Lessons Learned: Writing Copy for Government Agencies

September 19, 2017 0 Comments William Warren

As a government agency that partners with outside marketing agencies, you require a partner that can write copy directed to either your internal or external target audience. Writing copy for government agencies includes providing written content that can be used on a website, video, or a marketing campaign. As a government agency you need assurances that your marketing partner has past performance that showcases lessons learned in the government agency environment. Here are a few lessons we have learned over the past few decades of serving government clients.

Clear & Efficient Content

You have an objective—to get a message conveyed to one or more target audiences. Copy may be educative in nature, possibly about new policies or procedures, or perhaps about a new public health concern. Whatever the topic, the issue is dissected and stripped down to a core message that is presented in a clear and understandable manner and focuses on a target audience.

Beautiful student writing an essay in a library.jpeg

Before beginning to write copy of any kind, the first question you and your marketing partner must thoroughly explore is “Who is the target audience?”

The copywriter must write from the perspective of the government agency. If the message is intended for an external audience, the copywriter must have a good understanding of the needs and attitudes of the specific audience being targeted. We don't communicate to a single mother the same way we do for an elderly man, just as we wouldn’t write for a government audience the same way we do for a commercial audience.

In inexperienced marketing communications agencies this can be a difficult task. The instinct of the copywriter may be to embellish, and try to make her/his language more creative. But when writing copy for a government agency, the best course of action is to keep the copy straightforward and efficient. The easier it is to understand, the better. We don't use parentheticals if they are not necessary information. This can be especially true when writing legal copy. The best way to ensure both parties understand the contract is to keep the copy clear and concise.

Accurate Information

The purpose of most copywriting in government agencies is to convey information about a public service program, to draft a mutually understood contract, or possibly to communicate information to internal staff about key aspects of the agency's operations. While writing copy, we pay close attention to accuracy through a structured process. It is imperative to check and double check the facts, and address common misconceptions clearly when appropriate.

Young man standing doing research in the office reading from a hardcover book balanced on his palm, view over his shoulder from the rear.jpegFor example, when creating copy for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about a disease and how it spreads, we conducted extensive research on that disease. How is it transmitted? What are some common symptoms? How can you prevent contracting it? If any information in the copy is inaccurate, not only are we doing a disservice to our client, but we also risk putting people’s lives in danger. For legal matters the pressure to keep the information accurate is doubly important. Any misinformation that leaks into published communications can be potentially damaging or even devastating to a government agency.

Substantive Material

In keeping information accurate, clear, and concise, the copywriter must remain focused on the objectives of the project. An experienced copywriter let's the information and its intended audience take the lead, and makes sure the copy isn’t a distraction from the intended message and information conveyed. Keeping the writing substantive and informative makes all the difference in the quality of the copy.

Writing copy for government agencies has its own rules and requirements that make it different from other copy. Make sure your marketing partner is up to speed on what your needs and objectives are before commencing with any communication project. 

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CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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[i] Samuel, Alexandra (2016, March 11). “Psychographics Are Just as Important for Marketers as Demographics,” Harvard Business Review. 

William Warren

About William Warren

William Warren works at CATMEDIA as the Staff Writer while also working as a theatre artist, playwright, and director in Atlanta, GA. He received his undergraduate from Georgia College & State University with a BA in Theatre.

View all posts by William Warren

Government, Writing, writing copy

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