Home » MBJ FEATURE » TODD SMITH — Poor writing skills costing brands billions each year

TODD SMITH — Poor writing skills costing brands billions each year



Clear communication is an essential skill for any brand, but what’s shocking is how much time and money businesses spend each year to bring employees up to a basic proficiency level.

Writing seems to be one of the skills requiring the most remedial training.

A study from CollegeBoard, a panel established by the National Commission on Writing, indicates that blue chip businesses are spending as much as $3.1 billion on remedial writing training – annually. Of this budget, $2.9 billion was spent on current employees – not new hires.

Poor writing training

It appears that even a college degree doesn’t seem to save businesses from the effects of poor writing skills.

A report from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills notes that according to employers, 26.2 percent of college students had deficient writing skills. What’s more – employers said more than one-fourth of college graduates were not only poor writers, but also lacked proper communication skills across the board.

College students admit their writing proficiency was poor, too. The 2011 book Academically Adrift, which followed more than 2,300 students through college, found only 50 percent of seniors felt that their writing skills had improved over the course of their four-year education.

In a modern workplace that requires employees to send daily emails, to write reports, to present at meetings – how can businesses spot weak writers early on?

Employers are already being proactive about weeding out poor writers from the hiring process. The CollegeBoard data showed that 50 percent of respondents take writing into consideration when hiring professional staff and 80 percent of corporations with employment growth potential assess writing during hiring.

One of the first places poor writing skills can be spotted is within the resume and cover letter. For those who do make the cut, some employers are asking potential new hires to complete a writing exercise during the interviewing process to evaluate writing skills before an offer is made.

For current employees whose writing skills need work–training still seems to be the answer. While expensive, most companies can’t afford writing errors that can cost them business in the long run.

How YouTube is shaping the Presidential election

YouTube is increasingly shaping the presidential election. From the 2008 election cycle – that brought us Sarah Palin sound bites and the “Obama girl, the world’s most popular video site has proven even more powerful than political campaigns ever imagined.

Earlier this year, a political ad – actually, three – ranked among YouTube’s 10 most-watched ads for the first time in history, delivering millions more views to campaigns than to the best ads corporate America had to offer.

And in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the streaming giant’s open pool of reserved ad time did something it had never done – It sold out, a sign that candidates yearned so deeply to reach voters’ cell phones that they wanted to snatch up every YouTube second money could buy.

With its 1 billion viewers and cultural omnipresence, Google now offers campaigns a breadth no hometown TV network can match.

YouTube staffs two advertising teams, for Republicans and Democrats, led by veteran political operatives and staffed with former campaign workers who will often travel to candidates’ headquarters to improve ad campaigns and seal deals. The company would not say how large those teams are, but said they were similar in size to YouTube teams working with Fortune 500 conglomerates.

Web video’s wide-open nature has changed how candidates choose to extol their moments of triumph.

It has allowed campaigns to test out angles that could pack greater punch than on TV. During the holidays, Cruz’s camp shared a YouTube parody ad — with books such as “How Obamacare Stole Christmas” and “The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails” – that became its most popular spot yet, with nearly 2 million views.

Campaigns frustrated with Trump’s cable-TV dominance have even turned to their own YouTube channels for unlimited airtime on friendly turf. In one Cruz YouTube spot, kids play with a Trump action figure whose powers include pretending to be a Republican.

But YouTube has also given the race a flare and
urgency perfectly attuned to what Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert this month called modern politics’ “reality-TV voyeurism.” What came first: The colorful, excitable chaos of our electoral spectacle – or  the technology precisely coded to stream, share and multiply it across the globe?

YouTube’s greatest power may not be its ability to entertain fans, but in reaching voters who least expect it. Kevin Lepore, a 28-year-old analyst living outside Chicago, was scrolling through his phone one morning on the train ride to work when he stopped abruptly on Sanders’ “America” ad and, surprising himself, started tearing up.

Periscope notches 200 million broadcasts in year 1

Periscope recently celebrated its one-year anniversary by revisiting some of the broadcasts that have been on the service. It’s been quite an active 12 months!

Periscope has gone from being a startup to being acquired by Twitter to rising to prominence within Twitter’s ranks as a major pillar of the company’s efforts to gain momentum.

To highlight how much potential Periscope has, Twitter revealed that 200 million broadcasts have been hosted within the app, 100 million of which were created in just the past three months alone. In addition, 110 years worth of live video is watched per day across Periscope’s iOS and Android apps, which represent a 91 percent increase from last August.

Twitter has placed a lot of weight on Periscope, especially as it focuses its vision around live events. In an interview with Bloomberg, CEO Jack Dorsey stated that his company’s role in the world “still centers around bringing people together to watch live events in the place where information comes the fastest.” And to show how important a role he believes Periscope will play in Twitter’s future, in February Dorsey elevated the head of the live streaming video service to his executive team.

In the past year, Periscope has accomplished a lot. It quickly launched on iOS and Android devices and is viewable on the Web. It became one of the first apps to debut on the Apple TV. New features have been rapidly added to the service, such as landscape support, web profiles, the ability to skip ahead in replays, GoPro video support, and viewing streams within tweets.

The race to become the top live streaming app is on, with Facebook doubling down on the same big opportunity that Twitter sees. But Twitter isn’t just fighting for video supremacy – it’s looking for a way to save itself, and it’s hoping Periscope can keep them way above the water and ahead of the competition!

Short-circuited mic | Trump continues unbelievable gaffes

It appalls The Spin Cycle that in a continuous waterfall of gaffes that would drown most politicians, Donald Trump continues to tread water. His latest bombastic, vitriolic tirades may just sink his campaign.

Trump is facing his toughest test after a week in which he veered into a series of unexpected controversies and – for a change – seemed to struggle in his response. His parade of missteps on issues ranging from national security to abortion has left the Republican front-runner wading through his roughest patch yet on the campaign trail.

It began when his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with simple battery in connection with an incident involving a female reporter. Trump’s denial that his aide did anything wrong and his decision to attack Lewandowski’s accuser during a town hall raised new questions about his attitude towards women.

Trump then set off an even more intense firestorm – and bipartisan anger – when he suggested women who had an abortion should be punished if the procedure were outlawed. He then changed his line several times on an issue that is viewed as a deeply personal litmus test by many conservatives. Last Friday, he again reversed course, telling CBS’s “Face the Nation” that federal laws should not be changed to outlaw the procedure. Whoa! The Spin Cycle hasn’t been this confused since the Benghazi lies and Emailgate! For that, the Donald gets a Short-circuited Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


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