Ok, I’ll admit it. I love end-of-year lists. So, I decided to create my own year-in-review, which I hope will also answer a question I’m often asked: “What does a speechwriter actually do?”
The first thing to note is that I currently work in-house for an institution that uses speechmaking as one of its primary communication channels. As such, my department is known for churning out a serious number of speeches: more, I’m told, than most Ministerial offices.
My calculations show that, in 2019, I’ve written some 159 speeches to be delivered in the UK and another 28 to be delivered overseas. That’s a total of 187 speeches. Whew!
(Mind you, I suspect that’s slightly fewer than in 2018: a result of different principals and their preferences.)
In 2019, accounting for annual leave, there were something like 233 working days. The numbers suggest I wrote a speech every 1.25 days.
The chart below gives a month-by-month breakdown of the number of speeches I wrote for domestic and overseas delivery. August is the traditional “stand down” period, when we have a welcome few weeks to catch up and plan ahead.
I reckon that my speeches were delivered in 11 countries outside the UK. These countries are highlighted on the map below.
You can see that, on our international programme, I’m mostly responsible for our Asia engagement. In 2019, I wrote for four separate trade visits to China.
The vast majority of these speeches were for specific audiences, with limited broader interest. However, of the set-piece speeches with important announcements or news appeal, we managed to get some strong media coverage.
Digital and Print Channels
This year, alongside a great variety of coverage in the trade and international press, I had positive take-up in the nationals and London-specific press. By way of example, I had speeches quoted, in full or in part, in the titles below.
However, as I’ve said before, a speechwriter doesn’t just write speeches. Speeches are just one channel within a suite of communication activities. They sit alongside press releases, op-eds and articles, published reports, social media content, and much more.
In fact, there’s currently a book in the Waterstones Christmas promotion to which I wrote the foreword – but, of course, under someone else’s name!
This year, I’ve written for the following channels.
No Facebook, you’ll notice. I wonder whether my institution should reconsider that decision, following analysis of the channels most used in 2019 and specifically in the recent General Election.
Campaigns, Set Pieces, and Hardy Annuals
When I’m asked about the specifics of my current role, I tend to draw a distinction between the international and domestic programmes.
Internationally, I write for trade visits that engage with government and private sector stakeholders around the world. A positive outcome would be the introduction of a UK company to an overseas market.
Domestically, the programme subdivides even further. There are campaigns (owned and third-party), there are set-pieces, and there are the “hardy annual” ceremonial events – graduation ceremonies and the like.
Here’s a very rough and entirely unscientific breakdown of the range of my activities as a speechwriter.
So that, roughly, is my day-to-day. If you’d like to hear a rather more philosophical account of what speechwriters do, take a listen to this podcast.
How to measure the success of a speech?
You’ll notice that this post is all about what I’ve done, rather than what I’ve achieved. Measuring the effectiveness of speechwriting – like measuring the ROI of PR more generally – is a complex topic.
It’s particularly complex when those speeches operate at the nexus of business and politics. Most of what I write contributes to broader campaigns around soft power, influence, and engagement. The outcomes are all very long-term.
One day, I’ll get around to a post on how to measure speechwriting effectiveness…