Editor Group recently worked on a three-month project to help an ASX-listed client prepare a major government tender response. The timeframe was shorter than a Kardashian marriage. The scope was as wide as a barn door. And by the end, everyone was more tired than these similes.
Amid the pizza dinners and caffeine overdoses, we were lucky to be working with a client that had a model tender process, so we thought we’d share some tips that you and your team of editors might be able to apply when working on your next bid.
1. Establish a dedicated editorial team
Sounds obvious? It’s not, really. Often in bids – especially as timings come down to the wire – colleagues will review each other’s work and everything can get a bit messy.
To avoid this scenario on a large bid, it’s smart to establish a core editorial team tasked with helping contributors develop and refine their content.
The members of this team should have clearly defined roles – whether that be writing, editing, proofreading or managing process – but their remit should relate purely to delivering great content for the bid response.
2. Provide contributors with editorial support
It’s likely that you’ll have many people from across the business – and perhaps externally – contributing to sections of the tender. Unless you have worked with these people before, do not assume subject-matter experts (SMEs) and industry experts are natural writers. That’s not a problem – it’s what your editorial team is there for – but it can add time and effort to the process if you don’t set up a sound process and a realistic timeframe.
On the recent bid we were involved in, one of the first things the bid team did once the tender documents were released was hold a writing workshop for all contributors. Topics might include:
• A refresher on good writing principles
• What makes a great tender response (including a consistent style and tone, and concise responses that answer the question)
• An introduction to your organisation’s style guide and how to use it
• Any pointers on the specific writing style for this tender
• Timelines and process – deadlines for each round of copy, and approval, editing and proofreading processes.
It’s also a good idea to run a ‘win theme’ workshop. Get the tender team together, including managers, SMEs and writers, and build your win themes – the main selling points or benefits you plan to highlight – and any key messages. Depending on the bid requirements, you might develop between three and five win themes. Base these on your organisation’s strengths and make sure they set you apart from the competition.
Once your win themes are set in stone, print them out as A3 posters and pin them up on every desk. This is the first thing each member of the bid team should see each morning and the last thing they see at night.
3. Provide writing support
Writing support starts well before fingers hit keyboards. It’s important to make it clear that the editorial team is available to help out at any time. Encourage contributors to seek input on their sections – good advice on structure and direction early on can help you avoid large rewrites later in the process.
It can be a good idea to ask each contributor to submit an outline of their section before they write it, then have an editor sit down with each person individually to run through the:
• compliance requirements – have they answered the question?
• facts – are their answers backed up by facts and figures?
• win themes and key messages – are these woven through the response?
• templates – are they using the right formats and document templates?
4. Ensure everyone understands the editing process
It’s important that all contributors understand that their work will be subject to scrutiny – and, most likely, some rewriting – regardless of their position or experience. Seeing a lot of corrections can be confronting for anyone, so it’s crucial that everyone understands this process is for the greater good of the tender and the organisation’s success.
It’s also important that your editors are confident delivering constructive criticism to help contributors progress each draft. If time permits, it can be helpful to have an editor sit with the contributor to talk through their feedback and discuss the next stage of the drafting process.
Taking the time to thoroughly edit each section will help ensure your response is consistent – that is, every section is of equal quality, including writing style, incorporation of win themes, grammar, punctuation, tone of voice and format.
And finally, don’t panic
Keeping your cool is a very important part of the process. Your editorial team will be dealing with highly stressed individuals in what’s already a stressful situation. If you can build a team of can-do editors who serve as a bastion of calmness, patience and helpfulness, you’ll find you achieve a much smoother tender process.