Stop sign in blue sky

Stop readers in their tracks

Having worked in the public sector for 11 years, I have read a lot. As a web publisher, I read policy, reports, articles and media releases before publishing them. I do not remember a single thing I published. As a web content editor, I remember some, but not for the right reasons.

Many readers will not remember what they’re reading unless it affects them personally. And this is disappointing because government organisations have important messages to communicate with citizens. Their messages will affect everyone in one way or another.

When writing, it’s helpful to remember the acronym STOPS, to “stop” readers from tuning out, and to “stop” them in their tracks and take note.

1) Simple

The first rule is simple, literally: Keep It Simple, Silly. Don’t over complicate your writing. It’s counterproductive to fit as many ideas as you can into a sentence, then adding complex sentence after complex sentence to form a dense paragraph.

Keep It Simple Silly and kiss hello to clear communication.

2) Touch

Audiences need the human touch. This could be humour, emotion, or fun facts. Showing people you are grateful will go a long way. Showing understanding is a simple way to bring people onboard as well.

“I know how you feel… I’ve been there before.”

Simple things like these provide the human touch. They build connection and rapport.

3) Open

Be open and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Social media is popular because people love the openness. Some people record so many things on social media that it’s hard to argue it’s not a diary.

People see and value open communication. And that’s one key area government communications can improve. People want to know how those in authority make the decisions that affect them.

4) Package

People have lots to remember. Remember to pick up the kids. Remember to do this and that for work. “The boss needs a report by 5pm tomorrow”. There’s just so much we need to remember that we find it hard to fit another item onto our list.

Packaging is turning a message into something memorable. We can quote from TV shows and movies because those phrases are short and stick with us. This article uses the acronym STOPS to help you remember.

Giving your message a short, sharp phrase or acronym will help readers remember the key points.

5) Story

Last, but not the least, tell the story. We all like and understand stories. Stories have resonated with people, regardless of culture since they were first told. Stories resonate with us no matter our age. They are timeless.

It does not have to be the whole story, but it should be like a story. Set the scene. Lay the issues out. Next, talk about how the hero (in some cases, this could be your organisation) manages the issues. Finally conclude with the solution you, as an organisation can bring to the table.

If you need to communicate a business plan or a policy, back it up with a story – how it helps the customer solve their issue. People may not remember the details of the policy or plan, but they will remember how it solved issue.

Simple, Touch, Open, Package and Story. Follow these five tips to help people remember your message.

If you are struggling with your message, remember STOPS. contentgroup helps shape government communications. Feel free to reach out to see how we can make your message memorable.

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