Ministry of Prose: making words work for your business

Here's the informal stuff: frequently asked questions, "About us" and that kind of thing. We'll add more entries here over time, as we think of them and as people ask us about them.

Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and read on...

What can you write?
Strange name for a business!
Isn't this just PR / marketing / advertising in another guise?
Are you Content Marketing Specialists?
How does the process work?
What do you charge?
What about confidentiality and security?
Who's behind this?
Who works for you?
Who are your previous clients?
You spelt 'authorised' wrong! And 'spelt'!
Is this science?
Is this evil?
Do you do your own research?
Do words really matter so much?
What a bland website design!
Where are you based?
I have another question...

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What can you write?

Pretty much anything. Seriously. As mentioned on our homepage, we can help you wherever words are required. Company reports, websites, media interaction, marketing material, white papers, etc., etc., etc.

Just ask.

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Strange name for a business!

Yes, that's so you don't forget it. The human mind is more likely to notice and retain information that stands out from the background noise. We could have called ourselves something like "Business Words" or "Writing for Business" but that wouldn't have been as effective. And "effective" is what we're all about.

Also, although we're not a government ministry or a ministry of religion, you could perhaps say we're religiously expounding the values of good business prose...

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Isn't this just PR / marketing / advertising in another guise?

No, although those three sectors do use psychology in their written material (at least, they should). But they do so mostly from gut instinct: good PRs, marketing people and advertising execs will have built up some psychological knowledge through experience. They might not call it that: they'll just know that some things work and some don't.

That's great as far as it goes. But we're coming at this from the other direction. We're looking at how the human mind processes written information, what triggers particular responses and behaviour. Then we trace back to create prose that has the desired effect.

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Are you Content Marketing Specialists?

'Content Specialist' and 'Content Marketing Specialist' are fancy terms for a professional writer working in the PR industry. Such job titles have become popular recently, due to Google's increasingly effective attempts to prevent PR people boosting their clients' search engine rankings using what Google considers to be nefarious means (including some types of keyword-laden link-building).

A lot has been written about these changes to Google's algorithm, with many PR people crying foul. We have some sympathy with this viewpoint, but the situation seems unlikely to change. Google's stance could perhaps be summarised as "Tough: if you write good content, we'll index it."

Hence the new demand for Content Specialists / Content Marketing Specialists.

It's been said that this year's Content Marketing Specialist is last year's Social Media Consultant in slightly shinier shoes. If you listen carefully you'll hear the frantic clicking of ten thousand LinkedIn profiles being hurriedly updated to take advantage of this new requirement for good quality content.

But we've been writing good quality content for twenty years. We started writing professionally when most of today's newly-rebranded Content Marketing Specialists were still at school.

So no: we're not Content Marketing Specialists. We can do content marketing for you, but we can do a whole lot more besides.

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How does the process work?

Usually like this: we'll talk through your requirements by email and phone / Skype, to understand exactly what you need. We'll ask you questions about the target audience of the words we are to write for you, your own perception of your company and how you'd like it to be perceived, what you're trying to achieve through prose, and the specifications of the finished document(s) such as word-count, structure, file format, etc.

Then we'll go away and write. We'll come back to you with a draft, or perhaps more than one: sometimes it helps to offer two or more drafts, each in a different tone, so you can decide which one best suits your company.

Finally we'll take your feedback, go away and polish your prose until it gleams.

We'll do all of this as quickly as we can, though without rushing (because that's how mistakes are made). Time is money, and we're used to working to deadlines.

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What do you charge?

We charge by the hour, not the word, because some jobs require a significant amount of discussion and thought before and during the actual writing stage. We'll provide a written estimate of time and cost once we fully understand your requirements.

For some clients we can work on a monthly retainer basis instead of an hourly rate. Again, this is something we can discuss when we know your requirements.

We need to eat, of course, but we make sure our work is affordable and our words provide excellent value for money for our clients: it's in our interest to do so, because we want you to use us again and again.

And we think you will, because well-written, well-targeted prose can make a huge difference to your organisation's revenues.

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What about confidentiality and security?

The words we write for you represent your competitive advantage. You don't want those words finding their way into the wrong hands. We've worked for government departments (with full security clearance) and large & small corporations, so we understand the need to keep your information secure and confidential.

We use secure Linux systems and open source encryption software to the highest available standards. If you request it, every communication between you and us can be encrypted. Your files are always encrypted on our work machines and with current technology it would take longer than the age of the known universe to crack the encryption and gain access. We can also sign client confidentiality agreements and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

However, nothing is perfect and quantum cryptographic hacking techniques are probably less than a decade away. We do our very best: that's all we can do.

You should also bear in mind that if you store your own data on a machine connected to the Internet, the US National Spying Agency probably already has a copy of it.

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Who's behind this?

Ministry of Prose is owned by me: Alex Cruickshank. I'm a native English speaker who's made a career out of writing. More than three million of my words have been published in magazines, newspapers, white papers, press releases and on numerous successful websites including my own.

I have degrees in Psychology and Physics/Astrophysics, with a deep interest in the human mind and all things technical and scientific.

Writing and psychology are two of my passions. I've been writing since I could hold a pen, and writing for money since I was 23, for magazines, newspapers, corporations and government departments. I also launched, built up and eventually sold an IT-related website that generated money from words. I couldn't stop writing if I tried.

Psychology has fascinated me ever since the BBC's "The Mind Machine" offered me the first glimpses into the underlying machinery of the human brain. In the late 1990s I used some of my knowledge to launch and run a not-for-profit website dealing with mental health, which made life more bearable for tens of thousands of people suffering from clinical depression. I use psychology every day, in all sorts of ways.

Nearly 20 years ago I wrote an article about the newly-formed world-wide web, entitled "Content is king." I watched it bounce around the internet for over a decade, always with the central message intact. It was true then and it's true now, both online and offline. Content is king.

Words may be cheap, but the right words are priceless. The combination of good writing and cognitive psychology is unbeatable for delivering high quality business prose.

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Who works for you?

Ministry of Prose has an international network of experienced native-English-speaking writers on call. I've known most of them for 15 years or more and I've worked with them all during that time. They're the best in their field.

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Who are your previous clients?

Over the past 20 years I've personally written business prose for organisations including HP, Panasonic, Microsoft, Lexmark, the UK government (two separate ministerial departments), countless smaller businesses, Independent Newspaper Group, Future Publishing, Ziff-Davis, Dennis Publishing, Incisive Media and many others.

The writers who work for Ministry of Prose all have their own extensive lists of past clients. The Ministry of Prose company name may be new, but we're all highly experienced business writers.

Right now we're writing for several companies around the globe, including two international clients with market caps of well over a billion US dollars each, and one in the 200 million US dollar range. We're also writing for smaller, privately owned businesses, both locally and internationally. We can provide links to some of our work for these companies on request.

It doesn't matter how big or small your business happens to be. We can make our words work for you.

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You spelt 'authorised' wrong! And 'spelt'!

English isn't one language. Different countries have different idioms and different methods of spelling the same words: color/colour, plow/plough, authorized/authorised and so on. We can adjust our spelling to suit the target audience of the words we write for you.

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Is this science?

Partly, though there's some art to it too. When I first became interested in psychology in the mid-1980s, there was a considerable amount of hand-waving and not a great deal of hard, quantitative evidence. That's changed in the past decade or so, and psychological research is now more likely to be based on numbers than qualitative emotional experiences.

I like the feel of good numbers from solid quantitative research, but qualitative research still has its place, particularly where words are concerned, because words are inextricably linked to emotions.

The majority of psychological research is still carried out on psychology undergraduates, because they're readily available to university-based psychology researchers (which, in itself, tells you a great deal about the human mind). That doesn't necessarily scale well to the rest of the population. And brain scans don't always tell you what you think they might.

Still, psychology is an exciting discipline and becoming more so. Our knowledge of the human mental condition is improving all the time.

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Is this evil?

No. We use written words, not subliminal imagery or concealed audio messages or sensory deprivation or hypnotism or anything like that. Consumers and readers retain their choice. We wouldn't work under any conditions where that wasn't the case.

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Do you do your own research?

Unfortunately, fMRI scanners are unaffordable for anyone other than hospitals and a few universities with deep pockets. However, the information we require is already out there in other forms. It just needs to be gathered and looked at in new ways. That's what we do.

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Do words really matter so much?

Prose is fundamental to the success of any organisation, yet some businesspeople don't realise it:

"We went to school, didn't we? We can write, right? After all, it's just words."

Just words?
Just a gateway into the minds of others?
Just the finest means of communication available?
Just the written expression of exquisitely complex mental processes?
Just a subtle form of influence more powerful than anything yet devised?

How do you expect to influence anyone if your written material can't attract and hold their attention? Basic prose won't do it. You must tap into their world-view and offer something of value.

You can't afford to get this wrong, because your competitors know that powerful prose works. So we'll help you get it right. We'll take on your writing tasks, putting all our knowledge and experience into delivering words that work for your business.

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What a bland website design!

Thanks! But you're still here, so perhaps it's serving its purpose. Humans are easily distracted, which is just one reason why advertising works. We don't need distractions on this site: we want you to read and understand our intention, which is to make words work for your business.

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Where are you based?

Online. We have writers in the UK, New Zealand, Canada and other English-speaking countries. We create high quality business prose for organisations anywhere in the world.

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I have another question...

Please, get in touch and ask: words@ministryofprose.com

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