Improving opinion writing at Ernst & Young
Professional service firms rely on intellectual capital and original ideas for their success. Thanks to Emphasis, ‘Big 4’ accountancy firm Ernst & Young is distilling these into reports that strengthen its business.
The importance of thought leadership
Ernst & Young research teams aim to position the company as a ‘thought leader’, so their reports need to be authoritative. But the firm called in Emphasis because too many analysts were producing long reports with no real viewpoint – and little to grab clients’ or the media’s attention.
‘The way people are educated to write by academia means there’s a lot of deductive writing, which takes a long time to get to the point. There is a lot of descriptive writing, waffle and technical language, which almost disguises clarity of thought,’ explains Simon Rhodes, Associate Director at Ernst & Young.
Towards opinionated and influential writing
Emphasis designed a training programme that focused on how to express a strong opinion and influence readers, but remain succinct. It included techniques for creating an attention-grabbing introduction and a concise, powerful executive summary, and examined how to present technical information effectively to a non-technical, strategic audience. A series of six-monthly follow-up reviews reinforced the training.
Reports with attitude – and impact
Aside from improving writing skills, the training has given Ernst & Young analysts the tools to think clearly, as the methods encourage them to focus on their key messages.
‘Where people have been trained and kept it up, the improvement has been vast. In my team, success is measured in terms of impact. We produce a lot of insightful reports that have been picked up by the press. Last year we had 78 press articles from my unit alone,’ says Simon.
The follow-up sessions have ensured analysts keep on thinking about clarity and precision of writing style. ‘I was impressed with the ongoing coaching. You go on a course and you think it’s brilliant, but then you don’t do anything with it in the future. There was a whole coaching process where Emphasis would review written work and give feedback,’ says Simon.
Clear communication is an essential business asset
Emphasis has been working with Ernst & Young for over ten years and is now the preferred supplier of writing skills training. The firm rebranded and identified good business writing as a core company value.
‘Unless you can communicate clearly to the customer, no-one is going to take you seriously. Emphasis is extremely good at raising those communication standards to a very high level,’ says Simon.