Getting An Outside Perspective

When your too close to a situation, sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture. When you’re into the nitty-gritty of a project, or writing for a new audience, it’s easy to slip up and forget your focus. To zoom back out, and make sure that overall the project is what it needs to be to achieve its purpose.

Recently, I talked to a friend about a project she was working on. She was having some trouble getting responses, and was fairly new to the PR writing game. I shared some tips, and gave her a few ideas. Then I asked her to send me what she was sending around.

I read through the press release she had prepared. It was really well written, and made a great argument for why people should purchase the product she discussed – only, that wasn’t supposed to be the point of the press release.

Instead, the point was supposed to be to get the inventor speaking engagements. Specifically, PAID speaking engagements.

Basically, that’s why people hire editors.

I made some suggestions about the angle she had taken, versus the angle I thought she needed to take in order to achieve her purpose. I pointed out in equal parts what she had done right (write a great press release) and where I thought she was off-base (the goal of said press release).

Once I had pointed these things out to her, they seemed completely clear–she agreed with my comments and decided to make the changes.

My point is that sometimes an outside perspective helps. When your too close to something, it’s easy to overlook a small detail or to focus on something other than your true aim. It never hurts to have someone else look over what you’re working on.

At the magazine I work for we have four editors, each of which reads a given piece – initially, someone reads it and does a broad copy edit (they flesh out paragraphs, rearrange things, improve flow); then we pass it around and mark it up (checking spelling, grammar and sometimes word choice); the changes are made, then we see a final proof to check one final time for any major mistakes we somehow managed to overlook up to that point.

Some of the magazines out there have much more complicated processes than that.

In the case of my friend, she got so close to the project that she failed to remember what audience she was writing for and what she wanted from them. As a writer, it’s important once you finish a project to think back through those two points – who is paying you to writing the piece (does it meet all of their specifications?) and who will be reading it (and what do you want them to do?).

It’s also important to remember that even though you are trained to edit and write, you’re not infallible. We have four editors go over work and still sometimes we miss mistakes.  Point being, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know something, find someone who does. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen–they’ll say no?

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