I’ll just say this right now: if you want to be successful as a corporate marketing or communications writer, you need to also become a marketer of yourself and your own writing.
I’m not talking about marketing the products your company sells or identity/corporate/brand marketing of the company you work for. I’m talking about marketing the writing you do personally for your company–your image as a professional marketing writer.
You need to market your writing skills as if you were a job applicant, even though you already have the job. Who are your target audiences? Your boss, your boss’ bosses, internal clients in other departments, and your co-workers. And sometimes awards committees.
Marketing your Writing Means Building Trust and Confidence
Because the quality of writing is somewhat subjective, part of your success within a marketing or communications department will be continually reinforcing the idea that you know what you are doing.
That doesn’t mean pretending you are a good writer when you aren’t. You still need to know your craft. But every good writer also has to woo primary audiences—the people in charge of using your writing.
If they believe in your ability, they are more likely to accept what you write without a lot of argument. If you can convince them you know what you are doing, they are less likely to question your product. Their confidence in you can lead to better projects and even higher pay.
Marketing your writing to these internal audiences also helps YOU believe in your own writing, which makes your work much more satisfying and less agonizing (as we all know writing can sometimes be).
To illustrate this, let’s say two writers work for a manufacturer. As communications specialists, they write sales sheets, web copy, a company blog, a plant newsletter for line workers, ads for industry directories and a host of other sale and marketing pieces. They also write internal pieces, such as marketing plans, business plans, proposals, safety regulations and reports.
Writer number one is continually questioning her own writing skill. She agonizes over the work, terrified it won’t be good enough. She presents her work timidly, always asking questions of her boss about the quality of her work, often apologizing for not having done more research and talking about how hard it was for her to write. Her boss begins to question her, too—even though he was perfectly happy with her work until he heard her questioning herself. When she makes a mistake, he thinks he needs to “fix” her, which results in a focus on the negative, which erodes her confidence further. His questions about her slowly filter up to his own bosses, and they begin to question not only her work, but the ability of the department as a whole. The other departments she writes for hear the same questions and apologies, and they question her. They begin to ask for other writers, which feeds the self-questioning of writer number one and things just keep getting worse. Approvals take forever and clients become very nit-picky about the language in projects, worried they are missing something and finding it difficult to trust their writer.
Writer number two sometimes has the same questions about her own work, but she is careful to stay realistic. She keeps her opinions of herself to herself and lets her work stand on its own. She focuses on what she CAN do, instead of what she can’t. She understands the importance of marketing herself internally. In fact, she often humbly and subtly points out the things that are working well in her pieces. She lets her boss see her get excited by her assignments. She asks how he likes her work, and as a result he wants to encourage her, so he compliments her, which further builds a good impression of her in his own mind. When there really is room for improvement, he talks with her about it matter-of-factly and is impressed by her professional reaction. She doesn’t beat herself up or allow herself to feel crushed. She carefully listens to his advice and takes it to heart, not apologizing for what she didn’t do, but focusing on what she needs to learn. She lets her boss know she has heard his advice. It makes him feel good. He begins to trust her, even when she makes mistakes. He speaks well of her to his superiors. Their internal clients appreciate getting good work on time and they compliment the writer to her boss, which he passes along, which feeds the confidence of the writer.
Do you see how it begins with your view of your own writing? From there, a positive view of yourself and willingness to subtly and professionally promote yourself with those who have the power to use your writing begins to build a ball of positive energy surrounding your work. This is self-marketing in a good way.
Don’t Brag—Do Humbly Voice Satisfaction in Your Own Work
Marketing yourself within your own company is a matter of balance. It is tempting to turn your self-marketing into bragging. It can be a fine line. If you talk too much about yourself, you will be seen as conceited, and maybe even unwilling to hear constructive criticism. But if you don’t point out your good qualities at all and show pride in your work, others will question your work.
How do you strike that balance? During my career, I have done it with 1) self-talk and 2) focused love of my work.
Self talk: I have “conversations” with myself analyzing when I should say something about my own work and when I should stay humbly quiet. I pick my battles and choose the right people. I don’t always get it right, and I admit there have been times I was told I was seen as conceited. So, I learned from that. I worked on staying humble.Other times, I’ve been told I need to stop pointing out the negatives and dwelling on my faults. I heard that and stopped beating myself up–out of principal if nothing else. Human nature tends to pull us into either self-aggrandizement or self-loathing, so I work hard to stay conscious of this danger and stay away from either extreme.
Love of my work: I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was in first grade and wrote my first short story. If you are a writer, I’ll bet you have a similar story. Most writers love the world of words and ideas. I have played with words my whole life and I love that part of my marketing writing work. So, I focus on that as the fodder for my self-marketing. It’s contagious. Language and the ability to say what one needs to say to achieve a purpose is a fundamental skill to get along in this world. If I can help others do that, I am thrilled. It is a joy in my life. I’m not saying there aren’t bad days, but I consciously focus on that joy for my own benefit. If I didn’t, I don’t know if I could withstand the stresses of being a marketing writer. And the exciting thing is that my joy comes off as non-bragging confidence to others.
The main point I want to get across is that it is a conscious effort to focus on marketing yourself. You DO have to talk to yourself to accomplish this and work on it consciously.
You do have to think about your brand and analyze your internal target markets. You need to do some research to find out how people actually view you and your work. Then you need to focus on your audiences’ pain points and help them solve real problems with your writing.
Hey, that sounds familiar. It’s what you do every day for your company’s products or services. Now, you just need to apply the same techniques to your own work as a writer.