Writing is the most underrated skill in marketing communicationsBY NANNY ELIANA
As an employer and external consultant to editorial and marketing communications teams, I've had many firsthand opportunities to witness how writing standards have plummeted over the years.
Fresh marketing communications graduates join the workforce without the basic skills such as being able to accurately summarise longer texts, construct grammatically correct sentences, and the proper use of vocabulary, let alone communicate with focus and conviction.
I've witnessed how some diploma holders have gone on to acquire bachelor's degrees in communications and return to the workforce still not being able to write, making me wonder about the value of some of these public relations and marketing communications degrees.
With the popularity of social media platforms, the trend of truncated and distorted sentences and even whole conversations will continue and become more widespread particularly among the younger generation.
This is compounded by respectable publishers, writers and journalists sometimes resorting to dumbing down articles to cater to decreasing attention spans.
This of course makes it all the more difficult for marketing communications, public relations and advertising agencies as well as companies big and small to find good writing help.
Here are some tips that would help in hiring new PR or marketing help for the first time:
1. Is your candidate's first language English? Spend a little time talking to the candidate on the phone to have a better understanding of his or her grasp of the language.
2. Apart from relevant tertiary level qualifications, the candidate's early education often gives an indication of his or her strength in languages. The better they are at speaking and writing at a young age, the more likely they are to excel in communications-based careers.
Look out for literary and linguistic activities and subjects that he or she took in secondary school; taking English literature for 'O' and 'A' levels, representing the school on the debating team and drama club are usually good indicators of language skills.
3. Examine how the curriculum vitae (CV) is written. It should be concise and highlights salient milestones in education and career related to the position in question. Extensive experience in the editorial or public relations departments in established organisations are a must for more senior positions.
4. Always give a writing test, even if your candidate is a native speaker. This will help you separate the wheat from the chaff as many freelancers and even some writers from smaller publishing houses have had their work heavily edited before it was published.
Most established PR and publishing houses have an in-house writing and editing test, with more complex tests for positions requiring intensive editing work, but yours need not take very long.
There are plenty of online sources that you can derive inspiration from; for example you can extract an article from a credible magazine and ask the candidate in question to summarise it in 300 words, or ask the candidate to write a short article based on a series of pictures.
Ensure that you provide a comprehensive brief and remind the candidate to ask questions if they have any. Because such tests are random and spontaneous, it's impossible for the candidate to cheat, as long as the tests are done on the spot.