Wanted: Writers Who Also …

Employers aren’t asking their accountants to develop procurement expertise or build supply chain relationships … but they are asking their writers to branch out.

Just take a look at the online job boards and the growing number of openings for “writers who also.” Writers who also are social media experts. Writers who also possess HTML skills or content management proficiency. Writers who also are photographers and videographers.

The pervasiveness of “writers who also” jobs implies that employers no longer value writers as highly as they once did. In fact, I’m worried that more and more employers don’t really want writers at all. They want social media experts who also write … and HTML coders who also write … and graphic designers who also write. This trend is surely due in part to the economy, which has forced employers to pare down their workforces; they need people with wider skill sets. And it’s partly the result of how technology is reshaping corporate communications. But I don’t believe this fully explains the “writers who also” trend. I think good business writing simply isn’t valued appropriately anymore.

It’s a shame. Employers are overlooking the fact that effective writing helps to build reputations, converts prospects into buyers, influences journalists and the media, and aids in differentiating organizations in the marketplace. Poor writing, on the other hand, undermines all of these initiatives.

Believe me, I understand why employers need their writers to be savvy in the use of social media. And I can appreciate why they seek writers who double as designers. But employers who hire “writers who also” might ultimately be doing themselves a disservice. They’re devaluing the very skill sets they’re seeking. Instead of searching for the best talent in writing, social media, design, etc., they’re searching for a bargain.

Clearly, writers need to expand their skills to be attractive to today’s employers, who need to spend less to accomplish more. Even so, writers should be judged first and foremost by their writing chops for one simple reason: a good writer can learn social media acumen much more easily than a Twitter ace can learn to write compelling marketing copy or a solid press release.

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