Corporate writing is writing for business purposes. It’s not journalism, so if that’s what you’re looking for you might as well stop reading now. “You are writing to convey the values and goals of a company,” says Kristin Espeland, former director of corporate communications for The MONY Group. Specifically, what does that mean? Here are the main types of corporate writing:
Public relations or media relations:
This is anything written for the press. A press release, for example, is corporate writing. So is the content written for a company’s informational web site, whether it’s used by journalists or the public.
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Business communications are written for people who deal with the company, either internally or externally.
Business communications to the internal audience—that is, to employees—are things like newsletters, in-house magazines, company-wide memos, email updates and intranet sites. External business communications are geared toward shareholders, analysts or the public.
Examples of external business communications are annual reports and other financial statements, opinion pieces and policy statements. There are also speeches and presentations for both audiences that need to be written.
These are things written with the specific purpose of selling a product or service. They’re directed to the consumer or to a business customer. Brochures and other sales material (the stuff a salesperson leaves with a potential customer, for example) are examples of marketing material.
Still interested? We’ve got good news and bad news. Bad news first: Like anything good, corporate-writing gigs are tough to track down. “Each organization handles its writing projects differently,” says Ann Wylie, president of Wylie Communications, a writing, training and consulting firm for corporate communications.
“In order to see who is hiring for what, you have to go from company to company,” Wylie says. “And depending on the size of a business, a corporate-communications department might consist of anywhere from one person to a hundred people. There isn’t a designated job title to look for. Sometimes the writing is done in-house, sometimes it’s commissioned.”
Here are some suggestions from Wylie and Espeland on how to snag a corporate-writing gig:
1. Be a joiner
Become a member of a trade organization for business writers.
The biggest is the International Association of Business Communicators. Others include the Public Relations Society of America and the Association for Women in Communications.
Then attend seminars, luncheons and social events. “It’s a great way to get your name out there,” says Espeland. “A trade event is an appropriate environment for freelance writers to connect with people who hire.” Introduce yourself to everyone. Follow up with phone calls and letters describing your services. Try to set up face-to-face informational meetings or coffee dates. Sell. Sell! SELL!
2. Pick up the phone
Call businesses in your area and ask to speak with someone in corporate communications. If such a department does not exist, try another name, like public affairs, public relations, public information, marketing, marketing communications, public administration, human resources or community relations.
3. Try small companies
“One mistake people make is to go after the big guys,” says Wylie. “A small company has a small staff, and they simply cannot do everything themselves. My first gig was to write a book for a woman who was a public speaker. She was a one-person business. That one project was the jump start for my own business.”
4. But try big companies, too
All the big guys—names like Sprint, Procter & Gamble, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merrill Lynch—produce newsletters, magazines, press releases, financial reports and other documents. Someone has to write them—why not you?
5. Stick with topics you know
If your experience is at a business trade mag, say, go for financial and business-consulting firms. If you write about beauty, try skin-care, cosmetics and hair supply companies. If fitness is your thing, contact sports equipment and apparel manufacturers. “Sell yourself with writing samples on the related topic of the client,” advises Wylie. “Anything to show you are part of the club and you talk their language.”
6. Reach out to people in your circle
If you think about it, you probably already know someone who could hook you up. “Start your networking with professionals you have a history with,” says Wylie. “One person leads to the next in a series of concentric circles.” Don’t expect to land a project with everyone you speak with. You want to build relationships.
7. Sell your professional services professionally
“You want to demonstrate that you have business skills,” says Espeland. “We want to know that you can handle an interview with a top executive without wasting the person’s time.”
8. Present yourself as a quick study
“Someone who is smart and can pick things up fast is appealing,” says Espeland. “If I describe a balance sheet to a writer and she can turn around and write about it, that’s a good thing.”