Most of what I do is invisible. You won’t find it if you google me; it doesn’t bear my name.
And so most people don’t have a clue what I really do.
I started my working life as a journalist, first on newspapers and then on magazines, and went freelance more than two decades ago. As a journalist I specialised in writing about health, but specialising only gets you so far, and so I worked for publications that covered a range of topics, from parenting to plumbing – and literally everything in-between.
As the pure journalism dwindled and “content” became ubiquitous, I moved with it, and acquired titles that were more general – content writer, copywriter, or just writer. And that’s often how people think of me.
Can I write almost any kind of content? I can, and I have – with the exception of advertising copy. It’s just not my gift, and it doesn’t interest me in the least. I’ve edited and proofread it, though, along with all kinds of content, including books, brochures, and even academic theses.
But that’s still not what I do best. That’s still not the work that makes up my bread and butter, and keeps a bounce in my step – even though it informs much of what I do today, in concert with my training and experience.
“So what do you do?” I hear you ask. Let me try to explain.
At the highest level of some of South Africa’s largest companies, I review the content that agencies have produced for them. I cast a discreet eye over sensitive documents – strategies, presentations, internal change management documents, letters to the president, media and marketing material –communications at all levels, to all stakeholders.
And then I fix them.
Because here’s the unvarnished truth – the vast majority of people who work in corporate affairs, communications and marketing struggle to write. Or they don’t struggle to write, but finding time to write something properly is impossible. Or they’ve hired agencies to do the writing for them, but the agencies just aren’t getting it – they dash things off, they employ tired clichés, and they don’t take the time to understand the nuances and multiple threads that need to be knitted together in whatever communication needs to be produced.
Most often, they’re afraid to tell the truth. Just last week one of my clients asked me to keep an eye on a major announcement as it unfolded in the press and then compile a page of my own feedback. They employ a massive, well-known public relations company – whose work I have quietly fixed in the past when it didn’t quite meet the mark. But my client doesn’t fully buy in to their feedback. “They’ll tell us what they think we want to hear,” he said. “You’ll tell us the truth.”
When I reach out to people I want to work with, often they counter with, “We have agencies who write our content.” And that’s because they see me as another writer. And of course, I do write – but I offer so much more.
I make it my business to understand what you’re trying to achieve. I’ll tease out who you’re trying to reach, and make sure that those people are reached. I’ll consider how the unions might react, or what will make women or minority groups bristle. I’ll be perfectly honest if your spin is about as believable as the idea of an honest politician. In short, I’ll tell you where your communication or content falls short, why I think it does, and I’ll give you the words to make it better.
Or, if it’s writing you need, rather than review, I’ll help you to write that presentation or strategic document, the farewell to a trusted employee who’s retiring, your letter to the president, your company narrative – all of the things you don’t entrust to the agencies you use.
I’ll also give you honest feedback on the material those agencies produce – especially those going out to the media – and tweak them where necessary to ensure they’re newsworthy and as kind as possible to your reputation. As an added bonus, I’ll use my years of experience as an editor and proofreader to make sure the language, punctuation and spelling are all as they should be.
In a nutshell, I’m the secret weapon who can take all of the words that come out of your organisation and ensure not only that they’re consistent in tone and messaging, but that they work for your business, not against it.
But you don’t have to believe me: here’s some feedback I’ve received from people at the top of their game.
- “A trusted advisor.”
- “Mandy understands what we need, and she delivers it every time.”
- “Mandy provides additional capacity, expert skill and breathing room into my team.”
- “She brings huge experience and a calm head along with her professional writing skill. She is proficient and fast – we really rely on her.”
- “Quick turnaround with quality guaranteed. Valuable, timely feedback.”
- “Swift delivery and candid feedback.”
- “Speed without compromising quality. Technical ability with a human touch.”
Efficiency, honesty, simplicity, empathy – and the right words. My work might not show up on Google. It might not fit neatly into any kind of job title. It may be invisible to those reading or hearing the words. But this I know: it will have visible, positive results for your business.
And it starts with a simple email: email@example.com. Let’s have a chat – I’d love to help you too.