Our next writer profile features a graduate of SRU’s public relations program who also minored in English Writing within the English department. As we have seen, this sharing of students among programs in both the English and Communications department has been fairly common over the years, and I am thinking that the historical reasons explaining why the programs are in separate departments (and colleges) should be the subject of a future post.
When I first began corresponding with the subject she listed her position as “Marketing/Brand Manager in Product Development” for an industrial and construction supplies company that has grown rapidly in recent years. In fact, this company now has “over 2300 stores” and 13 distribution centers, doing business in all 50 states and several countries on three continents. Despite the economic downturn, the firm opened 161 new stores in 2008 and had net earnings in the 4th quarter 11% higher than for the same quarter in 2007. E-mails in November gave her job title as “Product Development Project Manager,” while those by the time she completed answers to the interview questions had added “Regional Promotions Advisor.” An e-mail on January 28 informed me “I took over a new position which takes up 80% of my time, then my old job 20% of a time. It has been trying to work on a schedule that makes everyone happy! It has been a crazy couple of weeks.”
During both a November phone call and in subsequent e-mails, the subject came across as happy about her career so far and enthusiastic about her employer, for which she had worked since her graduation in 2002. She had begun in Pittsburgh but moved to the company’s headquarters, located in a small city in the southeast corner of Minnesota, in 2004. “The company I work for … believes in doing all marketing/writing … internally. That opened up a huge opportunity considering I majored in PR with a minor in Professional Writing. [The minor is just in Writing, although students can obviously focus more on courses in either the professional or the creative area, dependent on their preferences.] I felt and still feel very confident in my background knowledge and education from SRU.”
Although the subject had checked on the survey that she did “write on concerns you have or issues you confront as a citizen of your locality, state, or nation,” there was no mention of writing outside of the job in our subsequent correspondence. Again, the need to simply have some distant subjects respond to the interview questions via e-mail made it difficult to follow up on omissions in their answers before the time for data-gathering ran out. The subject was, on the other hand, most generous in supplying a variety of written materials. These included a trade magazine aimed at “End Users” such as a manufacturer or construction company, for which she served as “Editor in Chief.” “This is a publication that I headed up and wrote most [of] the articles. I also worked with vendors and other internal people to gather information, photos, etc. It was a fun project.” (E-mail of January 29, 2009) Sample articles from the Spring 2008 issue included an editorial on the benefits for customers of her company’s in-house training courses for employees, and a discussion of new Department of Transportation standards for high-visibility apparel and equipment. The article’s intent is summed up in this sentence: “A 2002 American Economics Group report concluded that if the public and private sectors spent at least $3 billion annually for a range of 32 safety improvements (including outfitting all roadway workers with high-visibility safety apparel), we could avoid 66 roadside fatalities and nearly 5,000 roadside accidents per year.” The “Hi Vis” piece was bylined by the CEO of an apparent vendor and a contributing editor, which suggests the subject both assigned and edited articles for the magazine. The software she used was Adobe In Design. “First we started with Quark which soon became outdated. … Our graphics team is wonderful.”
Other samples included a “line card” for safety gear, aimed at “targeted end user[s] as well as our sales force” and a company “exclusive brands booklet” for internal use. “I am currently working on a smaller version that will target our end users.” Other materials were the company’s 2007 safety equipment catalog, a newsletter for employees concerning a “target market initiative,” dated May, 2005, two recently produced product description sheets for safety gear, a redemption form for product promotion, and advertising posters for several equipment products.
Her two primary audiences are internal sales people and “end users,” which appeared to influence her style choices to some extent. The subject consciously avoids “slang terms” except in the magazine, which is “supposed to more laid back.” She also mentions an attempt by her and her group to break away from what the context suggests are linguistic conventions inherent to the culture of the company for which she works. “I just hate overusing the same words, incomplete sentences, run-on sentences. … I hate inconsistencies—for example, certain words being capitalized then other[s] are not, etc. That drives me nuts!” When preparing material she seeks “good layout and clear graphics” and avoids “talking in circles or redundant messages. … I always remember who our audience is and sometimes saying to [sic] much is confusing.”