John Malcolm of wordwork and JDM Marketing has spent over 30 years in business-to-business marketing and copywriting. Here are some of his personal career highlights:
My editorial instincts first emerged at school, where I was volunteered to lick the annual magazine into shape. The content was exceedingly raw schoolboy humour but I relished the challenge. My predecessor as magazine editor was an idealistic young Bob Dylan fan called Jim Naughtie - where is he now, I wonder?
After graduating with an MA Hons in English at the University of Aberdeen, I went into industrial marketing and found myself producing a monthly newsletter for customers in the construction industry.
This was a modest publication (pre-internet), but included product information, company news, special offers and profiles of company personalities. An early example of what is today called “content marketing”!
Having taken the plunge into self-employment in 1987 as JDM Marketing, I continued producing regular newsletters but also expanded into larger publications with greater in-depth features.
Two full-colour A3 newspapers stand out in the memory. I researched, wrote and laid out The Point, a lively promotional newspaper produced for Grampian Initiative. This was a successful private/public sector partnership with four industry-specific task forces set up to balance the regional economy in the wake of the 1986 oil and gas slump. Perhaps now ripe for resuscitation, thirty years on?
Another promotional newspaper which I wrote and edited was Focus on Farquhar, a review of UK and European construction projects which used prefabricated components manufactured by the RB Farquhar Group. Also produced in the pre-internet era, Focus on Farquhar had a massive print run and distribution – larger than “The Scotsman” newspaper at the time.
Working on these high-quality publications honed my sub-editing skills in particular, and I greatly enjoyed producing in-depth articles with a strong narrative and sense of personality.
For a number of years, I wrote and edited a monthly Exportlink newsletter for Scottish Enterprise, Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce and the local North-east councils.
This was a rapid-response publication, flagging up trade missions and export opportunities, and it enjoyed strong support and appreciation from the local export community.
But eventually print deadlines could no longer match the immediacy of the web, so Exportlink went on-line and I was charged with writing web content, editing the website and issuing regular e-newsletters.
In the early noughties, this proved an excellent opportunity to master early web Content Management Systems (CMS) and apply Search Engine Optimisation writing techniques. There weren’t many e-newsletters ten years ago!
In 2007, I started writing and editing 24/7, the in-house magazine for international oil and gas engineering contractor Subsea 7.
The objective of the publication was to highlight areas of strong performance across the company’s global operations, not only in its projects but also in its many support functions, including technology development, training, safety management and community involvement.
24/7 was widely read and appreciated across the company, with many diverse subjects volunteered for inclusion by the in-country communications teams. From a stylistic point of view, the articles were heavily personalised – stories from the coal-face told by people who work there.
Working on 24/7 for eight years was hugely satisfying, especially when we profiled some of the many unsung heroes in the company. You can view a selection of articles from 24/7, the Subsea 7 in-house magazine, here.
Building on my experience
Writing and editing are still daily pleasures for me, and, to my delight, have turned out to be skills which continue to improve with experience. I have shared thoughts and ideas with dozens of clients, with many of whom I maintain a friendly, mutually respectful professional relationship.
In my personal experience, the best clients know what they don't know, and don't try to reinvent the wheel (take a bow, engineers!). They are happy to leave me to work on their marketing and PR material while they get on with business.
Whether you call it “content marketing” or “corporate communications”, what I do is essentially very simple: engage the reader, keep the story simple and positive, and make sure it sends the right messages.
Click here to view a selection of my copywriting work for business clients.