National Storytelling Week: careers with words

With a celebration of stories on the horizon, here’s the low-down on how to make a career out of words.

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Digital copywriters produce the written content for webpages, either working in an employed position or as a freelancer.

Over the past 25 years The Society For Storytelling has been on a mission to promote the oral tradition of storytelling - the very first way of communicating life experiences and the creative imagination.

2019 marks the 19th year of its Annual National Storytelling Week, which takes place in storytelling clubs, theatres, museums, schools, hospitals, spoken word venues, and care homes - where the event has been steadily growing each year.

Whereever the events take place, a web of stories is spun: National Storytelling Week – taking place from 26th January in 2019 - is celebrated by people of all ages, enjoying everything from folktales to fairy tales.

Stories and words aren’t just entertainment though, they’re also a great way to make a living if you have the right skills and find a career path that suits them.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career that involves working with words, read on to find out more about the various sectors, job roles and apprenticeships you could explore.

Careers in media

The media is an extremely broad industry – from print and online, to radio, television and the big screen – and as such there are myriad roles available within it.  

A role in radio could mean researching, writing, presenting or even producing, as well as the more technical side of recording and post-production. On the film and documentary side of things, there are jobs in directing, producing, presenting and commissioning.  

Print media careers could involve news reporting at local newspapers or writing for and national publications, as well as B2B (business or trade) magazines and specialist magazines, as well as selling advertising space in print publications and writing advertorial pieces.

Online journalists could be reporters, doing much the same job as print journalists – researching and writing stories, interviewing people – but with the responsibility of uploading stories online through the website’s CMS (content management system).  Alternatively, you might focus your efforts solely on the copywriting side of things..

Depending on the size of the website, there are a number of different roles you could pursue, including: web editor, reporter, deputy editor, sub-editor, assistant editor, staff writer and copywriter.

If the website is smaller or more specified to just one topic, one person could take on all the roles. You’ll need to have a good understanding of web development to do this though, as well as having the journalistic expertise to bring readers to the site.

SEO specialists – search engine optimisation specialists – make sure a website’s content comes up when someone searches for it online. They are responsible for managing all SEO activities such as content strategy, link building and keyword strategy (keywords are the terms that internet users search for), driving traffic to the website. These experts will execute tests, collect and analyse data, identifying trends and insights, producing reports and forming strategy based on the results.

Media apprenticeships

Digital media apprenticeships: school leavers could do an Advanced Apprenticeship (Level 3) in roles like web coordinator or digital assistant, or a Higher Apprenticeship (Level 4) – for those with a better set of UCAS points – in roles like online community manager and user experience coordinator.

There are also Advanced Apprenticeships in roles like On an Advanced Apprenticeship you could train in roles like: social media assistant, social media analyst, digital account assistant, digital marketing assistant and digital communications officer.

A recent advert for a social media and content writing apprenticeship, for example, shows how roles in this field would have plenty of responsibilities involving writing.  It specified the job and person specification

The role:

  • Managing content and performance across a range of social media accounts
  • Writing copy and uploading content onto websites and social media channels
  • Producing and uploading video content
  • Blog writing
  • Writing, designing and producing e-newsletters via Mailchimp / Campaign monitor
  • Managing social media advertising
  • Creating images and graphics
  • Attending client meetings

Experience and skills required for this role:

  • Sound knowledge of social media and use of it
  • Capable of producing accurate grammatically correct correspondence, good spelling and punctuation
  • Basic photography and video
  • Basic design eg, Photoshop or Indesign
  • Reliable and committed
  • Good time management
  • Creativity and lots of ideas
  • Enthusiasm and can-do attitude

There’s plenty in an apprenticeship like this for people who are skilful with and enjoy words, as well as great training, career progression and prospects.

SEO specialists – search engine optimisation specialists – make sure a website’s content comes up when someone searches for it online. They are responsible for managing all SEO activities such as content strategy, link building and keyword strategy (keywords are the terms that internet users search for), driving traffic to the website. These experts will execute tests, collect and analyse data, identifying trends and insights, producing reports and forming strategy based on the results.

Journalism apprenticeships

The world of journalism is (as you would imagine) a cut-throat and highly competitive one! Hard-nosed journos tend to respect hands on experience and proven interest in the field far more than academic achievement, so an apprenticeship really could set you way apart from the crowd, as well as giving you the practical tools – such as shorthand and news reporting skills – that most graduates will only start thinking about when they enter the job market.

Responsibilities could include:

Researching news stories
 Writing leads and news stories

- Photo sourcing

- Reporting from events

Training could include:

- Advanced Apprenticeship in Journalism

- Diploma in Journalism Practice

- Shorthand

- Media law

- Public affairs

- Sub-editing

- Reporting and court reporting

Our feature, Interview with a Journalism Apprentice gives an inside view on the benefits of doing a journalism apprenticeship. By the time she was just 21, Mollie Goodfellow had already worked at the Evening Standard and at a national newspaper, the Independent. But she didn’t go to university or slave away in an internship, Mollie is paid for her work and being trained at the same time: she’s a journalism apprentice. The apprenticeship, developed by the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) involves tuition in all core aspects of newspaper journalism, as well as paid work at prestigious media outlets such as BBC Radio and The Independent.

We chatted with Mollie about her experience, and found out what it’s really like to jump in at the deep end of a journalism career.

The apprenticeship, developed by the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) involves tuition in all core aspects of newspaper journalism, as well as paid work at prestigious media outlets such as BBC Radio and The Independent.

We chatted with Mollie about her experience, and found out what it’s really like to jump in at the deep end of a journalism career. It’s well worth checking out if this is a job you’re interested in pursuing.

Advertising careers

Companies who want to advertise their products or initiatives will often go to an advertising agency for help. The agency then conducts research, plans and creates adverts on their behalf. Advertising agencies use a variety of different media (TV, radio, billboards, websites or viral campaigns, for example) to persuade an audience to buy things or take certain actions. Many advertising agencies offer an integrated advertising service while some smaller agencies specialise in niche areas, such as digital or online advertising.

On the other side of advertising are creative teams and people working in art direction and copywriting. Creative teams dream up the ‘big ideas’, then art directors and copywriters put them all into action. Typically, the creative team will work closely with the account handlers and planners. They will be presented with the problem or brief and be tasked with coming up with an imaginative solution.

The next step involves working closely with the art director and copywriters to turn this solution into life. Art directors are responsible for directing the look, feel and design of the proposed advert. Copywriters, meanwhile, are in charge of the words: coming up with scripts, slogans and other persuasive bits of text.

Copywriting careers

Digital copywriters produce the written content for webpages, either working in an employed position or as a freelancer.

Your job will be to engage the reader and motivate them to do something, such as buy a product or service. You may also write copy designed to convey valuable information about a brand, industry or issue. You may also be known as a digital content writer.

As a digital copywriter, you'll need to:

  • liaise with clients - from set-up to completion, you'll be checking in with the client regularly, either by phone, email or face-to-face
  • carry out project scoping and create a clear brief, in order to ensure you understand what the client wants
  • tailor the content and style of individual writing assignments according to their purpose - whether they are intended to sell or inform
  • understand your target audience - you're not writing for the client, you're writing for their readers, so you'll need to know what interests them
  • identify key messages - understand the main thing that you want the reader to feel and do and how to communicate this powerfully
  • work with creative teams to ensure that the visual elements of the webpage complement the words
  • research your client's industry and their audience
  • identify fresh and interesting angles for your articles
  • write for web pages, blogs and potentially for social media, e-books, slogans, and video script
  • edit your own and others' writing
  • provide other digital content, such as images and video, if required
  • input your content to the client's content management software (CMS), if required
  • work with your team to review the impact of your work
  • assist with business pitches to win new clients or projects.

Copywriting apprenticeships

A recent copywriting apprenticeship advertisement stated: 

“This is a great opportunity for an ambitious individual to join a fast paced, growing PR and Marketing Company. The right candidate must be passionate about progressing their career in the PR & Marketing sector and will have the opportunity to progress their career and work closely within a small team.

The individual will be involved in PR & Marketing work with numerous clients internationally, the business works with high profile magazines such as Cosmopolitan and celebrities.

The main roles and responsibilities of this position include:

  • Assisting both the Director and PR Manager Creating and writing content for various product press releases
  • Creating content for product descriptions/packaging
  • Copy for magazines, newspapers and various other outlets
  • Managing the website, social media accounts and blog content
  • Helping to organise/plan events such as trade shows, press launches and product launches
  • Creating and distributing press releases
  • Liaising with journalists to organise features and deal with requests
  • Managing company contacts whilst creating own contacts
  • Regularly meet with journalists to build relations and pitch products
  • To attend trade shows and press launches (possibly overseas)

Another great pathway into a career using writing, via an apprenticeship.

Scriptwriting careers

When it comes to getting into this industry, demonstrating your writing ability is everything. You can study specific courses to learn the trade and hone your skills, but the best thing to do is to just get typing. As with anything, the more you do it, the more you improve. If you’re looking to become a writer of some sort and don’t have any pieces to show for it, you’re in trouble. A portfolio is essential for getting your foot in the door.

The universal demand for well-written and expressive content means that tons of career opportunities are available within this line of work. Scriptwriting is obviously a big one. Whether it’s EastEnders, Peep Show, an MTV awards ceremony or a blockbuster movie, there is always a team of people behind the scenes, dreaming up the lines and coming up with the gags, rousing speeches and plotlines that drive the shows.

Scriptwriters will also usually be surrounded by a team of proofreaders and script consultants that provide feedback on a script’s viability. Furthermore, you might get the chance to work as a ‘script doctor’. These are the individuals that effectively edit and improve a scriptwriter’s pieces.

 

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