I remember it well. An hour until question period, news conference, statement time or another of the daily emergencies at Queen’s Park.
I’m riveted to the screen, fingers flying, synapses firing, adrenalin surging. A line forms at my office door– policy experts, the communication boss and political staff all waiting to review and revise from dramatically different perspectives.
I rely on the experts to make sure whatever I’m writing that day is technically accurate, my boss to reassure the deputy minister and other high-ups and the politicos to make sure I’ve created a memorable sound bite.
Because I’ve been well-briefed, the first draft goes smoothly. But during the second draft, with only minutes to spare, I start to feel like I’m in free fall. Time to sprout wings.
Based on the experts’ rushed revisions, I translate technical terms into plain English that people watching the news will understand. I keep my boss feeling productive with the inevitable gaffes he feels good about catching. I cater to the minister’s assistant by packing more punch while hastily weaving in mysterious feedback from party brass.
From tapestry to patchwork quilt and back
Because they’ve all made different changes, the statement, news release or whatever now looks like a patchwork quilt. I have to fix the flow and catch any flubs that could end up on the permanent record. Tick, tick, tick.
When I left government, I thought approvals would be easier. Often they were less time-crunched. But this meant more people mulled over the content. All organizations are political and the communication approvals process is often where it plays out.
Three kinds of approvers
Approvals, I realized, had less to do with bureaucracy and more to do with the culture of the organization I was writing for. But mostly approvals are influenced by the three kinds of people who had been standing outside my office door.