People who know how to write well for digital media — websites, intranets, social media, blogs, e-newsletters — have amazing career opportunities.
Today when you write for work, you need to understand 'digital'. Digital technology is a game-changer for writers and communicators.
People who write for work must know how to:
When I grew up I had four besties. Together we were just like Blyton’s Famous Five. Sure, we didn’t roam the countryside solving mysteries and capturing villains. Golly gosh no! But we did freely roam our cul-de-sac for hours enjoying jolly adventures — at least until dinner time.
After university, we all dispersed into very different jobs — one into journalism, one into strategic planning, one into advertising, one into corporate comms, and I moved from solicitor to information designer.
But in the last five years or so, something funny has happened: all our job descriptions are starting to look the same. Disciplines are merging. My friends and I are doing similar tasks and use the same skillsets.
Attracting and retaining talented staff is a major problem for companies. Last year’s report by recruitment firm Ortus shows that HR worldwide struggles to retain staff, and headhunting is rife.
This report (many like others) pinpoints career development as the greatest incentive for leaving an organisation. So that’s a top reason for offering targeted training to new staff and others.
Training staff in modern writing skills has never been easier.
Will the problems of digital illiteracy shrink as new generations of staff move through the workforce? I was asked this question yet again this morning at my daughter's baby shower. (Clearly, there's no escape!)
No, the problems won't shrink, because people are people. The problems will just keep changing. That's why training general staff in digital writing skills needs to be business as usual, not a one-off project.
Consider Ollie (62), Holly (42) and Polly (22). Their work backgrounds may be different, but they all have ICT challenges, and consequently they all generate accessibility barriers for the public and for their workmates.
Olly, Holly and Polly are all floundering in the digital work environment. They're intelligent and good at their jobs, but their proper concerns are with policy, HR and office supplies—not with writing for the Web. They have never even been introduced to business English or the proper use of MS Word, let alone information theory. So every day, they unwittingly wreck the web team's efforts to make all content accessible.
So when Lachlan Forster (born 1 January 2012) starts work, will he intuitively create accessible content? It's a lovely idea, but it's just wishful thinking.
P.S. Digital illiteracy is a big problem, bigger than most people dare to acknowledge. But Alice and I do have a solution.
Lachlan Forster, the first baby in the world born in 2012. Photo (c) Dean Kovanic, Fairfax