The second phase of my business-writing life focused on writing for and about all aspects of the business world. I had no idea when I began how complex the subject was going to be. I honestly thought that, since I had been writing about businesses for so many years, this would be a fairly easy transition. I was wrong. As a feature writer and magazine journalist I had been looking at this world as an objective outsider, but as an employee, that perspective no longer worked. Now, I was on the inside looking out, and my job was to present the company’s story in the best possible light. Objectivity was no longer the point. Fairness was, of course, as was the ability to demonstrate how the company’s products and services would meet the needs of its target market.
When I left the world of magazines, my first job was with a multi-national conglomerate that owned 120 companies of various sizes and specialties. Until top management finally organized those 120 companies into six different business segments, everything was rather disorganized. But, eventually, some sense of order prevailed, creating the effect of six businesses under a large umbrella. Since my background was in publications, it seemed a natural fit to put me in charge of all employee communications, which included quarterly magazines, monthly newsletters, and whatever had to go out weekly or daily.
It was an exhausting schedule, which ended, when I was recruited by a training and development firm to do marketing—more magazines and newsletters, but much, much more. The big lesson here was if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. But it takes a while to figure that out—six-and-a-half years, in fact—to realize I was in the wrong place, doing the wrong job, for all the wrong reasons. So, I left on a Friday afternoon, reorganized my workspace at home over the weekend, and plunged into full-time freelancing by Monday morning. I positioned myself as a generalist, which meant that I would tackle any subject in any business in any medium.
Advertising is intended to attract attention to a product or business, via paid announcements in the print, broadcast, or electronic media (e.g., newspapers and magazines, radio or television, billboards, social media sites). Not my strongest suit, for sure, but the CEO knew what he wanted and practically dictated every word.
Annual reports are intended to give shareholders and other interested parties information about the company’s successes and financial performance. Since financial communications require very specialized knowledge that was not my expertise, I wrote narrative pieces to support and illustrate the themes of the reports.
Brand management is the analysis and planning of how a brand—product, appearance, price, packaging—is perceived in the markets
Employee communications has traditionally been a top-down process: from management to employees. With the advent of the Internet and social media, communication has become a two-way street between management and employees, between the company and its customers, and between the company and its suppliers. The days of glossy, four-color magazines are coming to an end. I for one am sorry to see them go, but change in the world of business communications is happening faster than most of us can keep up with.
Financial communications encompass investor relations, financial public relations, media relations, and working with financial markets around the world. It required an in-depth understanding of finance, communication, how to deal with banks, fund management companies, brokerage firms, and private equity companies.
Internet communications has a world-wide reach. When we put something out there, we have no idea who’s going to read it and how they are going to interpret our words. As a business communicators, we are, or should be, very careful about what we write. After all, we are controlling the message, so there is no excuse for shooting ourselves in the foot with our sloppy Internet communications.
Marketing communications are all the messages and media a company uses to communicate with the market, including advertising, direct marketing, branding, packaging, online presence, printed materials, PR activities, sales presentations, sponsorships, and trade shows.
Public relations’ purpose is to help an organization cultivate a positive reputation with the public through various unpaid communication vehicles, including traditional media, social media, and more
Social media’s original purpose was to help us reach out and touch someone, to get in touch with old friends, and to take part in a dialogue. We weren’t just talking to people or at people, we were connecting, conversing, and sharing information. It was a noble goal, but like everything else on the Web, much of it is now intended to sell us something or change our opinions.