A Guide to Writing Stellar Speeches: Preparations, Brevity, Humor Alliteration All Count, According to Book by Chase Public Relations Official

American Banker, January 12, 1984 | Go to article overview

A Guide to Writing Stellar Speeches: Preparations, Brevity, Humor Alliteration All Count, According to Book by Chase Public Relations Official


A Guide to Writing Stellar Speeches

Preparations, Brevity, Humor, Alliteration All Count, According to Book by Chase Public Relations Official

Writing for listening involves the spoken word. When a person hears a speech, radio broadcast, or television announcement, he generally gets one crack at the message. If he misses it the first time around, he rarely gets a second chance.

The key to writing for listening is to write as if speaking. Use simple, short sentences, active verbs, contractions, and one-and two-syllable words. Let phrases stand alone.

In brief, be brief.

This chapter will touch on the most widely used methods of communicating to be heard, including speeches, broadcast releases, public service announcements, and film scripts.

As people read less and watch and listen more, writing for the ear becomes increasingly important for the public relations professional. Accordingly, where once the province of public relations was dominated by printoriented professionals, today, more and more practitioners enter the field with strong radio and television orientations.

The Requirements of a Writer

Speech writing had become one of the most coveted public relations skills. Increasingly, speech writers have used their access to management to move up the organizational ladder. The prominence they enjoy is largely due to the importance top executives place on making speeches. Today's executives are called upon by government and special interest groups to defend their policies, justify their prices, and explain their practices to a much greater degree than ever before. In this environment, a good speech writer becomes a valuable asset.

Most executives rely on public relations professionals to write their speeches and, in many cases, to contribute to the speech's ideas. The work is demanding; according to Pittsburgh speech writer James G. Busse, a writer must possess certain basic qualifications:

"The ability to unite words and ideas skillfully and reasonably fast; a talent for getting along with top executives; an understanding of the realities of economics and business; a working knowledge of the world and its people; an inherent curiosity; a healthy respect for deadlines; the ability to write for oral presentation; good judgment in deciding what corporate managements should and shouldn't be saying; and the discretion to keep his mouth shut about his work.'

To Chrysler Corp. speech writer Chuck Connolly, the speech writer becomes a "surrogate chairman.' As Mr. Connolly put it, "When I have to write the top man's speech, I'm literally forced to figure out policy, compress it, and makes it cogent from the point of view of the chairman. Therefore, when I sit in on meetings to dig for my information, I'm not just a recorder, I'm a strategist.'

The speech writing process breaks down into four components: a) preparing, b) interviewing, c) researching, and d) organizing and writing.

One easy way to prepare for a speech is to follow a "4W' checklist.

In other words, answer the questions who, what, where, and when.

Who. The who represents two critical elements, the speaker and the audience.

A writer should know all about the speaker: how he speaks, how he uses humor, how he reacts to an audience, what his background is, and what his personality is like. It's almost impossible to write a speech for someone you don't know.

The writer also should know something about the audience. What does this audience feel about this subject? What are its predispositions toward the subject and the speaker? What are the major points with which it might agree? The more familiar the writer is with the who of a speech, the easier the writing will be.

What. The what is the topic. The assigned subject must be clearly known and well defined by the writer before she begins formal research. …

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