Navigate / search

Want to be a better PR manager? Use words that work.

Pic courtesy of Stuart Miles
Pic courtesy of Stuart Miles

The world of public relations is being woo-ed by all things visual but we often forget that small words carry the biggest meaning, particularly when managing people.   Some hit the spot perfectly, others simply cut people off. Here’s what works.

Words are so easily said.  They’re free. They’re there. They’re easy.

We might ponder over the right word to use when writing features, stories and presentations. But use the wrong word when giving constructive feedback and the communication fails.

How would you respond if someone uses the words why, you or don’t in these examples?

Why can’t you be more careful when proof reading?’

You always skip things when you proof read on screen.’

Don’t use capital letters in the headline.’

I would feel criticised and judged, wouldn’t you?

Words to avoid


Requires rational explanation and if the listener doesn’t know, they’ll feel compelled to be defensive.


The minute someone tells us not to do or think of something it’s too late – the idea has already been planted into our mind.


PR managers often get it wrong when they use the word ‘you’ when giving constructive feedback.  In this context, the feedback come across as negative and accusing and it can encourage the person on the receiving end to feel hurt or they might block out what else is being said to them.

But, although, however

Can set the scene for negative information to follow so if you want to communicate a positive meaning, use the word ‘and’ instead. For example, ‘That is a great idea and it needs a little more research’ is better than ‘That is a great idea however it needs a little more research.’

Words a better PR manager can use


Better PR managers use what instead of why.

For example ‘What can you do to proof read more carefully? is better than ‘Why can’t you be more careful when proof reading?’


Giving constructive feedback can come across as condescending but not so when the word ‘don’t’ is replaced with ‘can’.  For example ‘Can you use upper and lower case letters in the headline’ is better than ”Don’t use capital letters in the headline.’


Is a great little word often used by better PR managers who want to be assertive rather than aggressive.  For example, ‘I want you to print out a hard copy when you proof read’ is better than ‘You always skip things when you proof read on screen.’ ‘I think…,’ I would say….’ and ‘I feel..’ are all good.


Perhaps you don’t want to be so assertive – then the word ‘it’ works perfectly. For example, It would be good if you print out a hard copywhen you proof read’.


When used instead of but, however, although the word ‘and‘ offers up lots of positive possibilities.

Picture courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

This topic is covered in my Account Management training course in how to give constructive feedback.

I can help by running a training course for your PR managers, please do get in touch. My next CIPR Account Management course is running  in July 2019.

Leave a comment


email* (not published)