We have well and truly entered the content era.
Organisations of all sizes have a daily requirement for content that can help them tell their story better.
And while content takes many forms – text, stills, graphics, video, audio – a key skill that remains essential to quality content is writing.
Written content has changed dramatically over the past decade. Press releases, speeches, presentations, brochures, newsletters and scripts were once dominant, and although they remain important in the right contexts today, times have undeniably moved on with the take over of digital.
Yet this hasn’t lessened the importance of writing. It could even be argued that there has never been a better time to be a writer, and this won’t change until someone finds a way of automating the creative process.
A pre-digital phenomenon I used to bump into all the time was the client who believed they were a wordsmith and who didn’t see the value in hiring a professional to that work for them.
The unspoken argument was: “I learned to string sentences together at school; why would I need someone to do it for me now? I know my business better than anyone else.”
While there is logic in this reasoning to a point, the reality is that most people never have the opportunity, never develop the skills or the confidence (gained from experience) to shape truly gripping stories, to craft really compelling messages and to have refined their approach from continual trial and, yes, error.
The other barrier for writers in the pre-digital era was print cost. A writer might have been asked to craft a corporate brochure and it could have been two years before a print update. Because of the investment required in traditional printing, it was usually a long time between drinks for writers. To make something resembling a living they had to cultivate a substantial raft of clients.
Fast forward to 2017 and content is king – one with an insatiable appetite. The cost of publishing has plummeted and platforms for its sharing have expanded exponentially. Now, a writer can quite easily assume a steady flow of work because so many of them are required to meet the audience demand for constantly updated fresh, relevant content.
With this tidal wave of content has also come a double-edged degree of risk. On the one hand, the huge need for content can mean untrained writers are taking on work to meet ever-shortening deadlines with the general justification being: “They’re young, they know social media.” But just as someone learns the skills and rules required to master science or mathematics, so too must people develop specialised skills to be effective writers. Just because one can read and literally put pen to paper does not make one the next whiz-bang content creator of our generation.
The second risk lies in misunderstanding the purpose of content.
The word ‘content’ has something of a negative connotation. It suggests quantity, like “just fill this space with a few hundred words” or “what are we posting on socials today?” But content should always equate with quality, because there should always be a clear intent behind each and every word that is written. There should always be a key message or messages that are communicated to a specific audience based on their needs.
The intent shouldn’t be to fill a page or a post – it should be to change a mind.
And that’s where education really counts; this is the most valuable skill a trained writer brings to any project. Each word written then contributes towards the bigger picture – the over-arching business objectives.
And that’s the difference: the skilled writer doesn’t just write at random and hope for the best. They write with intent and contribute to achieving a business’s objectives.
Who are some of your favourite content creators out there today?