As a corporate writer (and as a hobby, one of fiction) I often get asked exactly what it is I do. It doesn’t seem to matter if the person is a colleague, friend or even family member, if you say you’re a copywriter/communications advisor/corporate writer often times you’ll be met with a blank stare and polite smile.
But to be honest, what we ‘comms professionals’ do is pretty straightforward (though oftentimes, not all that easy). We engage with people. That’s it in a nutshell.
An author seeks to engage her reader, the copywriter or communications professional, his audience. The concept might be simple, but the execution is not. When writing a piece of communication, no matter how well written, or edited, one of the biggest hurdles a writer first faces is getting anyone to read it at all.
That’s where a communications professional comes in. There’s a lot to consider before a single word is written. Here are five things a comms person really does:
Identifies your ‘audience’ AKA works out who the message is for
You’ve probably already given this some thought, but your comms person will make sure we identify not only who the message is for, but work out how best to speak to them. What messages are relevant to them? Where are they likely to look for information? How long do they typically spend reading content? The list goes on…
Once we’ve worked out who we’re speaking to we can then work out what channel/medium to use.
Picks the best channel and medium to engage your audience
I’ll speak in general terms here as an example, but different audiences consume content in different ways. Which means the medium you use, for example video, written content, imagery, and the channel you choose to distribute your content could mean the difference between finding your audience and not being heard by them at all.
A millennial may be more inclined to keep across your company’s Twitter page than a baby boomer. A baby boomer might be happy to have your blog arrive in their inbox each week, and you may find your video content resonates across each generation. It can be tricky to work out where your audience is seeking their content and where they’re happy to receive it through trial and error. A comms person, luckily will already have a good idea of where to start.
Crafts your copy so it resonates with that audience
You know who your people are, you know where they’re looking for content and now you know what kind of content they like. Great! Now it’s time to speak their language.
So often, I’ve seen stiff, corporate copy handed over for use on a blog, social media or media release, and to be blunt, no one will read it. People enjoy reading content that sounds like it was written, well by a person.
Can you imagine if I started this post with an introduction that read, “…the role of the corporate communications professional is to write and disseminate organisational communications to both internal and external audience groups via various channels.”
It wouldn’t be an incorrect statement, in fact, it might read similarly to many job descriptions you’ve seen… but it’s boring. And it doesn’t really get to the heart of the question anyway.
Communication professionals know how to word something so that it has the best chance of being read, understood and even enjoyed by your audience. All of which are more important than your copy sounding ‘smart’, ‘important’, or ‘professional’.
They’re really good at asking questions
This may be more important than you think. Oftentimes I’ve seen a piece of work go right along the chain without a vital question being asked until it gets to comms.
I once worked for a company that was in the thick of an enterprise bargaining agreement with staff. Negotiations had been going on for a long time and people were starting to get tired of it. In the middle of this another department were looking to launch an internal collaboration tool which worked similarly to Facebook. It would allow staff to chat freely across the organisation, sharing ideas and connecting.
It wasn’t until a comms person who was working on the comms for the enterprise agreement and knew of the launch of the collaboration tool asked, “…are we factoring in that people are more than likely going to talk about the bargaining agreement (all things good and bad) on this new tool?” That the team even thought about the implications of this.
It became a great opportunity to have the leadership team get on the front foot and actually drive the conversation around the new agreement when the tool launched, but without the question being asked beforehand it could’ve meant any anger or frustration people were likely feeling could’ve ended up as unmonitored posts doing the rounds internally, with no one prepared with answers or direction.
And finally, yes they write and edit well
Of course, your comms person should also be able to put a few words together nicely, free of spelling and grammatical errors, but that should go without saying ;).
I hope this helps to answer the question of what your friendly neighbourhood comms person can do for you.