Everyone’s a writer all of a sudden … or are they?!
One of the things our clients regularly communicate to us is that they’re not natural born writers and that makes perfect sense. Going to university and learning how to write and structure language while completing an Arts or Communications degree is not normally the pathway our clients have been on. Generally, they’ve studied something like engineering, learnt a trade or are engaged in professional services where writing isn’t central to the role.
Our clients are ‘doers’ and writing is often not a major part of their job. However, when a company is doing things and doing them well, eventually the organisation needs to powerfully communicate to its target audiences what it does, how it does it, and who it does it for.
The writing process
For a business to write about itself well, it needs to begin with getting its narrative right and that needs to be crafted in a particular way, using language that will resonate with and make sense to those it serves. Once this narrative is finetuned, there are all sorts of applications for it, from newsletters to website content, social media posts and additional educational content for key audiences.
This process of narrative formulation starts with thinking about what a company needs to say but then there’s the actual process of articulating that – which is where a good writer is essential. Most of our clients do very well communicating verbally what their company, product or service is all about, however, when it comes to writing it down, there can be a disconnect, and the message comes off awkwardly. This is simply because writing is not where a businessperson’s brain spends most of its time ie. they do less of it. Their skillset tends to lie in managing people, solving problems, liaising with suppliers, looking at financial statements and finetuning processes.
As with great design, great writing is more important than it’s ever been. That’s because marketing is more ‘content thirsty’ than at any other time in history and good content is critical to effectively communicating what your company about.
What makes a good writer?
A bit like designers, good writers didn’t necessarily go to a writing school, but they tended to do well in humanities subjects growing up and were good with words and language from an early age. They read lots of books, like the way words hang together, have quite a good vocabulary, and excel at expressing things with language. They may have studied journalism, film & TV, or communications but, whatever they did, they had to hone their writing skills.
Some writers are more extroverted and some more introverted. Some are upfront, direct, and quite good at being a bit more authoritative, however some like to stay behind the scenes a bit more.
Working with writers
When it comes to bridging the gap between businesspeople and writers, it’s not as large a task as it can be with designers, however, it can take a while for a writer to understand a business and its target audiences well. They need a good brief from someone in a marketing director role and then it’s an iterative process whereby the writer suggests what they think a business is trying to say and how it should be said, and then it’s workshopped into a final version.
When an organisation starts out with a writer, it has to invest some time in it. Writers can’t be expected to immediately really ‘get’ a company to the degree a businessperson who’s been living and breathing it for a long time does. Even a good writer may not get it right the first time, but they do use a process to figure out what you want to say and the way you want to say it – and will work through this with clients.
Whichever writer you engage, the key is to have the mindset that you’re forming a long-term relationship. The more they understand your organisation, the better, so let them come into your space, and actually see and learn about what you do. Most importantly, let them hear key business leaders talk, ensure they understand your target audiences and be crystal clear about what you’re trying to communicate.
Remember, it’s a process and working through that process will ensure the writing is as closely aligned to what you want as possible.
What sort of writing do you need?
Writers have specialised skillsets. Not everyone knows how to write media statements, good quality website copy, engaging content for newsletters, or a tender document (which is well structured, logical, and more factual) but that doesn’t mean you need lots of different writers; you just have to find a writer who can cover the different things you need help with.
Like with designers, we typically play the ‘in-between’ role, helping writers know what each of our clients wants and needs to communicate and getting them ‘up to speed’ on the company, so they can meet the various and many writing demands each organisation has these days.
Good writers deliver critical cut through
We love working with writers; they are words people – and words are important for ensuring your business succeeds in getting the cut through it needs in this busy world.
Having relationship with a writer who really knows your business, and that you can work with over time, is incredibly smart because once they get to know your organisation and succeed in getting the foundational work, subject and tone right, turning around good content gets faster – and that means more chances to gain the traction your business needs.