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Be a Conventional Writer With a Marketer’s Mindset

Why choose one, when you can be both


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Jhemmylrut Teng

3 years ago | 8 min read

Since I started writing on Medium last August, I have noticed that there’s seem friction between traditional writers and unconventional writers. And in my personal opinion, a cold war is unnecessary. Why choose one or be divided when you can be both.

I was a professional journalist; I wrote news for television, radio, print, and online. I am currently a regional corporate spokesperson for an energy grid company and do media relations consultations for different organizations.

By stating my background, I understand where these two factions are coming from, as I have been a traditional writer before. Now I help businesses sell their products through branding, storytelling, and public relations.

The Traditional Writers’ Point of View

Since high school, my life evolves in journalism. Even before I received my college diploma, I got a job on a television network. Since then, I have stayed in the media industry for over a decade. However, I have been shifting from one television station to another to avoid being stagnant.

When I was a junior reporter, I was very passionate about what I do. My professors ingrained in me that being a journalist, you are the voice of the oppressed, the government’s watchdog, and an agent to make a difference. So, the idealism in me was powerful.

Apart from principles and ethics, I was also taught proper structure, on-point grammar, and other writing and storytelling technicalities.

When I get into the industry, editors are harsh. They are not merely strict; they’re wicked. I remember how an editor destroyed my confidence in my first story draft. He didn’t give me comments nor make bloody corrections. He only skimmed it, then shredded my hard work.

With such brutal treatment, I learned not to be an onion skin. No wonder journalists have intimidating characters that sometimes, people find obnoxious. But we were trained to be one. If we are too soft, we cannot build a career in a dog-eat-dog industry.

Schooled writers aim for perfection

Ironically, even though it is a general knowledge that “nobody is perfect,” schooled writers aim for perfection. Perfection in writing technicalities such as grammar, structure, and story flow does matter big time.

Therefore, whenever they see contents that have a plethora of mistakes, they cringe. Some cannot even keep it to themselves, and they will comment horribly, almost making you feel you are the dumbest person in the world. In my case, if it’s English, I reserve my comments because it is my second language. But if the article or script is in my native tongue, I am brutal.

However, if an article has too many grammatical errors, I stop reading. Also, I don’t have much patience with a one-sentence paragraph. I feel like I am reading a compilation of tweets. It gives me the impression that the writer was too lazy to write, so I am also sluggish to reading their works. But it is just me. Some readers are into short-sentence contents because it is easy to read.

It’s passion, it’s the heart, it’s the artistry

Schooled writers typically believed that if your follow your heart and your passion, the money will comes. One day, people will notice and appreciate your work, and the right audience will soon find you.

This principle makes schooled writers more enduring in the right way because they have a deeper purpose. That even if the struggles are too real, we romanticize it, believing that it is part of the journey to success. Soon, even though we don’t know when our hard work will be paid off.

The inevitable challenge of being a too-schooled writer is you get to be too self-righteous and highly dependent on the rules. Unconsciously, you are unaware that you are boxed, and that’s hindering your growth. When you were taught the rules, you don’t want to break them because it will destroy your principles.

If this scenario sounds familiar? I feel you. Like I’ve said, I am a schooled writer too. The only difference is, I had enough of being just a conventional one. So, I jumped on the other side of the fence to see how the money works.

The Marketer’s Mindset

I quit journalism. Then, I entered the corporate world, where I had to learn business marketing, advertising, branding, and public relations. Besides, I already got a significant communication skill — writing.

When I entered corporate communications, I realized that my passion as a journalist was only a tool for businesspeople’s bigger goal —to earn a profit.

For them, passion is good, but profit is better.

For marketer’s, the imperfection sells

The “no one is perfect” do sell, a lot! It might be sound surprising, especially in the era of social media where filters and photoshop are simply just a click away. But the reality is, the audience these days was unlike the audience 50 years ago. Gone are the days that people are aiming for perfection. And even with all the available perfection tools that we can use, the public will find and dig out some flaws.

I will go back to the subject of grammar. The NPD Bookscan released that the bestselling book of the decade was Fifty Shades of Grey” by British author E L James. It sold 15.2 million copies following its release in late 2011. It had another boost in sales when the novel was adapted into a blockbuster movie.

When it was released, one of my journalist friends said:

“I read the entire book. It’s crap. It’s nothing but a Cinderella story with tons of sex. And the errors in grammar were too disturbing.”

It’s not just my friend who reacted like this, the Huffington Post and People.com noticed it too. From word repetitions to the abuse of punctuations, the grammar mistakes of the book were too evident. Still, the numbers don’t lie — it is the best-selling novel of the decade, with over 15 million earnings, and continuously selling.

So, why? The topic sells. The Cinderella story sells, sex sells and combined them with easy lexicons to read, you’re in for a sold-out. Basically, the book is not merely entertaining but also relevant and relatable.

A more personal example below is one of my highest earning stories here on Medium. It won The Collector’s writing competition last October, it got curated, and it went viral.

Uploaded by the author: The Lady School Teacher Who Silently Slayed 200 Japanese Forces in WWII

Let’s answer these questions:

  • Is the title of the article catchy? Yes.
  • Is the title understandable? Yes.
  • Is the title’s grammar correct? NO!

Grammar wise, the past tense of slay is “slew,” past participle is “slain,” third-person singular is “slays,” and its gerund is “slaying.” But the word “slayed,” albeit not an official word is much appealing, agreeable, and relatable.

Immediately, the readers are drawn because of the slang expression of slay it, girl!” And the fact that the story was a about a badass lady school teacher fits the bill.

According to the research of Catriona Silvey, Simon Kirby, and Kenneth Smith published in the Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal, words, terms, and languages do evolve paralleled to the evolution of the society and its culture.

Therefore, expressions such as “oh, my god” became “OMG” then transformed into “Big Yikes!” And those regency era words such as “handsomest” and “henceforth” in Jane Austen’s novels are now cringing, improper, and irrelevant to use.

That’s why people these days buy books with a not so subtle “fuck” on its title, which only shows they don’t give a fuck how perfect the grammar is.

“Language changes for several reasons. First, it changes because the needs of its speakers change. New technologies, new products, and new experiences require new words to refer to them clearly and efficiently.” — Linguistic Society of America

Today, it is not a battle of perfection anymore. It is a competition of who is more authentic and relatable. How to do this? Shows vulnerability. That what makes you and your product relevant to the public.

It’s passion, it’s the heart, it’s the artistry, but it’s also the money

In a digital platform such as Medium, everyone can be a writer. From the name itself, it’s a medium, a tool for everyone to express themselves. But unlike other social media, here you can earn money with your words.

When money is involved, competition is on. Therefore, here, it is not merely about passion, the heart, and the artistry — it’s also about the money. I bet many conventional writers might disagree with this statement, but I am honest here.

If you invested time, efforts, thoughts, and hard work on your story, wouldn’t you expect to have good returns? I bet you do.

“In any investment you expect to have fun and make money” — Michael Jordan

Earning money on something you love is not an embarrassment. So, admitting that I am writing here because I am making money is not a sin. Once you acknowledge that, you would comprehend which part of your writing needs improvement and which of your story would sell big and get a better following.

Profit is a good motivation, but it shouldn’t be the center focus of your goal because if this is your sole agenda, this platform is not the best avenue for that. So, I suggest finding your balance as a writer and as a marketer in this highly competitive platform.

Don’t Choose One, Be Both

There are no rules that you cannot be a good writer and an excellent marketer. Why choose one when you can be both.

If you are a passionate traditional writer, learn the business side of things. Acquire the strategies and tricks on how to market your stories through social media, SEO, and newsletters via email subscription. There are tons of tutorials and courses out there to learn the intricates of these strategies.

Also, don’t be scared to break some rules in writing. No one can relate to perfection. So, be flexible.

On the other hand, for the unconventional writers, even if you seem to nail the money-generating game. It is not an excuse not to improve your writing skills. There’s no excuse for a lousy writer, you may get away with it at first but never underestimate your audience as well. People can sense bullsh*t.

You owe it to your readers and followers to improve your technical skills in writing. Therefore, do learn from schooled writers.

Suppose you managed to achieve both — traditional writing skills and having a marketer’s mindset. Then, you are set for a much viable career in this field.

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Jhemmylrut Teng

Communications & PR Specialist | NZAid Fellow | MA Intl. Dev. | Ex Reporter for TV5 & Bloomberg TV-PH | Former Editor-in-Chief of the Philippine President | Toastmaster | Freelance Contributor | Storyteller of Life & Love


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