Rod McLaren: Words that work |||

Public Digital’s website

Public Digital’s new website, Oct 2020

I wrote the words for the new Public Digital website. Public Digital (PD) works with governments and companies that want to become a lot more digital.

Digital. Teams. Work.

Digital. Teams. Work.” is the crispest headline I could write that would tell the Public Digital story in a PD kind of way - straightforward, to the point. It also needed to be a promise” - you need to understand what distinctive thing you’d get if you hired PD to help you with your transformation project. Here it is on the home page and here it’s used as a narrative device in Claire Bedoui’s yearnote for PD:

Rooted in our belief that decision-makers should fund teams, not projects, we also articulated our theory of change:

Digital. Teams. Work.

Audience

A lot of people in the digital and digital gov industries already know the people at PD or their history building GDS and GOV.UK, and they’ll just pick up the phone. But there are people who don’t know PD well. They’re often potential customers, and are the website’s key audience.

The website is a way to tell them the story, and clearly explain why PD is different to most consultancies. The difference is not a matter of brand but it’s something that actually matters - teams, delivery, remaking organisations for the internet era.

Promise

We wanted one headline that could explain the promise” of PD as sharply and briefly as possible. Imagine a graph with two axes, descriptive-evocative and activity-outcome. A headline like Public Digital delivers transformation with digital teams” is pretty does-what-it-says-on-the-tin and would sit in the descriptive/activity quarter, and Public Digital helps you adapt to a changing future” is closer to the value/evocative quarter.

But there’s a problem with headlines like that. They’d be accurate but not distinctive - you could imagine a different consultancy saying the same thing. We got to Digital. Teams. Work.” by pushing to make it more distinctive.

And because the headline is a bit evocative, the next couple of sentences unpack the promise in plainer language.

Public Digital’s new website, Oct 2020

Clarity

Elsewhere the work was often about making sure the words are clear and simple (you might say that clarity is part of PDs distinctive offer). Some organisations might talk about their Services”, or find some jargon that makes them sound expert. PD just says What we do”, because their work speaks for itself.

Rewriting

The content designer/writer’s tools are listening, typing, testing and iterating. Do the words, and see if they’re right. Rewrite the sentences. Sometimes writing the words reveals that you need to refine your shared understanding of who you’re speaking to, or how you want to talk about what you do. The understanding develops, the story is adjusted, the words are rewritten. You hit publish. Even then you might rewrite again: you think of better ways to tell the story. Websites are living things.

Thanks

Of course the words weren’t solely written by me: a team of designers, developers, subject matter experts and project wranglers inside and outside of PD also did the work, and thank you to Mike Bracken and them all. Good team, good project.

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