While it may not necessarily be reflected here at ShazzerSpeak, I have been earning my living by writing in one form or another for more years than I care to count.
Among other things, I’ve worked as a journalist for a number of newspapers and radio stations, as a staff writer and publicist for a major university in the United States, and as a freelance writer for numerous business and lifestyle publications. Granted, it’s not always the most creatively fulfilling kind of writing to do, but it pays the bills and I’m pretty good at it.
One of my main responsibilities in my current job is to create and manage content for our company’s intranet site, but occasionally I am called upon to write about our firm for an external publication. Lately my department has been working with a local PR company (let’s call them “Acme PR”) to try to get our products mentioned more often in Swedish news media and business publications, and last week Acme PR asked me to write an article (in English) for a trade magazine. Fine and dandy.
But the project quickly became the Assignment from Hellwhen I discovered that:
1) the angle, focus and sources for the article were determined at a meeting where I was not present
2) there were no editorial guidelines from the trade magazine other than a word count, and no one even had a recent issue I could look at before starting
3) two of the four sources were interviewed by Acme PR, and last but not least:
4) the notes from the meeting where the idea for the article was “hatched” AND the transcript of the two interviews that I didn’t get to conduct were provided to me IN SWEDISH.
Now I don’t think you need to be a communications professional to realize what a bass-ackwards way this is to go about writing an article.´
But wait, it gets even better! As I dive into this mismash of material in two different languages to try to piece together a coherent story for this magazine that I only know the name of, it becomes evident from the interviews Acme PR conducted with the client and the other source (let’s call it “3rd Party Inc.”), that the article they are expecting only involves my company in a peripheral way. WTF?!!!
So I go to one of my colleagues who actually attended the original meeting and had the following exchange:
Shazz: “Why am I being asked to write a case study article for a trade magazine about 3rd Party Inc.?”
Allegedly More Informed Colleague: “You’re not. The article should be about the solution our company provided to the client in partnership with 3rd Party Inc.”
Shazz: “That sounds reasonable, but based on the material I have to work with, I think Acme PR and the magazine are expecting an article on 3rd Party Inc., and last time I checked, I don’t work for any of them.”
After a little additional input from her and and lot of cussing from me, I eventually produced an article focused on the solution our company provided to the client in partnership with 3rd Party Inc. It was FAR from my best work, but my Allegedly More Informed Colleague thought the finished product was spot-on. So I sent it on to Acme PR.
The next day, Acme PR kicked it back to me with the following suggestion about the section on 3rd Party Inc.:
“We think this part of the text is key to the overall case study and should be placed at the beginning of the article…framing the whole story.”
I was livid. Seriously, I was so angry that couldn’t even respond to their suggestion. In fact, I was too mad to even say I “TOLD YOU SO” to my Allegedly More Informed Colleague, who was left with the task of informing Acme PR that any changes to the article would have to be made by them. Or by the magazine. Or by 3rd Party Inc. Because MY job was DONE.