Interviews with Marketing ProfessionalsWriter's Web
by Tim Stone and Chris Lilly, Writing Consultants
(printable version here)

The following is from a Question and Answer session with Nancy Ridgeway, marketing professor at the Robins School of Business:

Can you outline the importance of good writing for successful marketing?

"To be successful in marketing, all of your communications are extremely important. They must catch the attention of the reader, be rather short and be easy and fun to read. In marketing, we are generally dealing with our publics, i.e., consumers, the government, stockholders, business clients, etc. When appealing to consumers (which is mostly what marketing writing is about, you have to be very careful that you know your consumers well, so that the text is specifically for them. This is called knowing your target market or segment."

How is writing for marketing different from other academic writing or general business writing?

"Marketing writing is different in its point of view. It is generally not only trying to inform but to steer opinion or liking toward a particular product or service (in your case, the service is the writing website). The writing must appeal to the target segment and must be what they expect it to be. The only way to figure this out is by doing research on the target segment (i.e., the users of the website) and find out what they would like to see, what is missing, how things should be worded, etc."

Are visual aids important to marketing writing?

"Visual aids are very important in marketing writing. It is often said in marketing that visuals are almost as important as the words that go with them. In marketing communications, visuals can tell a story and visuals are easier to process than a lot of words—you have heard the saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words.' In marketing, it is true."

What do your students typically struggle with most when it comes to writing?

"My students are generally poor writers. First, their writing is often illegible. Second, their spelling is quite bad. Third, their grammar needs a lot of work. They seem very unconcerned about these weaknesses and are very perturbed if a professor in the business school grades a paper taking spelling and grammar into account."

Do they face some challenges more often than others or are any that they face particularly formidable?

"I think that their writing is challenged every day as they turn in article summaries almost each day in my classes. I allow them to bullet point part of their answers to make it easier for them."

Are there specific techniques or formats that are specific to marketing?

"All formats are used in the business school and in marketing. For example, for my students' final project, they first turn in an outline (most do not know standard outline format, so I must illustrate that). Then, they turn in the paper itself. At least the paper is typed, but they do not bother with spell check before turning in the paper. I think that marketing writing can take many forms, but I think that using bullet points is an easy way for consumers to receive information."

How crucial has social media become to marketing and how important is writing in that venue?

"Social media has become extremely important in marketing. Almost every company uses social media. The problem lies in measuring the impact of social media. In other words, companies ask questions like: did I get what I paid for?, how can I tell if my customers read what I put on social media?, and many other questions. Writing is crucial to social media. Many firms

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