A drinks company wanted its people to know the firm’s position on the difficult questions about alcohol. They had lots of policy documents, but they wanted something that employees would actually absorb.
I suggested a short film in which the hapless hero, a junior manager for the company, comes late to a big family gathering – and has to deal with all the difficult questions one by one. Each family member represented a different issue – from health to drink-driving – and could be used on posters to reinforce the messages. By hearing an ordinary person explain things in a real situation, employees are more likely to remember the points – especially since they all come up in funny family conversations.
The film wasn’t made in the end, because of department and budget changes, but my clients loved the scripts and other material I produced.
In a rare foray into journalism, I wrote a 1000-word feature article about the innovative management style at Geopost. This appeared in the FT’s management section. It was the first and only time I’ve pitched an article to the FT.
This is the article. The title, thank God, is theirs.
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One of my favourite projects was to come up with a board game that the Department for International Development could use at festivals. They wanted it to work for kids of all ages, to be simple, to be educational and to be engaging and fun. The result was the Race Against Poverty, in which up to eight kids competed to win a voucher for their favourite charity. If they answered a multiple-choice question correctly, they spun a wheel to see how many spaces their piece moved around the track – but some of the squares were booby-trapped.
I came up with the rules and wrote the questions and the instructions for the volunteers running it. It went down very well.
Here’s a sample question:
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I designed and ran a weekend workshop called Self-publishing Step By Step, as part of the Guardian’s adult-education offshoot, Guardian Masterclasses. I took participants through the process of choosing a printer, pagesetting (using Adobe InDesign), designing a cover, learning how to describe their book, producing an ebook, and doing the essentials of marketing. These were all things I’d learned for myself when I set up Albatross and published The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax.
The feedback was very good, and afterwards one participant sent me this message: “Thanks for one of the best and most informative courses I have ever attended.”
I designed the course so that it’s organised around the three qualities that National Grid has chosen for its tone of voice: open, confident and visionary. I also made sure it incorporates the techniques I’ve developed that help people write more naturally and effectively. We ran several workshops in both countries and got great feedback – except in our second UK session, after which we made a few adjustments.
The participants were of all ages and levels, from young people in their first jobs to managers who’d been with the company for years. They worked in jobs including PR, customer services, corporate affairs and internal communications. Some of them loved writing, but a lot had found themselves effectively being professional writers without ever having been taught to do it. People appreciated being shown a simple, step-by-step way of producing the sort of writing the company wants.