First up, an admission: writers obviously do still exist. This article was written by me, a person, rather than some kind of sentient content writing machine hellbent on our destruction. No, until the inevitable day when we are forced to bow down before our robot overlords, writers WILL continue to be a thing.
What I actually mean by that slightly clickbaity headline is that the days of a content marketing agency – or clients – employing people solely to create content are well and truly behind us. Or at least, they should be. It’s simply not enough to write an article then leave all the other stuff to account managers, or strategists, or anyone else for that matter.
Why us writers have to do more
Back when I first joined Axonn (which, on the day I started writing this article, was exactly SIX YEARS AGO), I didn’t even know what content marketing was. That’s not necessarily because I was terrible at my job; in my defence, not many people had heard of content marketing back in the heady summer of 2009, and fewer still could actually define it. Beyond the occasional meeting or conference call, pretty much all I had to do was write and sub.
If a week is a long time in politics, then six years is, ummm, also a long time in content marketing. What I mean with this skillful bit of wordplay is that the marketing landscape has changed dramatically. It’s no longer a viable strategy to churn out a load of articles filled to the brim with ugly-sounding keywords (literally no one has ever used the phrase “cheap hotels London” in regular speech) – people won’t want to read it, and Google’s search spiders will crawl right on by with nary a sideways glance.
All of which means that a content writer now needs to possess many more strings to their bow. In fact, they have to use a different sort of bow altogether, and the target they’re aiming at has moved too. And the archery referee (I think that’s what they’re called) has changed the rules of the contest, but won’t tell you exactly how. Anyway, you get my point.
Doing things differently: The dawn of the T-shaped writer
Once upon a time, not even that long ago actually, Axonn’s writers did writing, and our graphics team made graphics, and our client relations team spoke to clients… you probably get the picture. Essentially, we had a lot of silos – great for a company in the grain storage or missile launching games, but not so suitable for a dynamic, creative content marketing agency.
That’s why, as writers, we’ve had to become more well-rounded – or T-shaped, if you prefer – than ever before. Now, if we want some simple but unique visuals to complement a blog or feature, it makes far more sense to do it ourselves (after all, it doesn’t take a degree in graphic design to create really effective imagery using tools like Canva). If we want to measure the performance of that blog post, it’s quicker and easier to take a peek at Google Analytics than to ask our data insights team to do it for us. Need some crucial information from a client? There’s nothing stopping us writers from picking up the phone.
And there are plenty of ways for writers to add value in areas we had little – or no – contact with in years gone by. Sales proposals; setting goals and KPIs for client campaigns; carrying out keyword research; plotting strategies; as writers, we have an important role to play in all of these key tasks. Just as importantly, we should want to do our bit; after all, we want to do the best possible job for our clients, and we want to improve as content marketers too.
Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t still room to specialise. There will always be a need for experts in any given field; while I may be able to turn my hand to a wide range of tasks beyond writing, I’m never going to possess the visual abilities of a graphic designer, or the analytical mind of a data insights specialist.
And that’s a good thing too – we don’t want a team of identikit marketers, all approaching projects in exactly the same way. After all, to quote renowned content marketing experts Groove Armada: “If everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other.”