Writing in a regulated environment - it's time to collaborate

Despite having seven prime ministers in ten years, Australia is universally regarded as one of the most stable and trustworthy environments in which to do business. Except if you’re in the energy sector of course, where we’ve had no recognisable energy policy for about the same time. The revolving prime ministerial door has been powered in part by the latter - somewhat ironic, but there it is.

Of course, there’s been the Royal Commission into malpractice in the financial services sector and we have a potentially really hairy inquests into aged care institutions and into the treatment of people with disabilities in the pipeline. So maybe the place is not so pristine after all, but at least we do have the mechanisms for occasionally exposing miscreants in various sectors. It keeps our heads above the level of tin pot dictatorships as long as One Nation doesn’t occupy too many senate seats after the May 2019 election.

Steering a course around the politicians, our reputation for stability really boils down to quite robust regulation of key sectors which, in turn, means our legal and compliance sector is one that thrives most. So healthy is our appetite for regulatory oversight that attempts to communicate clearly with our audiences can be buried under the debris of legal opinion, corporate-speak, risk management and, increasingly, privacy legislation.

The question becomes how do the creative thinkers dig themselves out from under this? How do we go about generating highly targeted and personalised content as the ground is cut from under our feet?

For me the answer lies in helping people to write or imagine their own story. Some of the most unimaginative experiences I have encountered have been online financial calculators, or modellers as some call them. Most are great examples of product design built in the context of the designer’s own knowledge and experience. They assume everyone is numerate, can read graphs and can translate the results into what it means for their lives.

The fact is that most people are not numerate or financially literate. Wouldn’t it be great if some were designed with graphic interfaces? For retirement calculators, why not have a basic library of images to drag and drop into a lifestyle modeller, with back-end smarts that could interpret the amount of money needed to support that choice?

Instead of asking how often would you buy a new car in retirement, why not have three pictures - an upscale Mercedes, an SUV and a Hyundal Excel - from which people could choose and drag into their lifestyle modeller? This would provide a glimpse into lifestyle expectations and provide for the parameters of the costs associated with them.

Multiple images could be used for other categories - entertainment, holidays, restaurants, clothes and so on. You could gain pretty accurate cost of living insights based on selections like the number of people expected to live at home etc. Utilities companies already deploy this data.

The thing I like about this interactive approach is that you’re enabling your audience to paint a picture of their world. Every one of the scenarios created by users is effectively their construct of their experience and aspirations. It is their narrative, but they’ll seldom write it.

So where does the copywriter fit into this world? If we read their story back to them as a beautifully crafted narrative, we can relate to them on terms of their own creation. It is a 100% opt-in and personalised experience, bypassing most concerns for privacy issues and of minimal interest to the overseers of legal, risk and compliance.

Everyone has a story to tell. In the contemporary world, our job is to play a part in helping them express it.