This is a common lament among agencies and corporations. It’s not a new issue. Folks have been wringing their hands about the loss of writing skills for YEARS. Heck, I remember hearing about it when I entered the workforce in 1996.
However, I think there are a few new factors that really point to a significant shortage of quality writers in our market — and it’s a trend I fear may become worse before it gets better.
#1: Journalism jobs continue to disappear.
What does this have to do with PR/communications, you say? A number of these journalists go on to become PR counselors later in life (John Reinan — who then went BACK to the journalism side recently, and Gregg Litman are just two examples locally here in Minneapolis). So yeah, the fact that journalism jobs are drying up will impact the writing world. Wait though, won’t this trend actually help produce more writers if all these journalists are losing their jobs? Not in the long term. As journalism jobs dry up, fewer people pursue journalism degrees (would you want YOUR kids to go to J-School right now?). Looking toward the future, these people may opt for entirely different careers — and we’ll lose out on a whole generation of would-be writers.
#2: More people from comms/marketing backgrounds going into social media marketing and digital marketing.
It’s no secret that digital and social media jobs are plentiful these days. I get emails from friends and colleagues all the time looking for people with skill sets in these areas. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I got an email from an agency colleague looking for someone with “great media relations skills.” Literally, I can’t remember. So, I think we’ll continue to see more people with PR/comms backgrounds morph into these digital roles. Think about people like Danny Olson, Greg Swan and Karl Pearson-Cater locally here in Minneapolis. And while those three still most likely do a ton of writing, the trend will still exist. Digital will gobble up more writing talent.
#3: More demand for visuals/art directors/designers.
It’s not secret that visuals have kinda taken over online marketing. Sure, writing is still important, but visual marketing is far more sexy. So, it probably won’t come as any surprise that we start seeing notes like this from Edward Boches of Mullen:
So, we’re on the decline. Many signals point toward that (including “laziness” — I didn’t include that above, but I think that’s at play here, too). What will the outcomes of that decline be?
First, big opportunities for those who actually CAN write, and love to do it. The written word is still awfully damn important. Brands and organizations know that. So, you’ll see these people in even MORE demand than they’re already in.
Second, I do think you’ll start to see the pendulum swing back a bit eventually. Visuals and tech are hot specialities now, sure. But, good writers are invariably good thinkers. And, good thinkers are worth every penny. The world runs on good thinkers — not good technologists or good designers (sorry design industry — please don’t hurt me!).
Third, huge opportunities for those in school or about to enter a post-secondary program. You know, I take a lot of shots at academia and its focus on a liberal arts education. But you know what? A solid liberal arts education is a perfect foundation for a writing path. And a writing path (not necessarily a writing “degree”) is going to be in demand. Now, it’ll be incumbent on these students in the years ahead to understand how to “merchandise” their skills with employers, but if you have that interest, love and skill in writing, man, I think you’re going to have a job for a very long time.
What do you think? Are writers really a dying breed?
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