Download the CFE case study as a PDF

CFE transforms research reports through training

Independent non-profit research organisation CFE reports on social and economic policy in the UK, acting as a link between policy-makers and those the policy affects.

The need for compelling reports

The complex issues CFE works with demand first-class communication skills. ‘We deal with subjects that can be a little dry, so we need to capture the imagination and attention of the reader,’ says James Kewin, Joint Managing Director.

The company’s high-achieving graduate staff tended to write in an academic style that relied heavily on the passive voice. The reports were too long and didn’t have a clear message – which meant senior managers spent too much time editing them.

‘Research is an unforgiving area. You can have the best research that asks all the right questions and feel that the work is fantastic, but if your reports don’t work, then it’s all been for nothing,’ explains James.

Honing reader focus

Emphasis designed a report-writing course to help all 45 members of staff develop a lucid style. It presented tools for achieving reader-focused, impactful writing, including effective structure and using the active voice. One-to-one coaching sessions ensured the teams applied their new knowledge and the trainer helped CFE develop a house style.

A consistent way of doing things

CFE now has a consistent voice. The coaching showed that the quality of reports had improved and – crucially – that staff now feel confident they are writing effectively.

‘The course … wasn’t prescriptive and didn’t dictate a particular style,’ says James. ‘However, everyone is now aware of what we regard as the right way to write and the right way to do things.’

It’s helped managers too, as they can pinpoint what’s right or wrong with a report.

‘If a head of team receives a report that’s not of the required quality, they say, “go back and do this the Emphasis way,” which has now become the CFE way,’ says James.

Ahead of the competition

Having good writing skills has put CFE head and shoulders above other research companies.

‘One thing that sets us apart from our competitors is that we articulate complex issues in a straightforward way. Instead of using an academic style, our reports are accessible,’ says James.

Indeed, the improvement in writing has become integral to the whole research process. ‘If you get into a pickle with a research project, a good report can help to pull things out of the fire,’ explains James. ‘We would be nowhere if we didn’t have high-quality written output, because our reputation is based on quality.’