My current job title is Senior Associate of Marketing Strategy and Analysis currently working at [redacted] consulting. And it has been nine years since I graduated from college.
Great. And how long have you worked in this field?
In the field of marketing I’ve been working since I graduated. Here at the government services. I’ve been working for three months now.
Oh, great. Okay. And could you tell me first, just a brief overview of what the organization does, and then a description of your primary job functions?
Sure. So the organization is divided into both a public sector, which is the government side that I work on and private sector, commercial, media, and communications. So my job specifically is working with government clients, specifically with NIH, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, working on a communications project for them. So we are government contractor hired by different government agencies to perform a variety of tasks. They range from technology, communications, marketing development, so anything and everything that we could do for the government we work on.
Great, okay. And and in terms of your specific job description, how, how does that play out?
So my specific job description is working with marketing strategies. So I am basically brought in to develop marketing plans and strategy to get the word out, for whatever the project or goal is, of the government client. So I do a lot of writing in communications plans, and even writing for tactics, and basically managing the project from start to finish. So building the plan all the way to all the little nitty gritty day to day stuff, and then finishing out with metrics and analysis of how our campaigns performed.
Wonderful. And could you estimate in an average week, what percentage of your job requires writing?
I would say, during the week, a good, huh…if we’re counting everything from like, email communications to like writing of what’s going out to the public?
I would say like a good 50% of my job is writing.
Great. Okay, wonderful. Could–you mentioned a couple of those things–could you tell me more about sort of the forms or types of documents that you most often write?
So, on the strategy side, most of the forms that I’m writing are like developmental plans. So very high level overview, giving executive summaries, doing strategic analysis on the project or the client, and then diving in deeper and looking at specific tactics and how we want things to perform. So it’s a lot of like research and translating that into a Word document that my internal team can use, but also something that the client can refer back to. So it’s like a lot of project briefs, and communications plans. And then the other side of the writing is actually writing for the communications that are going out, whether it’s like emails or social media posts, or video scripts. So some of the high level and some of the day to day, and then sprinkled in there are just the daily communications and like emailing with the client, and then emailing like internally with the team.
That makes a lot of sense. When you’re thinking about this content, just to clarify, like if you’re writing social media posts for a client or writing a video script, who is the ultimate audience for those pieces of writing?
So the usual audience for people that are viewing the video or receiving the email are the general public that are subscribed to receive information from NIH. So for example, the emails go out to a blast of health information subscribers within that network. So they have opted in to receive that. The videos, for example, or social media are more of a broad audience, not necessarily somebody that’s subscribed, but someone that just falls into the net of, you’re interested in a health topic or you might be in the network of somebody that’s interested in health or practices in health and see a video that they shared on their page from us.
Got it. And, and let’s look at that–if we think about that social media again–what is the primary purpose usually of that kind of communication?
So our primary purpose for social media is really to build awareness and to get shares. We want to get the word out for our messages, specifically for highlighting something that’s going on in the health world, or if there’s like a new resource that’s available, we want people to take that resource and use it, and also share it with their networks. So that can be downloading a resource and posting it in a doctor’s office. Or, say you have a friend that’s suffering from a disease that we just released an article about, and you want to share that information with them? I would say those are our primary goals to build awareness and get those shares and likes out there.
Great. Could you take maybe a specific recent project or, or even a type of project and and talk a little bit about the process start to finish, sort of how that task comes to you any planning, drafting revision, sort of the whole, the whole process?
Sure. So one of the projects that I manage and work on are the Health Awareness Months for my specific branch of NIH. And what this is, is every month for the different branches in NIH, they feature a disease or something that research is being done on. So diabetes is a big one. Diabetes month is coming up–that is in November. So from start to finish, when we receive this project, we know when it’s happening, so kind of start to build our timelines. And then from there, we want to establish what our goal is for this month. Do we want to build awareness for the general public? Do we want to have partners engaging? Do we just want to get the word out there and have people use this for the month [indecipherable]. So we have a big kickoff meeting to establish what our goals and our objectives are. And then from there, we begin writing our communications plans and diving into the specific tactics and strategy for how we want to accomplish the goals. So once we’ve kind of laid that groundwork, and everyone’s on the same page, we can go into the day to day execution, to get the tactics out to hopefully bring us back analytics and metrics that hopefully are meeting our goals and exceeding them. Then, yeah and then from there, we do a big wrap up, where we create this report, again, more writing that dives into what was successful, what we learned from this campaign, giving a summary of just what our awareness month was. And anybody could use that. So we want to write that in a way that our internal teams can reference, other people at NIH can reference, whether you had your hands in the project or not.
Oh, interesting. And so when you’re writing that, that wrap up report, is that a collaborative piece? Or are you the the specific person who writes it?
It’s a very collaborative piece, because there’s so many different elements and tactics that go into a campaign. So we have people from our digital team, for example, that ran social media, writing their portion, saying which posts performed the best. And then we have somebody that worked on the video, for example. So she’s writing what her findings were in creating that and we have email blast people that are tracking how many opens and clicks. So a lot of the more quantitative and like tactical information is coming from those teams, whereas I’m looking at it from a strategic level to see what worked best, what we might want to do again, and like did this strategy–was it successful for the campaign.
I see. And so are you are sort of–do you give those individual specialists feedback on the writing that goes into this report?
I do, in I guess my own way, we’re very much like in the digital age. So sometimes it’s a conversation, but usually, it’s like within a Word document we use, like track changes if we want to, you know, make sure we’re positioning something in the right way. For example, like, if a campaign–or sorry, if a tactic in a campaign didn’t perform that well, we want to make sure we’re positioning it in a way that makes it seem like you know, we’re learning from what we did, it wasn’t a complete failure, there was still some sort of success, trying to find the positive in it. So a big part of my job is making sure that we are spinning things like the right way. Where somebody who’s very much like a specialist and in the weeds is looking at it as like strictly numbers. So yes, that is a–that is a part to kind of review how the overall report is developed and like sent out to clients.
I see. And so it sounds like, in addition to this being a really sort of important informative document, you’re also in some ways, sort of justifying the work that was done even when it wasn’t 100% successful?
Okay, that’s really interesting. How did you–this is sort of a broader question, but how did you know how to do this kind of writing?
So this is something that I learned at my previous job. Like, as I mentioned, I’ve been working in the public sector now for just three months. But before that, I was an in-house marketing strategy person. So I worked in the private sector. And my last company was definitely one of those very fast paced, learn a lot really quickly. And a big part of our training in my last company–and a big part of our job was the client relation part and how to speak to a client, how to write to a client. So I’m starting to bring that skill level over here to where I am, because it is part of an experience, having that relationship with, you know, a contractor that you have hired, that’s not an employee of the company you’re at. So at my last job, we went through boot camps with our owner on how to approach situations, difficult or easy, and if you’re caught in a situation where you don’t know how to give an answer, you are–we were trained and taught how to handle those. So while, of course, we never want to lie or tell like a false truth, there is a way of spinning it that makes it look positive, or we have learned from something or this is–there is a brighter side to what we did. And I think that clients become really receptive to that experience, rather than like, we tried this, and it didn’t work. So yeah, that was a big part of, of my last job was was how to interact with with clients.
That’s great. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Um, has there ever been a time in your career that you felt unprepared as a writer?
Yeah, 100%. Um, I was not a writer in college. My degree is in Information Science. So things that I was writing were code and those types of things. We didn’t write papers in my, in my major. So when I got into marketing, I quickly realized that a lot of it is writing, whether it’s writing plans or writing, like actual text that’s going out into the world. So I have definitely faced some difficult times with, I guess you would call it writer’s block, a writer would call it–that just not knowing where to start or how do you structure something or make it concise and clear to whoever is reading it. So I’ve been lucky to always work with a real copywriter and collaborate with them. But there are times where the copywriter’s not available and something’s got to get out. So I will write it and it could be either, you know, bouncing ideas off of a copywriter. I google things for templates and structure, just to figure it, figure it out that way. Sometimes, it’s just getting words on a paper and then having somebody else look at it, getting another set of eyes. So those are kind of some of the ways that I try to tackle my difficulties with writing because I’m not a writer.
Well, you clearly are, but you don’t feel that way. I understand. Yeah, that’s really interesting. Um, so we talked about how you oversee writing of other people. Is there anyone who oversees your writing?
Um, I do always share something that I’ve written with either a copywriter when they have time or my manager. And usually my manager is not also a devoted copywriter, you know, or like, that’s what their background is. But I will say once you’ve been in a field for however long like, for example, my manager here has been working here for quite some time, understands the nuances of writing for health. You start to develop that skill, and you can tell if a tone is right or wrong. Or are we taking this, you know, approaching this at the right angle? Is it too wordy? So I always do have somebody look at it, whether it’s somebody in content strategy, or it is my manager who’s usually the same position that I am, in just with more experience.
That makes sense that makes sense. This will obviously vary significantly from project to project. But how long would you say you typically have to complete maybe one of your more substantial writing projects?
Well, that’s a good question. Since everything is always, always last minute. I would say with the bigger projects, which are usually like writing a marketing plan, anywhere from like, two to four weeks. Usually it’s on like the two week side. But ideally, yeah, it would fall somewhere, somewhere between then if we get our timing right.
Okay. Um, and this asks you to now look back a little bit at college. You mentioned you were an Information Sciences. person? Yeah, so what kind of writing do you remember being asked to create as a student? You said code? For sure.
Yes. So I was an Information Science major with a business minor. So there was a little bit of writing, but from what I remember, it was writing in my like, English 101 class that you have to take. And on the business side, the biggest thing I remember writing was a business plan. But other than that, I was not a student that was in classes where I was writing term papers or thesis or anything like that. It was usually very, like, technical. So I would say, aside from like, the basic 101 that everybody has to take, the biggest writing piece that I had was a business plan to complete my minor part of my degree.
I see. And thinking about that business plan, or the writing that you did in that sort of first year writing class in English 101, are there ways that you think your college writing prepared you for the work you do now? Or does it feel really separate, really unrelated?
Um, I think, I think it’s a little bit of both. I think like, the English 101 definitely gave me like the foundation to, like, construct a sentence and a idea from start to finish. But I think that writing the business plan really helped me with the type of work I do today. So a little bit of both, I think the–you know, the 101 type stuff, just help me sound intelligent and be able to formulate a sentence. But the business plan, especially working in marketing, and in like business, really gave me like the, the structure of, this is where you have to start. And this is where you have to do the middle. And this is what you have to do, in the end, not necessarily like the grammatical part of my writing.
Are there things that would have been useful for you to do or to learn in college to prepare you?
Oh, um, I’m–trying to…let me think, things that would have been useful. I think writing for like, every day type of communications would have been useful, because you’re not writing papers, for example, when you’re in the working world, at least not in my profession, not in like, I’m not in a research type of profession. So I think that kind of some of those day to day communications and how to write for people in layman’s terms, like, when I’m talking about digital media, for example, I might be speaking to somebody that has never worked with that, or has heard of it for the first time. So I think in like, yes, the day to day communications, it would have been helpful to have some sort of background on that, but also learning how to speak to an audience that you have to pretend like they don’t know anything about what you’re talking about.
That’s really interesting. Yeah, yeah. Um, could you talk a little bit about what is at stake in your writing?
Um, I think that being an expert in what you’re writing in is really what’s important. I feel like if you develop a piece, and it sounds like you don’t know what you’re talking about, if there’s typos, if statistics aren’t right, if your strategy is all over the place, it doesn’t make sense. That’s really like what’s at stake for me. For me, I was hired to be an expert in my field. And if I can’t write and communicate in a way that shows that, then, you know, my level of like expertise is starting to be questioned. And with a client contractor relationship, building trust is really important. And if they feel like they’re speaking to somebody that doesn’t get them, doesn’t understand what they do, that can cause a lot of problems. So when I’m writing what’s at stake is just really like making sure that my clients trust me, I’m getting my point across clearly. And it’s making sense. I hope that answers that question.
It absolutely does. Absolutely. That makes perfect sense, yeah. Um, what would you say is the most difficult thing about writing in your field or in your specific position?
Hmm. Difficult. For me, what I find difficulty in is writing the communications to go to the public. They’re very specific, they have to be written with a certain tone. And you–there is like a element of being an expert in that field. For example, I work a lot with like diabetes work now. So the way that you talk about it has to be really specific, like you can’t contract this disease, it’s something that develops within your body. So using like those types of keywords, I, it’s something that you’d have to just learn over experience and over time, so I find it difficult to get it right the first time with those types of communications. Whereas on the other end, more of the planning type things I feel a lot more confident in and don’t have as much difficulty in that. Sometimes it just takes me a while to like, get to work and get something out that would be going to the general public.
Sure. That makes sense. I mean, this, you’re an expert in your field, but then it’s like you’re expected to be an expert in this other–totally other area.
Um, has anyone helped you during your, the course of your career with your writing?
In a sense of like, outside of the working world, or within, like, within working?
With working, but honestly, either. Yeah, since graduating from college, if you’ve gotten any sort of formal or informal help with your writing, if you could talk about that.
I haven’t gotten any formal help as far as like certification classes, or anything like that. Everything has been pretty much from my own experience. But I think I mentioned earlier, we did do like boot camps, like within the company, that were hosted by the owner of the company, to learn about writing styles, and how to communicate on a client relation level with a contractor. So while it wasn’t like very formal, it was some sort of training that has kind of like, set me up for how I write today.
Excellent. Yeah. And in addition to that, or I guess, taking that into consideration, could you talk a little bit about how you think you’ve evolved or improved as a writer over the course of your career?
I would say I think I’ve like evolved as a writer, just because I have to do it, it’s part of my daily job. And it’s, it’s a big part of what I have to do. So just practicing and doing it every day. I think it’s really helped me to become better at it. I feel like when I first started working, it was definitely more of like an execution type role where not a lot of writing was involved, it was more like you get a task, and you get it done and out the door. But now that I’ve kind of moved on to a different level, more senior levels, it is a lot more about the strategic thinking and planning. So I’ve had to learn how to write. And that’s kind of how I feel like I’ve evolved, and I feel like it’s just going to continue in that direction.
Right. Um, thanks. Excellent. To what extent do you think writing is valued in your organization?
Um, I think that writing is–I think it’s very valuable, especially because you’re working with a client and like outside source. It’s not something internal, and you have communications that are going out to hundreds of thousands of millions of people. So your reach is a lot more than if you were just working within a small team, and you’re only emailing amongst each other. So I would say writing is a is a really big, big component of what we do here. We are–I’m working on a communications project. So it’s huge.
Excellent. And our last little question or set of questions here: How did you define successful writing as a student versus successful writing now? And would you say that you are a successful workplace writer?
As a student, I guess every student defines their success through their grades. But I will say that as a student my skill level or skill set within technical, math classes and science classes, not in writing. But I would say, you know, I was definitely like an average student when it came to English type literature. But now, because I’m not doing math problems and I am having to write, my success level is definitely a lot higher than when I was in school. I would say that I’m a successful writer, I feel that, especially with communications with the client, writing emails and things like that, I feel very confident. I’ve heard from reviews that I’m doing well, in that sense, and even writing for things for the public. Like, I don’t feel like I would have been able to do that many, many years ago as quickly and as well as I do it now. So if I had to say if I was successful or not in writing in the workplace, I would say that I am.