“Quick! I need a 1000-word PR by 11am” shouts the CMO to the Content Manager at 10.45am. Because obviously it’s easy to source, write, edit and fact check an assignment of this size in 15 minutes.
Sadly, there are many business leaders out there and indeed employees who think writing interesting, informative and on-brand content is straightforward; something that’s built into all of us and can be done on a whim. And as for editing – how can moving a few words around on a page be considered a job? Like seriously?
Content Writing: Knowing How to Spell – And More
The reality is – putting sentences together in a legible way is not a walk in the park. Sure it can be fun, sure there are jobs which get done quickly but on the whole it requires a lot of skill. Writers are actually at the heart of every organisation but are so often undervalued and this needs to change. Fast. If word wizards didn’t beaver away in the background there would be no web copy, no blogs, no PR material, no social media posts, no email sends and no offline content – unless it was *badly* written by those in other, seemingly more important positions. I think I’ve made my point.
Bad Organisation – The Cause of a Coffee Addiction
As Creative Director at Contentworks with a fair few years of content, PR and social media marketing experience at a managerial level, I’ve seen and heard a few things which have fueled my coffee addiction. I mean it’s either slurp on an ice cold frappe to cool my blood or rage into a cappucino and option number one is certainly more appealing.
To put things into perspective and to justify my need for slightly more caffeine than is perhaps considered normal, here’s an example of what can and often does happen in a working environment. Of course, there are some excellent line managers and leaders out there who execute super initiatives and provide wonderful briefs, but this isn’t always the case. So, let’s look at a tut-inducing scenario which many of us content cats know all too well.
Type Content Monkey Type – A True-To-Life Scenario
The CEO and CMO of a company have banged heads and come up with a content marketing campaign; which in reality is (at best) a vague plan which still needs an awful lot of work – but there’s an outline at least and a few KPIs. A badly written brief is then thrown together and passed down to the Content Manager to mastermind. Not only does the Content Manager have to interpret the brief and find out exactly what is required, but they then have to delegate jobs to their team in a bid to hit usually ridiculously tight deadlines. Again, there’s a considerable lack of understanding when it comes to how long writing takes. To be clear, while a 500-word blog might take an hour depending on the subject matter, a 2000-word in-depth article for a magazine may take the best part of a day – after all, writing is a process and usually requires meticulous research and thought.
Of course, content managers are wise. They can handle the above with ease but when there’s a sudden change of plan, that’s when they become a bit fidgety. A bit vocal or maybe even a bit annoyed. But they power on handling multiple changes and edits along the way. “Add this”, “take out that”, “can you just do this” becomes the norm – oh and “remember that brochure you wrote for print? Forget that because the CEO wants to remain a completely digital agency.” Cool beans.
And the end result?
The content teams put a lot of hard work into a project which – let’s face it, wasn’t brain surgery from the start but got churned into a complicated mess by legal, sales, customer support and the office cat. But at least now it’s finished. Great! Having played a significant role in the whole campaign you expect at least a little recognition, perhaps a smile or a handshake over the water cooler – but no. Instead, the company leaders bathe in the glory of the campaign and splash around in the results patting themselves on the back for coming up with such a ground-breaking idea that was so smoothly implemented.
You’ve just got to laugh, right?
Off The Record …
If I could get a penny for every time I’ve heard off the record comments from CEOs that really shouldn’t be repeated anytime soon, I’d be rich. We’re all human after all and even those in charge need a good rant. The funny thing is, content managers hear a lot of behind the scenes information because *drum roll* they’re actually integral to a company’s success and therefore get called into many important meetings – although sometimes not as many as they should be. They listen into legal discussions, hear plans for future campaigns (which are usually changed or binned before they get signed off), feedback from sales and more.
* If you ever outsource content work, it’s really important to hire an agency you can trust with sensitive information and to sign non-disclosure agreements where necessary.
Too Much Information
It’s actually pretty interesting and as a good Content Manager is regularly bombarded with information, they need to have some kind of filter which allows them to focus on the most important tasks and jobs. A good Content Manager will also be professional and avoid stirring office politics or tense situations unnecessarily. Feeling overwhelmed or frustrated? Then it’s really important to voice your concerns in a polite way and to perhaps implement writing strategies and practices that will benefit you and your team. Many people don’t appreciate the writing element of a campaign because they simply don’t understand it. Therefore, it’s up to you to be clear about how long things will take and to set realistic deadlines and expectations.
Do you think content writers are undervalued? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.