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Vivian Li/李雯雯

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Managing Public Relations: Don't Do It By the Numbers
2015-07-01

Whether you're a small business owner, a public official who just got elected or a manager at a corporation, it's easy to make a mistake by running the numbers when it comes to public relations.

It's simple. Look at the word counts for media products like statements, speeches, opeds and press releases.

Figure out how fast the average person types, which is about 50 words per minute.

Build in some time for meetings and returning phone calls and say they can only write six hours a day. No, be even more generous: four hours. Then run the numbers:

50 words per minute times 60 minutes is 3,000 words per minute.

3,000 words per minute times four hours is 12,000 words per day, or 60,000 words per week.

This is great, right? You don't need a media shop with five full-time staffers. You can fire four of them and save all that money spent on salaries and benefits, because one writer crafting 12,000 words per day is plenty. That's four keynote speeches or four newsletters. It's 15 long press releases or 48 letters to the editor.

In a week, that one writer -- unless they are surfing the web all day, reading blogs and updating their Facebook status -- should be cranking out 60,000 words. I mean, how hard can it be?

How Much Writers Actually Produce

But writers aren't workers on an assembly line. All writers -- whether they are reporters, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, speechwriters or in public relations -- produce good, usable words in bunches. It's not a steady assembly line. And they write roughly the same number of good, usable words in an average day: 500 to 2,000.

Now, they might be typing the entire day. You hear them banging on the keyboard, right? That's because 2,000 words a day is about right for words they actually keep and use. Good words. To get those 500 to 2,000 usable words, they may have actually typed 6,000 that day, or 12,000 -- but it's the 500 to 2,000 words in their finals draft that they're keeping and using.

You don't want the words they deleted. You don't want the paragraphs they put in the garbage can. You want the strongest words, the last to survive the editing process.

Before the days when you could click Word Count with your mouse, literary lions like Ernest Hemingway would stop banging on their Underwoods to painstakingly count out every word they'd typed so far. Many of them had a daily quota - when they hit 500, they'd stop work for the day. They'd emptied their tank. They were done, and they knew it.

It's also a mistake to expect the same production every day. Writing is a creative process. A long meeting in the morning might sap the life out of somebody who does their best work in the mornings. Or somebody might do best when they gather all their facts and materials the first couple days of the week and pull it all together on Thursday and Friday.

And every writer will tell you, whether they work for a newspaper or produce screenplays in Hollywood, that on some days, they bang on the keyboard all day and get nowhere, while the next day, it feels like they could write forever, that every word is golden. You just can't pick when those days, good or bad, happen.

What you can do is expect roughly a product or two per day -- unless you're asking for a keynote speech every day, which will not happen. A press release and a statement is typical. One oped in a day is a great day. A keynote speech might take the full week.

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Vivian Li

PR Manager

Tel: +86 010 8390 7451

Mobile: +86 13041030670