The bad-on-paper problem

18 May

You know about good-on-paper people? They tick all the boxes – on paper. In person, they can be disappointing to meet: there's just no chemistry.

Many public relations consultants are good-on-paper, I feel – perhaps because dating is such a good metaphor for the competitive pursuit of client relationships.

Most undergraduate students are the reverse of this. They're confident presenters and persuasive and personable individuals. It's just that they're bad-on-paper. When you come to read their essays you realise that inside that confident exterior lurk the thought processes and writing skills of a child.

Of course, it's easier to fix the bad-on-paper problem than the good-on-paper problem. Students have time on their side and need to be told when and why their written words let them down. The obvious fix for a good-on-paper consultant who's not winning new business is to be more modest – advice they're unlikely to heed in a recession.

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