Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Send Me Someone Who Can Write

I was recently asked if I was a marketer or a writer. Fair question. And the answer points to a skillset sorely lacking in the business world.

I am not a wordsmith though I do smith words. I am perhaps a writer with insights into marketing. More precisely, I am a marketer who can write. And there are unfortunately very few of us in corporatedom.

The business world is full of marketers who are good strategists that cannot shape their thoughts into a decent and convincing proposal. Or who have any credentials to mangle the words of the writers that work for them.

As the CEO of a direct marketing agency for 20 years, I was always astounded at how hard it was to find good writers. Design schools crank out graphics people in large numbers. We could always find designers. But writers are left to find their own way. English majors disdain the world of business. Journalism majors never quite understand the world of business. And sadly, most business majors never learn how to write. Recruiting writers was always the hardest task I had when I was in the agency world.

Writers who know marketing, or marketers who can write … I’ll take either one and be happy about it.

Years ago, there was an ad for International Paper. I still remember the headline: "Send me a (man) who can write."

This ad demonstrates two things: First, finding business people who can write has always been a challenge. Second, the fact that this ad was so personally relevant to me that I can remember it 30 years later proves the power of contextual marketing.

3 Comments:

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Troy Brumley said...

Dale, writing is hard! I enjoy it, but most people I know do not. They rush through it and hope that whatever they spew out at the keyboard is good enough. I don't know if it is the mechanics that turn people off, or the need to think critically and have something to say. Have you spotted a pattern in your hunt for writers?

 
At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I attended Catholic schools. Hours and hours of diagraming sentences seemed like torture at the time. After many years I came to appreciate the lessons learned.

The lessons that were put before me in the business world posed a greater challange than I faced diagraming the most complex compound sentence my Catholic educators had ever put before me, the challange of writing complex ideas for people who could not read beyond a sixth grade level.

I have learned. I have not learned to love the process; I have learned to love the result.

 
At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're quite correct, Dale, writing skills in the business world are on the wane. I own a small business, and am regularly surprised at the poor writing of some of my clients and peers. I also was a management professor at a Midwestern university's business school for several years. I observed that typical business students were mediocre writers whose skills were not at what you or I might describe as college-level. Troy, I see the problem not as "either/or," as you pose it, but as "and." Business-world writers display difficulties with both the mechanics (punctuation, spelling, etc.) and the critical thinking required to make a sentence sensible or a paragraph persuasive. It's sad. Dale, if you want to exchange more on this topic, drop me a line at jmw@jmwphd.com. Thanks!

 

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