Ministry of Prose: making words work for your business

One in a semi-regular series of ponderings, musings and contemplations on the interaction of words and psychology in business.

A new year's resolution of sorts

December 2015

Just a short one for the end of 2015.

The first few years of any new business are supposed to be hard. There's a struggle to win clients, generate revenue and make a profit. Many businesses don't break even until their third year. Some never do.

So I've been fortunate with Ministry of Prose. It was profitable within six months and has remained so ever since. I've earned - and more importantly learned - more than I'd expected and planned for by this stage of the business's life.

That's because there's a strong commercial demand for good writing. Words are everywhere, but words that can reach people and guide their thought processes are much harder to find. They are consequently much more expensive.

But the ability to influence people comes at a price: responsibility. Anyone working in marketing, advertising and PR owes it to themselves to be aware of what they're doing and why. Who's the target audience, what's the goal, what does the customer gain? And, more importantly, what do they lose?

The work I've done to date has been pretty 'clean' in this respect. I haven't helped corporations sell tooth-rotting, diabetes-inducing sugar water to kids, or cancer-causing tobacco products to adults.

Still, I'm wary of all attempts to manipulate people into buying things that they didn't know they needed. The psychology is far more complex than it might appear, and the effects on individuals are rarely positive in the long run. This industry may help drive economic growth, but it doesn't do much for happiness.

So one of my goals for 2016 is to concentrate on ethical writing work that makes a positive difference to people's lives, whilst simultaneously generating enough revenue to live on. Wish me luck.

Alex Cruickshank has been a professional writer since 1994 and is curious about what will happen next.

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