Recently I was asked if the 12 years I spent working in public relations has had an influence on my current literary work. Answer: Absolutely.
One of the key mandates in a client-focused communications business is this: On the other end of every single piece of work I produced – a news release, press kit, public service announcement, press event invitation, client report – there was going to be an individual (or, hopefully, a whole lot of them) – reporters, editors, talk show bookers, programming directors, consumers -- with only one thought in mind: What's in it for me? If I answered that question poorly -- made it all about the client's product and never showed those target individuals what was in it for them -- I'd have been out of a job.
I try to remember this now when I am writing, whether it's memoir or personal essay, literary journalism, or even a prose poem. At the other end are individuals who are reading with the question in their mind of whether the work will deliver anything for them. I constantly try to remind myself that people don't read creative nonfiction because they care about what happened to me, but because they care about whether what happened to me might have some meaning for them. It keeps me honest, sometimes.