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How to create good content for policy audiences

January 9, 2024 #How to
How to create good content for policy audiences
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We’ve been asking recent newsletter subscribers (sign up here if you want communications ideas and advice into your inbox) why they signed up, and what content they’d like to read. One subscriber asked for advice on how to create good content, so here it is.

Understand what your audiences expect from you (and where).

The definition of what ‘good’ looks like differs hugely on the channel you’re using.

If your ambition is to reach your audiences by growing your YouTube following, be prepared to spend time, resources and money to deliver high-quality content that people are used to watching there. The devil is in the detail. Look for engaging speakers, interesting locations and rhythmic storytelling. Make sure you can deliver high-quality footage, nice lighting, good sound quality and engaging b-rolls.

Instagram, TikTok, X and LinkedIn do not require a perfect picture but a much more frequent and efficient way of producing content. You have to adopt a light touch approach to these socials. Focus on commentary, entertainment, short-form explainers.

If you’re not sure where to begin, a comms audit and a communications strategy is a good place to start.

Simplify, simplify, and simplify again.

Let’s assume you’ve got a policy report you need to promote. Write up your first draft for a piece of content. Delete it and write it again. This is because your first draft is likely to be a slightly awkward replica of the report summary. Academic language is so beautifully neutral that it sticks.  

Repeat this process three or four times. Delete all the jargon, delete all the vague words that mean little for people outside your bubble, delete clichés. Say more by saying less. 

And one more useful tip: understand the numbers in your report but don’t use them. Numbers rarely produce the effect we expect them to produce. Focus on the story instead.

Speak normally.

This is the hard one. Not joking.

We all have conversations on a daily basis. We do it naturally and normally, even when we have philosophical and political debates with our friends. When it comes to policy communications, our speech and writing often morphs into an awkward jargon-dance (read this if you can’t stop using jargon). 

Be normal. Talk to people instead of talking at them. Try having a conversation.

Don’t overuse nouns that make language really static. A lot of policy communications carry this feeling of a reporting, an announcement, a statement, one would naturally make a note of and scroll past.

Avoid passive voice (‘this issue has to be resolved’) and tiring modal verbs (‘we must address climate change’) that offer no way into conversation for anyone. There is no writer, no reader in such texts, we have finally reached the death of everyone. 

Experiment with formats.

There are so many formats you can use on your social media. I did a little format mapping here a few years back and it has aged well, mostly.

When you’re next scrolling through your feed or browsing reels, pay attention to what captures your attention. Is it a screenshot of a conversation? Is it a movie remake with commentary? Is it a lecture by a charismatic professor? Save them. Create a collection of references you can use when you’re looking for inspiration. 

And don’t be afraid to experiment with them. If something doesn’t work out, don’t worry and move on, your audience already has.

Most importantly, have fun. 

If you’re not enjoying writing the content you write, it’s likely that you’re doing it wrong. 

It often takes time for me to get into the groove with content creation for our clients but when I do, I find it a very exciting journey because you can be really creative, challenging, humorous and engaging. And this energy will inevitably feed through to your audiences. 

Don’t condense all your comms down to one report you’ve produced or one event you’ve organised. Share the process, the challenges, the failures, show behind-the-scenes, be more human. This will help you break the formality barrier making your communications more personal and engaging. 

Thinking about how you can create content for a forthcoming campaign? Book 15 mins to talk it through with our CEO Tom Hashemi here.

Photo credit: Patrick Tomasso

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