liz Thomas, on the 25th anniversary of Thomas/Boyd Communications, the firm she founded with Pam Boyd in 1998.

“When you interview to be an intern or employee at Thomas/Boyd, the most important attribute you bring to the table is your command of the written word,” she said. “That’s above all else.”

How important is it?

“We need to see writing samples,” she said. “And, sometimes, we even revert to an old-fashioned on-the-spot writing test. We put you on the porch and see how long it takes to format a very basic press release from information that we provide you.”

The results can be telling.

“That’s been a deal-breaker for some potential applicants,” Boyd said. “When somebody’s been on the porch for 2-3 hours to write a release that should take minutes, that’s a problem.”

Unless they have ChatGPT, right?

Problem solved? … Not quite.

“ChatGPT offers inspiration, but it’s missing the human touch and the human element,” Boyd said. “So, if you’re writing and you want to make your headline better or your lead better, it could be helpful to see what ChatGPT comes up with.

“But, regardless, you always have to look at the message and make sure it’s speaking to your audience — and make sure it does not sound like a robot. Nothing that sounds like a robot will come out of this office.”

Speaking of speaking. That’s needed, too.

Thomas admits she’s part of an older generation — but she can’t understand why the current one is so hesitant to speak on the phone.

“If they didn’t answer you when you texted them and they didn’t answer you when you sent them an email, pick up the phone and call them,” she said.