Treat Your Writers Well

 

I was informed by a client this morning that my compensation for writing for their website would be cut by more than 50 percent.

I was told not to take this personally; all the writers the client employed were taking the same cut and they were taking it happily.

After a few email exchanges, I told the client that I couldn't do it and that, as they say, was that.

But this isn't about me. This is about how writing is valued.

And, in short, it ain't.

Which is strange. Firmconsulting.com, a site for consultants and would-be consultants, recently ranked consultancies by a variety of measures, one of which was, "Does the firm appear in the Harvard Business Review?" If a firm doesn't appear in HBR, the report said, “it is not an elite consulting firm."

Well, how does a firm get its IP, its thought leadership, its name into HBR?

It does so first by developing good ideas (i.e., thought leadership) and then by communicating expertly and professionally. In order to do that, a firm needs expert, professional writers. That would seem obvious, wouldn't it? Analysts and consultants are smart people and have many skills but they are not professional writers. A firm that does not employ professional writers will have a hard time getting its name into HBR, or anyplace else that matters.

So, given that, why do firms treat professional writers and editors so poorly?

And they do.

In my experience, and in the experience of many writers and editors I know, firms rarely value the people that get their thought leadership in front of the people who can use it and perhaps engage the firm given the impression that thought leadership creates. Writers and editors often are paid poorly and treated worse. The material the writers produce generally is considered marketing collateral, not thought leadership, and the writers are treated in line with that thinking: When the consultants want something written, they want it yesterday; when the writer needs to speak with them, the consultants rarely make the time, and then only grudgingly. After all, the consultant is making money for the firm; the writing function is a cost center . . . or so it is myopically regarded. Finally, when revenues decline, as they did in bad old days following the financial meltdown of 2008, what group was the first to be let go? It was the writers and editors who communicated the firm's thought leadership to the wider world.

Today, as the economy begins to recover, consultancies are hiring writers and editors again, but they're trying to get them on the cheap. Which—not to put too fine a point on it—is stupid.

So treat your writers and editors well. They're the people who get the word out about what you do; they're the people who add continuing value to your engagements once they're completed; they're the people who will bring new clients to your firm, and they’re the people who will get you into HBR.

Writers and editors a cost center?

Does that make sense? 

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