Helping government clients

I know what it’s like to work in a government agency, where I spent many years in communications units or public affairs departments.

I’ve worked closely with senior management – whether it’s on annual reporting and managing complex projects, or developing a narrative to help promote a policy or focus area – and I understand the sensitivity and the internal politics of how government operates.

So I’m very familiar with how the wheels of government turn, and protocols like working with ministers’ offices and getting management approval. Fleshing out a policy so humans can understand it is second nature to me. After all, writing for actual people is very different from writing a briefing paper or applying for project funding. That’s not to say I haven’t also specialised in plain English for communicating via briefings and ministerial papers – that’s been a key focus for me, including training staff to write simply and effectively.

Take a look at some examples

Here are some of the ways I can help clients in government, whether you’re in communications and marketing, or in a project area looking to make your baby fly!

Developing and constructing narratives so that targeted stakeholders understand and relate to the communication

Examples are segmenting ‘stories’ (key phrases and messages for targeted audiences) to convey the essence of new policies, strategies or initiatives. People want to know what’s in it for them, and what they have to do. We all relate to ‘stories’ that bring to life big picture thinking and intentions behind a project. I’ve worked on many such narratives including those around broader government strategies, disability funding reform, changing HR practices and innovative new monitoring, assessment and reporting frameworks for public schools. I can help you develop your notes, ideas and gut feelings into concrete words that you can take to management for approval or road test with a focus group. This might become the basis for your communications plan or media statement key messaging, or content for your marketing collateral – and of course I can help you with each of these areas as well.

Developing, honing and finessing language for communications and marketing material, like reports, brochures, booklets, flyers, ads or web pages

My service here is all about finding the right words to communicate your policy, service or initiative, so that designers (print or online) can create the look you want before you release it for its target audience. I also edit and work from text supplied – whether it’s loose bullet points, your own carefully penned drafts or workshopped content written by committee. When I review your text I’ll explain in comments on the draft document why I’ve made changes and I’ll apply your style guide (or best practice standards). I’ll assess the language for overall tone, voice and consistency, and analyse the use of your key messages. Above all, I’ll apply plain English conventions so that readers understand what it is you want them to do, and apply grammatical rules. No government agency wants a typo or grammatical faux pas in their communications content! See my explanation of the different types of editing, in case you’re wondering.

Developing your own tailored writing style guide

This will help your agency communicate consistently, effectively and in line with international best practice standards. I’ve written ‘double digit’ style guides for government agencies and I pride myself on keeping abreast of the latest thinking and ideas in what’s best practice and what’s considered acceptable. You can trust me to know what the consensus is on any given topic or editorial choice when it comes to communications/publishing style. I also apply conventions agreed by the Australian Government for all of the public sector.

Developing and delivering training to your staff about effective writing, plain English and your writing style guide

See above if you don’t have one! You might be shocked to learn that about half of adult Australians (same goes for the Brits and Americans) have a reading age of 12 years old or below. This means it’s vital that your communications content (websites, web pages or printed material) is pitched correctly to meet your readers’ needs, and is simply explained using everyday language. “It’s not dumbing down, it’s opening up!” Even the most basic piece of communication will benefit from applying a plain English lens, and this article (Plain English in government_ return on better communication _ The Mandarin) adeptly explains the many benefits to readers and writers of using plain English. If cost savings don’t impress you, maybe the drastically reduced time managers spend deciphering briefings and reports will! And here’s another excellent article about everybody’s right to access and understand information from government.

Writing annual reports and editing, writing or project managing other complex reports or plans

Reporting against KPIs or strategic direction is the usual way to keep organisations accountable to stakeholders, most of all to the public. I’ve been involved in researching and writing strategic plans for years (both corporate and government), so I understand big-picture thinking about strategic goals, visions and objectives, as well as measurable outcomes and the actions required to reach those lofty goals. What I’ve specialised in over the course of my career is putting it all together into one readable, public-facing document (or set of web pages) that summarises what your agency does and why, who you do it for, and what you’ve achieved during the reporting period. I can help you manage the project from go to whoa, and I can be that all-important second set of eyes on a report you think is ‘just about ready’. I keep up to date with best practice in annual reporting, and I will happily convert a rather dry bureaucratic document into plain English, making the most of your report topic and its findings. Whatever type of report you need, I can help you finesse and polish it to shine!