Spring is just a couple of weeks away, and after the winter we’ve had in our Washington D.C., New York and Baltimore offices, with single-digit temperatures and terrifying snow squalls, it’s time for some sunshine and easier living.
And that starts with spring cleaning, but not the kind our grandparents did. Modern life is too chaotic to spend precious leisure time dusting baseboards or polishing silver (which no one uses anymore anyway, unless you’re a diplomat).
The kind of spring cleaning I’m thinking about is more a celebration of renewal in our homes and our lives, than another knuckle-busting chore. It’s about opening up the three-season porch so it’s ready for weekend brunches and garden viewing, swinging open French doors and windows to let the spring air flow, and filling vases with freshly-cut wildflowers and foliage.
So what does all this have to do with communicators? Spring cleaning isn’t just for our personal lives, but our professional ones too. And there are more than a few areas in our field that can stand some sprucing up. There are four tasks that come to mind for me, in no particular order:
1. Sharpen the tools of the trade
We know that one of the most important tools for PR professionals is the ability to write with clarity, style and correct syntax. One of my college history professors, who spent many hours reading and writing every day, said that he read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style every year. That impressed on me that writing isn’t something you learn and then forget about; it requires work to improve and stay sharp. Writing an essay in a different style or reading a novel with a masterful literary style can also help us keep our most important tool of the trade razor sharp.
2. Clean out the clutter
It’s easy for me to follow this one, because I hate clutter. But I‘m also a bad organizer, so that sometimes means either having a messy workspace or risk losing something I might need later. But for those less challenged in this department, spring presents a time to clear out useless papers and electronic files, including the 15 versions of that press release that endured more revisions than Congress’s last spending bill.
3. Scrub away the jargon
This one is harder than it seems because so many corporate professionals love jargon. And of course we can’t fault them for it, because many audiences we’re trying to reach are looking for corporate buzzwords, even though they may not add much insight or understanding. But it’s still worth making the effort to cut back on corporate speak, even if it’s just to make sure we haven’t inadvertently picked up a phrase from our jargon-loving friends.
4. Bring out the shine
It’s a good time of year to take a fresh look at some the commonly used communication materials, such as an organization’s boilerplate language. Are there ways to make it shine a little brighter? Bring the same fresh perspective to press kits, brochures and other collateral and media materials.
After all this, there’s one more thing on my list—fit in a pre-dawn stroll under the cherry blossom trees at the Tidal Basin. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate spring and remind myself how good it is to be a public relations professional in Washington.