What the heck is a corporate writer anyway?

by Vanessa Chris

“So, it says here you’re a writer. What type of writing do you do?”

This wasn’t a job interview. Despite my clammy hands and elevated heart rate, I wasn’t vying for my dream job or trying to land a new client. Rather, I was in my first consultation with an osteopath.

Sitting in a small room with a strange man and the door closed, my mind was racing. What does an osteopath even do? Is it a legit profession? How does it work? Am I going to have to take my clothes off?

Which is probably why I gave him the short answer: “Oh, you know, corporate writing.”

He stared at me blankly. Looked down at the form in front of him. And then looked up again.

“What does that mean?”

Despite the odd circumstances—(I mean, how does the type of writing I do even matter when you’re treating my sore shoulder?)—I get this question a lot. And while I’ve drafted a short elevator pitch to dish out at parties (“Like, website content and stuff”) the truth is my job is a little more complex than that. And, to be honest, the term “writer” doesn’t really adequately do it justice.

What is a corporate writer?

At its most basic level, a B2B copywriter helps businesses communicate with other businesses. Our job is to clearly explain how a certain product or service can help a company resolve specific business challenges.

I don’t really use the term “copywriter” on medical forms or when nosy people ask me what I do for a living because I find people immediately assume I’m in advertising—which I’m not. Or at least, not really. While I have written ad copy in my lifetime, most of the writing I do is designed to educate the end customer, highlight solutions to their pressing challenges, and subtly sell the product or service without directly doing so.

This is typically done through a range of content vehicles—including heavily-researched whitepapers, advertorial-style magazine articles, real-life case studies, and thought-provoking blog posts that highlight a unique point of view. The web content we write often involves repositioning a company’s offerings so they appear as solutions to a prospective customer’s challenges, rather than merely a laundry list of products or services. And while we sometimes write tweets, LinkedIn posts and web banners, these are typically collateral designed to promote larger pieces of content.

As a result, my work isn’t something you’d find on a billboard or in a newspaper advertisement (most of the time). Rather, it’s part of a company’s broader content marketing strategy—a tool to help search engines find them a little more easily, while simultaneously strengthening their reputation as a high-quality brand that knows what it’s talking about.

How do corporate writers make a difference?

While it may sound strange, I think the real advantage that corporate writers bring to the table is that we don’t really know what we’re talking about. Let me rephrase that: We know how to craft a compelling story, and we know what information is needed to convince your clients that you’re truly unique in the marketplace, but the expertise ultimately comes from you.

What a good corporate writer is able to do is coax that information out—by asking the right questions, conducting the necessary background research, and getting back to you when important information is missing. We get to know your target audiences, their familiarity with your topic and their challenges. And we aren’t afraid to slow you down and ask you to explain things in layperson terms—because most of the time, if we don’t know what you’re talking about, neither do potential clients.

Once we have the information we need, this is where we earn our pay cheque. We can identify where the real story lies—the one that your clients actually want to read, rather than the one you thought made the most sense. We can take rambling thoughts and transform them into a cohesive story line. We can rework existing pieces that just weren’t flowing properly. And we can take your super-complex business service and create a concise “about us” page that explains everything in one paragraph or less.

Should you hire a corporate writer?

In all truthfulness, hiring a corporate writer isn’t for everyone. If you’re a small business owner, you can probably get away with writing your own blog posts (if you have the time and enjoy writing), although it might be worth the investment to ensure your web copy really sings. On the other hand, if your company has undergone a lot of mergers and/or acquisitions in recent years, and suddenly has ten different brands operating under one umbrella, it would definitely be worth working with a writer or communications agency to make sure your tone, style and messages are all on point.

Ultimately, if you’re unsatisfied with your company’s content, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There are countless corporate writers out there (as well as communications agencies, communications consultants, freelance B2B copywriters, content marketing specialists, writing wizards, etc.) that would be happy to help you make it better. So, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask some companies about their offerings, writing processes and pay structures. Test them out with a small project at first and see if you click. Because, in today’s content-heavy market, having the right person to call on when the writing gets tough is truly an invaluable asset.

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