Telling stories

Magazine editor gone? Newspaper folded? Maybe it’s time to try corporate copywriting

Posted by southwrite on November 2, 2009

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I once thought of myself as purely a journalist.  I worked for newspapers and magazines doing the kinds of stories that journalists and reporters typically do. If you’re like me when you began freelancing you had a very different idea about the shape of your writing career. It was all about magazines and newspapers and real journalism.

That was the old days. My career began to shift in a different direction a few years ago and the decline (and even disappearance of many publications) has only accelerated that change.

Most of my work these days is for corporations – with a little freelance journalism throw in for variety. I never really thought of myself as a corporate copywriter or aspired to be one, but these days that is where the work is to be found. And, that’s the point of this post. As the traditional media has withered and shed writers, reporters, editors and even freelancers, the writing needs of companies and corporations of all types have increased.

Why work for corporate clients?

Corporate copywriting is a large and growing market. We talk about the Fortune 1000 and the many smaller companies that make use of marketing and public relations materials. They need content producers because they are very much content factories.

Corporations need people who can write in many different mediums. That’s because their marketing and public relations departments produce many kinds of materials. These include not just the familiar press release, but white papers, feature articles for internal and external publications, case studies, video scripts, books such as corporate histories and executive biographies, ghost written articles for national and industries publications, technical manuals, employee newsletters, web content. Just about anything you can think of and probably quite a bit more.

The needs of corporate marketing and public relations is driven by the economy and another important factor. Downsizing has hit internal marketing departments just as it has every other part of the company. They’re producing the same amount of content, but with fewer people. The thinking is why keep content providers in the office when their work can be outsourced to freelancers at much lower cost and risk.

How to find them

The secret to landing corporate clients – as with any job – is networking. You need to get to know corporate communicators so that they think of you when they have too much on their plate.

How to find them? First, think of what industry verticals interest you. Search the web to learn as much as possible about the company, their product, and their competition. Be selective in the companies you approach. If you’re active in the peace movement maybe Blackwater or Halliburton wouldn’t be a good choice for you.

Marketing direct

Pitch the marketing or media relations director with mailings including work samples that are relevant to their industry. This works best with those you have already made contact with in some other way.

You can also make contact face to face by attending professional gathering and organizational meeting. Corporate communicators are usually members of organizations such as IABC, PRSA, and industry specific meetings. If you’re located in a major city the local chapter will usually have monthly meetings that you can attend as a guest. These organizations usually have independent or freelance sections that can give you a base of operations for becoming involved in the organization.

Who do you know?

Do you know people who know corporate communicators? Is your neighbor an account executive for a major corporation? They could provide an introduction.

There are other, less direct paths to corporate freelancing. Does the magazine you write for also have a custom publishing arm? Working for an outsourced company magazine gives you an opportunity to get to know the company.

Do you write for trade journals that publish articles by company executives? In most cases these articles are ghosted by someone else. Let the editor know you would like a referral to the company that placed the article. That helps both you and the editors by assuring them of a well written piece they can use.

Finally, the skills you’ve acquired pitching stories to newspapers and magazines can be quite useful in reaching out to potential corporate clients. In fact, all the skills you’ve honed as a freelancer will come in handy as you expand your client base in this direction.

2 Responses to “Magazine editor gone? Newspaper folded? Maybe it’s time to try corporate copywriting”

  1. Stacy said

    Thanks for sharing the tips. Things have changed a lot in recent years for traditional newspaper and magazine journalist. Everyone still wants a great story, but the delivery is a lot different.

    • southwrite said

      Indeed it has and not entirely for the better. The downside is that as traditional journalism declines it is being replaced by public relations. Critics like to think journalists are biased — and there is some of that — but just wait until most of your news is no longer vetted and investigated.

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