I went to the Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival 2015 for the first time as I was compelled by the amazing line-up, which included of my favourite poets Omar Musa, refugee and human rights advocate Julian Burnside, social commentator Jane Caro, Australian author Don Watson and the list went on. I didn’t even connect that this festival might give me inspiration for my role as a public sector communicator, but of course there was more than one session that gave me something to think about. Here are some of those things! Where possible I’ve attributed where the idea came from with their Twitter handle.

  1. Keep it simple, think about your audience and don’t use management speak. Too often we talk about things like Long Term Financial Plans, Frameworks, Strategies, Stakeholders and the like. This is probably okay language to use when it’s an internal document, but why not change it up when you communicate it. Also make sure it talks to your audience! Don’t dumb it down, but make it understandable!
  2. Top tip for bureaucrats from @JaneCaro is to write for one person. Such an easy thing to forget, particularly in today’s digital age. Don’t write for everybody, write for one person. Make it personal.
  3. @JulianBurnside says the best way of influencing language is saying what we mean. Oh yes, the phrase “Say what you mean and mean what you say” now makes so much more sense to me. A simple reminder to communicators, don’t be stilted, be an open book.
  4. A reminder to George Orwell’s 1984 – a guide to what not to do – especially when it comes to Newspeak! @JaneCaro @JulianBurnside
  5. Get over it (pessimism), be optimistic that things can change @BobBrownFndn. It’s so easy to get bogged down and pessimistic, when in reality sometimes all it takes is changing your mindset to see something from a different perspective to get back on track.
  6. “People ask ‘why don’t you get more angry?’ And I say because it gets in the way of the message.” – @RodneyCroome . A true moment of inspiration, and a demonstration of why we must seek not to bang the table, but rather speak with clarity and purpose.
  7. Strategy is just as important as courage when it comes to justice@RodneyCroome . Another saying, but I find it fits “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” So true, planning is some of the best time spent when it comes to communication and goes hand in hand of course with good research.
  8. Prose vs poetry. One punches like a sting of a bee, and one floats like a honeybee – @obmmusic Poetry can be a good way to rethink something, it cuts back rather than adds. Turn a media release into a poem and then rewrite it. It would be an interesting experiment.
  9. Slogans can be used for good and bad @JaneCaro. Not all slogans are bad and can be used to unite and summarise a good cause. Be careful though to not hide the purpose.
  10. It’s the human condition to spin. Not all spin is bad @JaneCaro , however falsehoods are something else altogether. Too often we see things said that are clearly the opposite of what they mean. Communicators need to remember this and be the champions for keeping it real.
  11. @obmmusic says you can change the world one person at a time. Help them find their voice. A call to arms for anyone who, like me, can so easily turn into a keyboard warrior, when the real difference to be made is clearly within reach.
  12. Speak up, that’s what it takes, it’s simple but can make a huge difference @JaneCaro. Ditto to what I said about point 11!

Storify

Most of the rest of the insights from tweets from the festival have been compiled in this Storify 

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