Corporate work: the briefing’s the thing

Journalists often get asked to write on behalf of corporate businesses – we produce blogs, we ghost write articles, all sorts of stuff like that. When it goes right, it’s great. When it goes wrong it’s ugly, and so often it’s because the brief has been unclear or misinterpreted. Here are five things that have gone wrong, either recently or longer ago.

  • A company hired me after reading one of my books, praised it in an OTT manner and then complained when my work didn’t match their corporate style or appear to come from their agency. Guys, if you tell me you like my style, I’m probably going to deliver copy written in it – you gave me the impression that was what you wanted.
  • A client of a client complained of a magazine article I’d ghost written that my use of chatty language was inappropriate for a professional document. Yes it was, but this was a magazine article, not a professional document at all.
  • A client briefed me to write a book about a company. The lead contact had to leave the room during the initial briefing at which I poured out my ideas to the PR company, who appeared to accept all of my thoughts. After drafting, the lead contact complained that it was off the brief – in other words all of the amendments we’d made during the meeting had either not been communicated upwards or not been accepted. Nobody had told me.
  • A PR client once called me in for a briefing with her client and I went away and wrote. The PR person then complained that I’d simply written from the brief and the interview. This was over a decade ago and I still have no idea what else I was expected to do.
  • A client once had me writing and just after we’d agreed terms and signed a contract she slipped in a load of Excel spreadsheets that needed formatting – my copy would then be put into them. I’ve never claimed to be an Excel expert or artist, words are my game – she claimed (wrongly) that the Excel requirement had been in the initial scope, and that every journalist would be able to handle such an assignment. It is possible that every other journalist could, but I doubt it.

It’s about communication and ensuring everyone is agreed on style and required outputs early on. If you need help with your corporate writing I’m running a course in London with the Henshall Centre on sharpening your writing skills on 16 July; details are here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *