From crime to corporate communications

Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Interview with Phillipa Martin

Portrait of Phillipa Martin
Phillipa Martin

Corporate writer Phillipa Martin (PD Martin to readers of her crime writing) shares some insights into working in corporate communications.

Are there similarities in the way you approach professional writing and creative writing?

The short answer is yes! When you break it down, it’s all about communication — whether it’s a story and character arc or an article on reducing debt, a writer is trying to communicate information clearly. It’s easy when you start creative writing to go off on tangents and I had that trained out of me from my corporate gigs. I also try to bring the professional approach to my creative writing and I think that’s invaluable. When you have a writing project to do, whether it’s website copy, a media release or a marketing brochure, you can’t wait for the muse to strike. You have deadlines and you simply have to meet them. I think that helped me enormously when I suddenly had book two due at my publishers!

How do you prevent professional writing using up all your creative juices?

Even though there are some similarities between professional writing and creative writing, there are also loads of differences so it does feel like it’s tapping into a different creativity or a different area of your creative drive. When I was working under contract in professional writing, I also separated out my time. Monday-Wednesday I’d work in the corporate world and Thursday and Friday (and half of Saturday) were days for my book. I was lucky enough to find part-time work so I could always give my creative writing dedicated time rather than having to squeeze it in at night.

What are some qualities a writer needs to break into professional writing?

In terms of the craft side of things, I’d say the ability to communicate clearly, attention to detail, and a knowledge of the different types of communication formats and the styles they should be written in. For example, press releases follow very specific conventions in terms of writing style and format; and those conventions are very different to writing web copy or a marketing brochure.

What kinds of opportunities exist in Australia for professional writers?

All of the really big corporations and government departments have marketing communication departments. In addition, most medium-sized businesses would employ someone, even if part-time, to handle all of their communications too. Smaller businesses that understand the value of getting a professional to do the job right usually hire freelance writers to draft their marketing brochures, website copy, etc. And with the prevalence of social networking sites, many companies are employing content specialists to write posts and even write blogs. It’s a big market, although getting your foot in the door can sometimes be tough.

What’s the first step in cracking into the market?

The first step is up-skilling (getting the knowledge about different formats and then getting experience writing in those different styles).

About Phillipa Martin

Phillipa Martin (PD Martin) is the author of five crime fiction novels. Prior to becoming an author she worked in the field of corporate writing and editing for over 15 years, writing award-winning copy for brochures, newsletters, websites, training CD-ROMs, flyers, ads, media releases and magazines. Some of her clients and employers include BHP Billiton, AXA, Genesys/Garrisons and the University of Melbourne.