The Economist Group, an international publisher of analysis on international business and world affairs. The Group includes The Economist newspaper, Intelligent Life, Economist Intelligence Unit, CQ Roll Call and EuroFinance.
Good writing is a core value of The Economist Group. The Group prides itself on authoritative analysis, editorial independence, objectivity and topicality. It expects every member of staff to be able to write well, whatever their role.
In late 2003, Sally Bibb, then Director of Group Sales Development, decided to source external suppliers of sales writing skills. She turned to Write for Results, a writing training consultancy run and co-founded by Scott and top copywriter, Andy Maslen.
Sally asked Scott and Andy to create a 1-day persuasive writing skills workshop that could be rolled out across the Group to multiple, international teams. The goal of the workshop was to give staff a writing ‘toolkit’ that they could start using immediately and rapidly improve the speed, effectiveness and efficiency of their writing.
The workshop also had to be practical, interactive and enjoyable.
The resulting workshop, piloted in The Economist’s Third Avenue office in a snow-bound New York in January 2004, was an instant hit.
Spanning the three steps of the writing process – planning, drafting, editing – the workshop covered dozens of writing techniques that are the stock-in-trade of The Economist’s journalists, such as how to open strongly, grab your reader’s attention and hold it from start to finish. Other techniques included: the best way of writing concisely; how to dramatise, emphasise and invigorate your writing; how to produce a better first draft faster and how to score the readability of your (and other people’s) text.
Interactivity came in the form of five writing exercises, with detailed debriefs on each, plus private feedback from the trainer to delegates on their writing samples. The workshop culminated in a ‘Show & Tell’, where delegates shared with the group what they had changed in their writing. Whoever showed the most radical improvement won a small prize (a leather-bound Moleskine diary).
The New York pilot was the prototype of a workshop that, over the last decade, we have now delivered to over 400 staff at The Economist Group.
The workshop gained a reputation within the Group and was always over-subscribed. Attendees rating it never gave it less than 4.5 out of 5.0, or 90% satisfaction, as exemplified here by a small selection of testimonials:
“Excellent course. Probably the most interesting, engaging and influential one-day course I’ve ever attended. Thank you, Scott.”
|“Scott is an excellent teacher. I will definitely recommend this workshop to my colleagues. I’ve learnt a lot today.”|
|“Most useful training course I’ve taken while at The Economist. Excellent content and an excellent instructor. Thank you!”|
|“This workshop is excellent.”|
|“Excellent program. Great learning experience. I am looking forward to implementing the strategies.”|
|“Good blend of structured and on the fly. Very engaging.”|
|“Scott is an excellent presenter!”|
|“Very engaging and great tips.”|
|“Engaging, lively, great reminders.”|
|“The presenter made the topic interesting, the information is useful and will definitely be used from tomorrow. Thanks!”|
|“This class surpassed my expectations. It was fun and informative. I will be able to make positive changes in my writing immediately!”|
|“The instructor was excellent – very helpful!”|
|“You offered invaluable advice. I really enjoyed attending! I especially appreciated your patience and response to questions and issues. Good luck to you!”|
|“I liked the trainer’s energy levels and his way of interacting with us.”|
|“Very important and useful advice on effective techniques for communicating better with people.”|