Competent Writing Goes a Long Way

Co-Author: LeAnne DeFrancesco

In March, Vanguard proudly launched Comunicadores for the Future, a partnership with George Washington University’s Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute. Among other things, the program includes workshops that build skills in PR and communications. We are excited to be building the capacity for diverse voices to drive change and advance policies that benefit everyone. This is the second blog in our Comunicadores series. 

A writing assignment. It can shake the confidence of even savvy communicators who may not write regularly as part of their job. But the value of knowing how to leverage the written word cannot be overstated for those entering the job market (or even those growing their current careers).

That’s why Vanguard and GW’s Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute considered it a priority to train students on writing and editing as part of the Comunicadores for the Future program, which began just this spring.

Whether you are drafting a cover letter for the job of your dreams or creating social media messages as part of an internship, it’s essential to learn and apply the tools of good writing. Laying the groundwork now will pay dividends in the future: Your writing skills will be on display throughout your career. And studies show that an ability to write well is at the top of many employers’ wish lists for their employees.

Of course, what constitutes “good” writing can be subjective, but in PR and marketing there are baseline strategies that make up effective communication. These include:

  1. Knowing your audience
  2. Citing all research
  3. Telling a good story
  4. Being culturally aware
  5. Inspiring action

Keeping all of these elements in mind helps us write in a way that engages, informs and impacts our audience.

When the conversation turned to editing, we really had some fun! We asked each of the Comunicadores to flip to a page in the Associated Press Stylebook and read an entry. This built context for how editors make decisions on how to punctuate a phrase, define a region, or refer to an ethnic or religious group. Words and expressions can be fraught with meaning and emotion, so it’s important that we get it right.

When writing about or for an ethnic or racial group at Vanguard, we ask our colleagues and community partners who work with or represent these groups what connotation our messages carry to ensure we use words and phrases properly. Being mindful of the power of words to perpetuate negative stereotypes or discredit our authenticity, we know how important it is to be thoughtful when using any of these terms.

We concluded the training by offering the Comunicadores the following advice: Use your cross-cultural experiences to be culturally competent communicators (and help your colleagues do so as well). Point out if a word or expression in English doesn’t translate well to Spanish or an image isn’t inclusive. It matters.

Understanding the power and importance of their voices – and cultivating the ability to express their ideas through writing – will be a lesson the Comunicadores take with them as their careers as communicators grow.