Improving opinion writing at Ernst & Young

Improving Opinion Writing at Ernst & Young - Emphasis Case Study

Professional service organisations use intellectual capital and creative thinking to bring value to businesses. Emphasis has helped the 'Big Four' accountancy firm, Ernst & Young, to apply these same principles to strengthen their report writing skills.

The importance of thought leadership

Ernst & Young research teams work to poise the company as a 'thought leader' in the industry. In order to do so, their reports must be written authoritatively. Emphasis was called on to review their report-writing process as many analysts were producing lengthy reports with no real objective - and little to grab the attention of clients and the media.

‘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 e and technical language, which almost disguises clarity of thought,’ explains Simon Rhodes, Associate Director at Ernst & Young.

Project Aims:

  • To produce more opinionated and impactful reports.
  • To train analysts to write succinctly, while building a strong argument.
  • To improve the presentation of technical content to a non-technical,
    strategic audience.

Towards opinionated and influential writing

Emphasis designed a training course that taught E&Y staff to express a strong opinion and influence readers, but write in a way that is also succinct. The programme discussed techniques for starting with an attention-grabbing introduction, concluding with a concise, powerful executive summary, and how to present technical information effectively to a non-technical, strategic audience. A series of six-monthly follow-up reviews reinforced the training.

‘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.’ - Simon Rhodes, Associate Director, Ernst & Young

Reports with attitude – and impact

In addition to improving writing skills, the training programme provided Ernst & Young analysts with the tools to think clearly and present messages in the same way - with focus on the main points. '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 helped analysts keep implementing clarity and precision in their writing. ‘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 now been working with Ernst & Young for ten years and became the preferred supplier of writing skills training four years ago. The firm rebranded 18 months ago 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.

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