Environment Agency embraces customer-focused writing
The Environment Agency is a public body that aims to protect and improve the environment and promote sustainable development. Managers within the organisation originally approached Emphasis in 2005 to help make its documents and emails more accessible. The agency wanted to transform public opinion of it as a faceless bureaucracy by becoming more customer-focused.
‘Our research revealed a real desire to provide the answers that people want as quickly and concisely as possible,’ explains Elaine O’Donnell, Strategic Communications Development Manager. ‘Staff wanted to turn paperwork around more efficiently and provide clear information to help people make environmental improvements.’
The Environment Agency originally signed a three-year contract with Emphasis and later reappointed the company to continue honing its writing skills.
Emphasis designed a high-impact writing course, including modules on how to make technical subjects more accessible without dumbing down and writing to get results. Previously, employees had focused on explaining the technical side of issues to customers, so Emphasis gave them tools to help build customer relationships and trust.
This course has been delivered to nearly 4,000 employees within the Environment Agency, along with follow-up coaching clinics. Emphasis trainers have also delivered advanced masterclasses to keep improving the standard of writing at the agency, as well as tailor-made courses in different regions, including writing for customers and writing to influence.
Improved customer communication
Staff who used to write in a technical and scientific way are now able to communicate clearly to the average reader, helping them to better serve their customers.
‘Emphasis carefully listened to and fully understood our training needs,’ says Elaine. ‘Its tailored writing courses are helping us to improve the text we provide. As a result, our written communications are becoming clearer and more accessible.’
What the attendees said
The delegates on the courses found the informal, interactive style helped them to relax and fully participate in the training. ‘It gave me a totally different way of thinking,’ explains one delegate. ‘The trainer was brilliant – short bursts of practice and lots of interaction,’ says another.
Towards a new writing culture
The training has helped to raise the profile of the Environment Agency, as the public that engage with it are now more aware of what it does. Employees are now able to better focus on clear, simple writing and there is an emphasis on continuous learning.
Emphasis has also implemented an e-learning programme for delegates so that they can keep practising their writing skills. It contains a series of interactive modules, which include explanations and exercises to embed learning and promote the new culture of clear, accessible writing.