Today's Marketing Writers: Part Stenograph – Part Linguist – Part Empiricist!
I was taking doctoral level research and English composition classes when I first ventured into the riveting world of Marketing. At my Arizona Graduate School, a local CBS TV affiliate had advertised for a student writer with strong grammar skills in the School's Vocational Office. Desperate for some extra cash, I jumped on my bicycle and rode down to the TV station and before I knew it I was writing television promos for Murder She Wrote, Oprah, and PAC 10 March Madness. I learned how to edit, do voice-overs, add music … and make my little promos come to life.
As I left Graduate School the allure of selling with words seemed far more rewarding than teaching disinterested students how to write. I quickly learned that good writing is at the core of good marketing. A TV spot is only as good as its script. A website is only as good as its content. A Print Ad is only as good as its copy. A product offer is only as good as how well it persuades the consumer to take an action. Whether one needs the verbosity of an advertorial or the sparing character limitations of a Google or Facebook Ad … good copy is an art form and good writers are quite simply disappearing.
It's clear that it was bound to happen. Calculators made us weaker at math. Spell check made us poor spellers. Programmable phones made us more forgetful. And now Texting in Icons and Acronyms that replace feelings and self-expression has strictly limited our ability to market, sell, and create a Call-to-Action.
Must we declare war on cyber coding and all attacks on intelligent speech, sound verbal skills, linguistic style, and high creative expression? Has email-speak, texting talk, SEO keywords, and IM chat left our language battered and broken? Years ago, my mother's generation recorded things in short-hand, an abbreviated writing method for rapid note-taking that saw its hey-day in the 1950's. Short-hand systems go as far back as Ancient Greece where we find evidence of symbol-based writings carved in marble slabs in the Parthenon.
But there was no lack of expression among the Ancient Greeks or in 1950's America. Yesterday's stenographers extremely translated their symbols into full phrases, bold emotion, and well-penned thoughts.
So perhaps the job of today's writers is to do, rather that … translate modern symbols to and from common feelings. One can not possibly hope to explain, describe, illustrate, elucidate, clarify, and express the attributes of a TV, Web, Print or multi-channel product without being able to paint it with words. Therefore, I may very well be the last remaining "empiricist" or one who holds the view that the senses are the only form of knowledge and that "sense words" are the root means of learning. Or, I am a stalwart linguist. Perhaps, hell bent on the study and impact of language when historical, evolutionary, sociological, or neurological.
After what I am now called, one thing is very clear … if you want to market a product or a service in 2011, you will unfortunately need the services of a very good writer.
So I remain at my Marketing canvas with an arsenal of sensory words, terms and expressions along with wide-ranging requests to write video scripts, ads, business plans, presentations, statements and even comedy skits. I fancy myself a word-artist and an endangered anti-rationalist toying with the tabula rasa (clean slate) that is the consumer mind and filling it and enriching it with those things that it most importantly needs … in the next twenty minutes!