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If what I am seeing is any indication, the kids coming up in PR need to work on their writing.

Fuck social media, fuck video production, if you wanna work in PR you need to be able to write. And well. It is the baseline skill.

This means understanding how to get it across quick and paint a picture (that everyone gets) with words.

Good songwriters know how to do this. Maybe we all could learn from them.

Here are 5 songwriters who can paint a vivid, easy to understand picture just using words. Give ’em a listen:

  1. Shane MacGowan. MacGowan IS the drunken Irish writer archetype. Doesn’t matter if you have never been to the Emerald Isle, a Catholic service or had a drop of alcohol, when you hear his songs you get a good sense of what this stuff is about.
  2. Guru. The definition of ‘slick MC’. This man paints pictures about ghetto and street life that we can all relate to. Why/how? Because the words are plain and the themes of struggle are universal.
  3. Bruce Springsteen. The best Springsteen songs are all about vivid imagery put down plainly. This man has never uttered a word of jargon in his whole life. I wonder if he even knows what it is?
  4. Robert Hunter. The Dead’s main lyricist could conjure up images like few others. Whether cowboy, hippy-dippy or just plain out there, Hunter remains among the dopest rock writers ever.  Go check out “Brown eyed Women” or “Standing on the Moon” and tell me you don’t come away with pretty well defined images in your head and a matching feeling in your gut.
  5. Johnny Cash. The Man in Black had a voice that could haunt. But his lyrics – plain, straight up and to the point – evoke powerful images of the darker side of life. A master of economy of language.

Anyone you’d add here? Lemme know.



Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Krista says:

    You did it again–love, love, love this post! It’s amazing how as writers, we often lose sight of the simplicity in communications. In PR, good writing needs to do more than just be SEO-optimized or get watered down to 140-characters.

    Some of my favorite songwriters are those that evoke real emotions and write what I refer to as “music to slit your wrists to.” Musician/songwriters like Harry Chapin, Hank Williams, and Neil Young all paint vivid pictures with their songs and create characters and situations anyone can identify with, regardless of musical genre. As PR writers, think about how your audiences can identify with your subject/product/service. It’s possible to evoke emotion in PR communications as well (in the form of nostalgia, honor, or celebration). It doesn’t have to be all dry and formatted for the PR Newswire.

  • Steve says:

    Can’t believe you didn’t add in Bob Dylan (way too obvious, but obvious doesn’t mean his words aren’t magic) or Richard Thompson. And in addition to Harry Chapin’s word paintings, you have the characters that come to life in Jim Croce’s songs (who can ever forget Rapid Roy the Stock Car Boy 🙂

  • Glad you liked it K. I am also a big Neil Young fan – very good add.

  • You are right Steve – Dylan was a glaring sin of omission. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Great names you added!

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