Perhaps as a corollary with my post yesterday on the status of journalists in 2015, one of the startups I work with is finding it hard to hire a content marketer / blogger. It’s actually a really fascinating labor market segment, because these positions are materializing rapidly as companies discover the power of content, but there seems to be a dearth of people with the sort of creativity and strategic capabilities necessary to create it.
The challenge this startup is finding is that nearly all new college graduates are bad at writing something that people actually want to read. Universities have made writing skills a much more prominent component of their curriculums over the years, but those writing skills are often focused on pure academic research papers rather than the kind of versatile and strategic writing that people need in the modern economy.
(Ironically, those strategic writing skills are precisely the skills needed of grad students and professors applying for grants these days and popularizing their research…)
Basic techniques of storytelling are wholly absent, as is any careful editing to ensure that the writing matches the expectations of an audience. That’s not getting into the wider area of editing and topic selection to ensure that writing fits together into a larger narrative about a person, product, or category.
These skills are so valuable and are used by everyone in practically every profession. And yet, they remain largely absent from the toolkits of people with many degrees under their belts. I haven’t seen any startup bootcamps specifically emphasize this aspect of marketing, but it would be a good opportunity for someone.
I wish this gap was just true of new graduates, but it doesn’t seem to get better with experience either. In fact, in many cases greater experience seems to be narrowing the skill set here rather than expanding it. I guess a lot of business writing is formulaic and boring, and that sort of dulls the creativity necessary for engaging writing.
The only training ground I can think for this are college newspapers right now, but universities should take this as an opportunity to consider how they might try to bring more of these skills into their basic curriculums. For everyone else interested in approaching strategic writing, consider reading a book or two on storytelling and writing, since that would do more to make press releases and content interesting than the normal we have now.
Image by mark lorch used under Creative Commons