By John Kultgen
Writers are under attack. Websites, online articles, and digital products are becoming increasingly image-based. So few words are left that companies starting to believe the following myth:
Any employee can write for a website and social networks, and it will be similar to having a professional writer.
At first glance, it’s easier and cheaper to do this. Why hire an experienced writer when a current employee can write for you while also still completing other tasks?
Your communications department will continue to operate, but the quality of your content will suffer. If you want to grow your business, having writers is essential.
Writers know the rules.
Spell check isn’t enough. You need a writer who knows the tricks of grammar, parallel structure, and more. For instance, a common mistake I see from non-writers is word vomit.
We’re very happy to announce that we’ll be offering all-day passes in just a few months!
Very and just are wasted words. A writer would save characters on this status update and say:
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll start offering all-day passes in time for summer.
The message is still the same, but it doesn’t sound so annoyingly eager. (Because who wants to be perceived as a Patty Simcox?)
Writers can appeal to emotion.
In social media, we blatantly tell people to “like” something. (Many brands find this distasteful, but it works.) I recommend that my writers ask the social media audience to tell us who they are, not what they believe.
Like this if you support cancer research.
I read this as “Like this if you think cancer research is a good thing.” Many people won’t be motivated to agree with this because it’s so obvious. Good writers could make this more emotional.
Like this if you are a cancer research supporter.
This is better. Instead of “I think this” you’re getting your users to say “I do this” or “I am this.” It’s their label of pride.
Writers expertly use conversational tone.
Non-writers feel like every outgoing communication has to be like a college paper. I often sit down with a coworker and just say, “Okay, tell me in conversation what you’re trying to say.” Usually the coworker says out loud exactly what they should be writing down.
Company apologies are a great time to use conversational tone. If you recall, Facebook’s News Feed initially received a huge backlash upon release. This is a letter that Mark Zuckerberg wrote, though I’m sure he had a writer’s help.
We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I’d like to try to correct those errors now.
— Mark Zuckerberg, An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg
No press release language here; it’s a true letter. My advice is to sit down and write conversationally, then have a writer go back and make it sound more mature.
Writers are worth hiring.
I understand if your company can’t commit to a full-time or freelance writer. If you’re not there yet, my advice is to try to spot the writers in an employee you already have.
What makes someone a writer? Education is part of it, but it’s not essential for the employee to have a journalism or English degree. Just make sure that they:
- Have written for a publication or brand in the past.
- Write or blog on their own time.
Make this investment in writers. Your fans will engage more because of it.
Now that I’m done defending my career path, leave your comments below. I love when people agree with me, and I love it more when they disagree with me.