What are words worth?

Word counts.

I thought I had left those behind when I gave up the pretence of being a freelance journalist. Yes, writing a crown green bowls column and nightclub reviews was journalism (of sorts).

No longer did I have to imprison my verbosity!

But now, rather than try to summarise a night of hedonism (bowls) in 300 words, I find that at least once a week I am asked to take over 20 years of my working expereince and encapsulate it in to 100 word answers.

Why am I doing this, you might not be thinking. It’s a work thing. As a Small to Medium Sized Enterprise (SME), that helps – in the main – public sector organisations with outcomes or transformations in the digital space, we have to secure new business by responding to applications managed through frameworks.

Our most common route is through the Gov.UK Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework.

A number of the applications we respond to are clear and concise. There is a need. The body/organisation doesn’t have the resources or the expertise. We fit the gap perfectly. Then there are others. Which we will say are somewhat – moon on a stick. The funds involved, the rationale, the problems (we use problems in a wide ranging way to say “thing you want to improve”) and the timeframes seem, adventurous at best.

Then you read the questions. Some of them are so vague, they remind me of a parent trying to describe someone I might have known 40 years ago, but they can’t remember their name, what they looked like or if I even knew them at all.

Yet still we have to produce an answer. Of 100 words, which is so powerful in its pithiness, that the reviewer has a light bulb ping off above their head. The fog of uncertainty is lifted. Contract awarded.

But that rarely happens. Instead a ping goes off in a slack channel. Runes are cast. Entrails are read for a sign and the appropriate questions are given to priestess or priest high on the fumes of transformation. To patch together what we think is the right outcome.

A really good approach is when organisations ask to talk to us before the application goes out. The experience we, and others in the field have, can help structure the process and questions so that everyone is clear as to what is needed.

So think about that as you sit at your desk and someone asks how you do your job, manage your team or run your organisation. Then try to say in 100 words that makes sense – how you could do that for someone you may never have met before.

Go on, give it a try. Just don’t try it out on the services we really want to win!

Musical Interlude: Tom Tom Club – Wordy Rappinghood

Chris Written by:

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