People are sometimes surprised to find that writing well depends upon a number of different skill sets and that the writing itself sometimes represents the perfect icing on a very substantial cake. A typical corporate newsletter project, for example, might require a dozen or more articles around a specific theme. What does that involve? Let’s take a look:
- Good “big picture” capability. As a corporate communications copywriter, I need to be able to grasp the importance of the project at hand in terms of the company’s overall priorities, goals, plans and culture. As I work through the project, I need to continually monitor my progress to ensure I am consistently on track.
- Good organizational skills. While every article I write is unique, and some stories are more complicated than others, I might have to contact as many as four or five people to get the information and quotes I need to craft an accurate and interesting article. Depending on how busy people are, this might take as many as three or four phone calls or email touches apiece. Fortunately, I’ve been able to develop a system for tracking the research trail to make sure I hit my deadlines.
- Good interview skills. The people I approach for information in the corporate world are busy. Spending time with a writer who wants information for the company newsletter is not always something people leap to do, much as they realize it will provide their department with support and exposure at the corporate level. Out of respect for other people’s valuable time, I’ve had to become very proficient at interviewing: I get as much information as quickly as possible, I conduct the interview in a professional and courteous fashion, and then I let people get on with their work. Sometimes I need to make a repeat call for clarification or additional detail, but these connections are generally very focused and straightforward, and, therefore, very quick.
- Accountability. Every director of communications has their own working style but when it comes to hiring a freelancer, they all have one thing in common: they want to know the work is getting done and that it’s getting done properly. Some folks want a daily check-in by email, some like a phone call every few days and others appreciate a weekly summary of what’s been happening — but everybody needs the reassurance that comes from knowing the writer they’ve hired is on top of things.
- Last but not least, writing skills. If everything has unfolded smoothly at every other stage of the newsletter process, then the writing itself will be more accurate and coherent as a result. And while the writing skills seem to be the skill on display in the finished product, they are actually the result of a larger collection of skills that work together to enhance the final product.
Corporate communications writing is highly enjoyable for folks like me and I love my job. But what do you think? Have I missed any details that you feel are important? Please leave a comment below!
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