March 2, 2016
The Importance of Writing
An interview on the importance of writing.
What kind of writing do you do for your job?
As an agency we prepare strategy briefs, project briefs, and marketing plans on a daily basis. Our clients rely heavily on these documents internally to articulate the vision, strategy, and process necessary for them to achieve their business growth goals. These documents range anywhere from 2-page briefs to 70+ page documents, and often singly determine how our clients will spend their valuable time and money on a given marketing program. Each member of our team also writes anywhere from 40 to 100 emails per day to update clients, provide direction and management to vendors, and engage with other industry contacts.
How important is writing in your profession?
Arguably the most vital reason any organization partners with an agency is because of the agency’s ability to communicate big ideas and clear vision more effectively than the organization itself. We are incredibly trusted by our clients to be masters of written communication. Think of us as the mouthpiece for an organization: if we cannot clearly communicate their vision and action plan, they will fail and we will go out of business.
What kind of judgments do you find yourself making about what you read from colleagues and/or clients?
Attention to detail and accuracy in communication is truly a life-or-death issue in the agency world. Recurring typos, poorly structured sentences, confusing documents, or just general sloppiness in communication are traits that are unbecoming of agency personnel. Consequently, we have actually terminated an employee who demonstrated a consistent lack of attention to detail in their written communication.
Additionally, we rely on obsessive attention to detail in our writing to reflect our commitment to precision in everything that we do – to both our clients and our vendors (colleagues). We’ve almost come to expect our clients to have sloppy communication skills: they hired us to bridge that gap so that they don’t have to think about it. Conversely though, imagine how you might feel if you pay someone thousands of dollars each month to communicate for you, but you have a hard time understanding their emails, or you find yourself expecting typos in every email?
We carry this same frame of mind into every colleague / vendor relationship. For an agency vendors are the trusted custodians of client budgets, and they must demonstrate to us an equal attention to detail. If we, being the “overseers” of marketing projects demonstrate sloppiness in our communication skills with vendors, we are putting a subliminal stamp of approval on sloppiness – not just in writing but in all things. The result of poor written communication with our vendors is often a relationship in which mistakes are expected and readily overlooked. And for an agency, that kind of vendor relationship can be catastrophic for ourselves and our clients.
The bottom line is: I expect clients to have poor written skills, so I don’t really make any judgement on them. However, when I see consistently sloppy emails from vendors or employees I immediately address the issue. If they cannot or will not take every reasonable step to improve their writing and communication skills, we will quickly end the relationship.