I have a piece in the current issue of Strategies & Tactics, the publication of the Public Relations Society of America. Asked to give advice on speechwriting to their 30,000 members—PR people, but mostly not speechwriters—I gave four pieces.
When I shared them with fellow speechwriters, they liked my answer to the last question the best.
“How do I write compelling speeches for a leader I rarely or never meet?”
My answer? You don’t.
After 30 years of teaching speechwriters, I have what at least sound like practical answers to just about every speechwriting question. Except this one.
I have decided that I’m through trying to answer it, pretending to answer it, apologizing for not being able to help speechwriters who want to know how to wheedle ideas, coax stories, wrench humor out of clients who won’t give them the time of day.
How do you bring out the warmth and humanity of clients who care so little about the audiences they’re about to bore, that they won’t spend 30 minutes with a person who is paid to invent their ideas out of whole cloth?
A speechwriter can hack out conventional ribbon-cutting remarks or bureaucratic state-of-the-institution speeches. But no one can consistently write meaningful, persuasive, galvanizing speeches for someone he or she does not know.
Furthermore, a leader who would be satisfied to regularly deliver words written by a faceless underling is not someone a speechwriter wants to spend any but the shortest possible résumé-padding period writing for.
Boy, that felt good. Read the rest if you like, at PRSA’s website.