Corporate Writers: It’s Time to Reinvent the Wheel

August 31, 2010  |   Posted by :   |   Copywriting,Corporate Messaging,Corporate Writing,Slideshow   |   9 Comments»

The profession of corporate writing is broken, and we have no one but ourselves to blame. True, we’re charged to do more work than ever before, in less time and with fewer resources. But our response isn’t working. Instead of creating solutions, we’re taking shortcuts. And along with way, forgetting many of the guiding principles of our craft.

We’re allowing ‘content’ to replace copywriting. And copywriting to replace thinking. Content mills plague the online world with five-dollar articles. And far too many copywriters churn out endless tactics with no strategic foundation. In other words, copy without an underlying message to guide its creation.

Fortunately, those who see the problem are in a perfect position to solve it. All we have to do, is do it.

My contribution to the solution? For several years, I’ve been developing what I call Sales Message Marketing. It’s a discipline that requires me to identify and articulate a clear, concise and compelling message before I ever write the first word of actual copy. By following this discipline (since 1999), I’ve discovered seven insights, which I’d like to share with you now:

Introducing The 7 Insights of Sales Message Marketing:

  1. What you say is more important than how you say it. Message (what you say) guides copy (how you say it).
  2. The simpler you say it, the more you will be believed. Intuitively, you know it’s true. The science of cognitive fluency proves it’s true.
  3. Your message should be as simple as possible, but not simpler. Think a problem through all the way to end. Once you’ve found the simple answer, get out of its way. Don’t embellish it.
  4. An effective message improves your marketing ROI. The right message reconnects marketing with its original purpose: to communicate business vision and support sales goals. Messaging quantifies marketing’s value.
  5. An efficient message saves 30% of your time, effort and money. Never start a marketing communications project from scratch again. Even better, start with the most effective message every time.
  6. Messaging skill is more valuable than industry experience. In fact, the discipline of Sales Message Marketing is a proven way to uncover the most relevant, high differentiated story in any industry–regardless of the corporate writer’s level of experience in it.
  7. Managing your Corporate Messaging Platform is a process, not a project. There are always new audiences to add and messages to tweak, based on what’s currently relevant to each audience.

If you believe like me that corporate writing needs a fresh approach now more than ever, I urge you to adopt some or all of these insights as well. Try you hand at developing a Corporate Messaging Platform, based on these seven insights. Join this community. And become a voice for improvement in a profession rife with incremental thinking and mediocre results.

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9 Comments for this entry

  • Andy Bartling

    September 1st, 2010 on 3:38 am

    Corporate Writer Insider note: Here’s a comment from the UK Marketing and Communications Group on Linked In:

    “Hi, Andy,

    Good post and an interesting reflection on the way that clients are viewing the importance – or lack of it – of good copy.

    As with any service industry the more dross comes on the market, the easier it is for the good stuff to shine, but the harder to justify the price.”

  • Andy Bartling

    September 1st, 2010 on 7:48 am

    Corporate Writer Insider note: Here’s a new comment from the Linked In group: UK Marketing & Communications:

    “Great post, plus I found some othe really useful ones you’ve written. I wholeheartedly agree with what you are saying! Many thanks.”

  • Idris

    September 1st, 2010 on 1:35 pm

    It will always remain true for written copy that the “matter” will always trump the “manner.”

    I agree with you there, and I think that the glut of “content” bots and copymills may have made us more important, but it hasn’t made our lives easier.

    Thanks for offering to clear some clutter, Andy. Consider it reposted!

  • Alexa

    September 2nd, 2010 on 7:17 am

    As a relative newbie in the world of freelance copywriting I’m finding it very annoying to compete with empty $5 copy. I’m doing my best to learn everything I can about marketing so that I can market myself as something more than just a “content writer.”
    Thank you for the helpful insight.

  • Andy Bartling

    September 2nd, 2010 on 8:19 am

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: This comment comes from Linked In’s UK Marketing & Communications group:

    “Very timely and pertinent. Language is supposed to communicate and inspire. Too often, corporate writers use it not to call a spade a spade but to persuade you that it’s something entirely non-spade-like. Or even, that they are far too clever or techie for you to understand what they are talking about at all.

    This has become particularly noticeable in corporate videos, where the scripts often continue that same tradition of corporate gobbledigook. I suspect that this is connected to the rise of the DIY video. If you’re not prepared to spend any money on the production, you probably won’t spend any on the script either.”

  • Andy Bartling

    September 2nd, 2010 on 9:11 pm

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: Here’s a comment from Linked In’s Medical Marketing & Communications Group:

    “Andy, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve been so frustrated when copywriters are the last people to be contacted when a brochure/website is to be developed and the designer is expected to churn text to fit into the ill-structured collateral.

    This has infuriated me over the years, and I steered away from above mentioned projects and just worked with clients who ‘got it.’ However, I feel that clients need to be educated, and copywriters as well, that the actual hands-on writing is the last stage in the whole content development process. Without a message, there is no point churning out collateral.

    Many times I have seen companies just waste money, time, energy churning out collateral that are not useful. I have now taken it upon myself to advise them against such huge spends for nothing. I get it when you say that copywriters and designers might say, “But that’s my job.”

    I was once in a similar job in the corporate environment, but I was brave to advise them what brochures were needed and what were a waste of time, even if it meant ‘less work.’ In time, I guess they started to appreciate my advice and that’s when it hit me that, this is where I’d like to help clients.

    By the way I love your blog posts. I will subscribe to them. Thanks for the advice.”

  • Andy Bartling

    September 3rd, 2010 on 7:52 am

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: Here’s the latest comment from Linked In’s UK Marketing & Communications group:

    “One of my clients did actually re-invent the wheel (for the niche BMX market – the tech-worded explanation page had 99% bounce rate, but the customer testimonials page (bad grammar and loads of slang) was read for 8 minutes on average by 1000s. Nobody seems to give a **** about the details; they just want the gut-feeling one liners. NB -this was a B2C campaign.”

  • Mike Pascale

    September 3rd, 2010 on 11:33 am

    Thanks for articulating what many of us have been thinking, Andy. Though the main question remains: What good is all that wonderful insight if your clients only dole out five-dollar articles and have no desire to be educated?


  • Andy Bartling

    September 3rd, 2010 on 11:42 am

    Hi, Mike,

    Clients have the right to say ‘no’ to doing the right thing. About all we can do is expose them to ‘the right thing’ and make the case for doing it.