A communication’s efficacy will quite literally make or break your corporation: it is the single means to navigate opportunities into sales, it differentiates working smart, yielding high-end results in less time from working long to yield little, it discriminates your image above others, it demarcates your ability to develop lucrative business relationships, it is the very foundation of your marketing, public relations, advertising, and outreach in all aspects of value. From Human Resources to Development, Procurement to Process, communications above all else is essential for business success. That’s quite a lot of responsibility falling upon the written word.
And yet this should be of no surprise to you; certainly every profession requires its candidates be “well written and well spoken” but what precisely does that mean? Unless you’ve a concise answer and means of qualification, how can you possibly know whether your employees and by proxy your communications materials are measuring up?
Here are a few alarming statistics demonstrating just how inadequate the typical business staff is in handling your most precious resource. According to The Literacy Company:
- 50% of Adult Americans are unable to read at an 8th grade level.
- Half of American Adults are considered “functionally illiterate,” meaning they are incapable of carrying out simple tasks such as balancing a check book or writing essays for a job.
The cost of this illiteracy to businesses and taxpayers is upwards to $20 million and climbing. This number meanwhile does not include the amount of revenue lost from poor quality materials and ineffective communication abilities rendered by the typical college graduate. Nor does the possession of a college degree insulate one from being part of the statistic. In fact, unless your employees have a specialized degree in English literacy, they’re part of this sobering collective.
“To participate fully in society and the workplace, in 2020, citizens will need powerful literacy abilities that until now have been achieved by only a small percentage of the population,” clearly states the Literacy Company. As an advanced-degreed Professor of English and an Executive-level Businesswoman for nearly two decades, I‘m not surprised by this statement. Daily I chance upon ineffective ads, horrendous cold-calling techniques, tedious speeches, and droning annual reports: all with one thing in common, a cause and effect, really--they were poorly constructed according to business’ typical standards, costing that company in wasted time, wasted materials, wasted efforts, and ultimately a wasted opportunity to sell.
The answer is rather simple: if you’ve a legal concern, you call an attorney. If your body’s hurt, you secure a doctor. If people need the best in your service, they call you. Thus, when you want your written communications to do far more than simply communicate, that is, to sell, you consign a Copywriter. A Copywriter by trade (for exacting writing is indeed a trade) is a trained, practiced and proven specialist in the art of communication--the persuasive use of language in written and spoken form towards gainful ends. These are the talents a Copywriter applies to your communications needs, and the results are demonstrated in higher sales, a wider business presence, and a stronger corporate figurehead. However, since no advanced degree exists in Copyrighting itself, a cadre of hopefuls enter the market for a chance to pen your precious communications. Therefore, you must be very discerning upon whom you elect to handle your projects and why. Insider information is the key; allow me to share:
- Communications itself is a vast and complex field, with nuances that may work brilliantly in one form, speaking for example, and completely tank in another, like written format. Oral versus written communications each have particular strengths suited towards unique projects for maximum impact; they both require unique approaches in style and context; they have different appeals and effects when employed as ‘high’ versus ‘low’ verse, and a premiere Copyrighter understands these differences, wherein their uses lie, and how best to shape them in meeting your business needs. Obviously, this is very different than the customary thought that writing was merely translating a concept via pithy words onto a page. Copywriting also involves an innate understanding of audience, purpose, optimum ‘timing‘, and ultimate function of design: achieving the desired action by the receiving audience upon the parameters of persuasion. Naturally, these terms may seem new or a bit strange to you, but a fluent Copyrighter should be able to break down such concepts in the language of your own business so the applicability of such skills becomes deliberate. Unfortunately, the field of Copyrighting is littered with self-proclaimed ‘professionals’ who can‘t come close.
Many Copyrighters fit easily into three categories: novelists, neophytes, and the transitioning post-marketing Executive. The novelist needs a daytime job to fund his nighttime dream, and believes all writing is the same, be it fiction, creative, or pragmatic. Wrong. The neophyte has a proper focus on the scope of the copywriting practice, but merely lacks the needed education and experience to produce an effective piece of work. These individuals are easy to spot: go bargain hunting and look for the lowest per hour prices. The transitioning marketer or "Ad-man" is often in-between careers, or is dedicating himself to copywriting entirely. This individual may certainly have years of serving successful clients and campaigns or marketing protocol, so the experience and focus are intact. However, again, a sore lack of linguistic nuance via specialized training and misunderstanding the discipline of Copywriting as something completely different than marketing remains. Hence, if hired, you’ll likely get a great ad slick. But your annual report will sound like an ad slick. And your internal affairs documents will sound like an ad slick. And your public relations damage control media releases will sound like an ad slick. And in most of these cases, such an approach is detrimental to the credibility and profitability of your business.
The best copywriters are like tanzanite: a very rare find. Here’s what you should look for in discerning one to hire:
1. Experience: Copyrighters who specialize in their field have a unique combination of specific education and experience--check for an advanced degree in English (not Communications, which, in academia becomes a misnomer since its paths of study typically include ’Language in Social Context,’ and ’Communications and Gender’) as only the discipline of English literally examines the connotations, contexts, and manipulations of words themselves in varied language forms. Also, these individuals will have applied this specialized knowledge towards varied business endeavors like marketing, public relations, profit and non-profit, and executive level management so as to have an extensive and innate understanding of these positions’ needs and operations within a company itself.
2. Specialty: Does your candidate claim to ’do it all’ or does he specialize in a number of related fields, one of which is in direct association to yours? The specialist hones his craft to suit a select few business practices, and dedicates his time to doing so. The result is an individual who knows your business as if he worked there himself, can integrate his work with other departments as needed, and has samples of similar work such as that you’re looking for or clients in your field with excellent reputations.
3. Clientele: Ever have a potential Copyrighter thrust pages of “good job!” quotes before your nose? If so, run…it’s the sure sign of what I call the “Robert Bly” wanna-be. Robert Bly was one of the first successful Copywriters who wrote many a start-up book for those wanting to break into the business. One of his secret tactics of self-promotion was to ask satisfied clients for quotes. While nothing in practice is wrong with this, readers took the advice and turned it into a bad cliché. Beware the copyrighter showing you quotes in lieu of high profile clients.
It’s the quality of the work produced, and better yet, for whom that is telling of your copywriter’s caliber. See any names you recognize, not because they’re down the street, but because they’re blue-clip national corporations? See any multi-million dollar enterprises? See any famous names represented? This is of utmost importance, as those quality clients can choose ANY Copywriter across the country and beyond to handle their materials, but they chose that specific individual representing them and sitting before you. In short, if you want the best work, you need to grab the best individual for the job possessing the best clientele. You will get what you pay for, plus the publicity from being added to such an impressive roster is a major bonus.
If, indeed, your business is preeminent, then this client list is exactly where you belong.
For More Information: To learn more about business communications, email UVBNcopyrighted@aol.com with 'Ask Amythyst' in the tag line. I'm happy to help.
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