Recession: gloom or boom for knowledge workers?

I have to confess I’ve been a little smug when reading about the thousands of auto workers laid off recently. Their union leaders’ insistence on top dollar for relatively low-skilled work made it inevitable that the struggling multinationals would move to lower-cost countries.

 

Of course, I feel compassion for anyone who has lost a job. But I figured I was safe because I’m an independent corporate writer who bought into the long-standing advice of educators and business gurus: that the information economy values knowledge workers who spend years at university, then continue to learn on and off the job.

 

Right? Maybe not.

 

Thanks to the auction psychology spawned by the Internet, we North American communication professionals are facing competition from sites that auction off writing and other services to the lowest bidder, often from India. I am starting to feel like an auto worker.

 

Trying to stay smug, or at least calm, I pondered the unique qualities that I, and most experienced corporate communicators, bring to the table.

 

  • We are well-versed in the rules that help people understand what they’re reading, such as the difference between it’s (contraction for it is) and its (possessive).
  • We know when and how to break the rules to make our writing more compelling and easier to understand.
  • We have a firm grasp of North American idiom.
  • We understand how to use communication to serve clients’ strategic objectives and produce results.
  • We are masters at saying much in few words, increasing in value with Google ADWORDS, Twitter and other mini, text-based communication.

 

However, I know that if I don’t deliver on these promises, I could perish in the Internet auction pit.

 

Knowledge workers in different professions I’ve spoken to report that work continues to flow. But many are looking behind them to see what could be sneaking up.

 

Smart clients know they get what they pay for. Cheapest is rarely best. But if you’re a Macy’s or a Bay, more Walmarts are always a worry.

 

So I’m looking on the bright side. During a recession, the reasonable rates of independents often win business over the higher-priced agencies.

 

And maybe Lou Dobbs will champion our cause. Or we can ask the government for a bail-out package. How many billion?

 

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One Response

  1. Well Barb, I’m also a business writer struggling with the same problem (although I’m in New Zealand, not the USA). I’d say you’ve identified the problem correctly, but the list of what you bring to the table misses two, possibly three, very important factors that cut-price third-world competitors simply can’t match.

    First, you’ll have much more opportunity to talk directly to clients, to meet them and to spend time understanding exactly what they want and where they are coming from.

    Second, you’ll have a much better understanding of and contact with your clients’ customers and business partners. Again, you can put yourself directly in front of these people for interviews and information gathering.

    Third, you’ll be able to add context to everything. I find thrid world competitors often completely miss the point when they work for local companies.

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