What communicators can learn from The Little Drummer Girl

How to go from the written word to the spoken – with impact and flair.

Novelist John le Carré is 87 and enjoying a renaissance, as more of his books are translated to the small and large screens – most recently The Little Drummer Girl.

For those with an interest in communications, it is this skill – going from the written word to the verbal – that should resonate. CEOs, their executive colleagues and their entourage spend a lot of time writing text, even when the output is a presentation or speech.

So what techniques can be absorbed from leading screenwriters? Michael Lesslie and Claire Wilson took this role with The Little Drummer Girl, and they have done various interviews in recent weeks talking about their experiences. Three lessons stood out for us:

Focus on the unfolding story and supporting images

Not necessarily the words. Business is packed with as much passion, intrigue, adrenalin as any thriller. When you are writing for your boss or thinking about the message, you should try and focus on the images that support the words. Think more holistically from the perspectives of the audience. What is the package that they should see and hear together for their senses to be stimulated?

Why should your audience care?

Far too often companies and their executives present top-down views of the world. They sleep-walk into thinking that the audience wants to see and hear from their own perspective. Ask yourself who is the protagonist and why should we care about them? If an organisation professes to be led by the customer, what does their experience and journey look like? What happens when it goes wrong as well as right? Talk with your audience, not at them.

Remember the end goal

When communicators write for business, they invariably have many masters. Ensuring you end up with something clear and to the point becomes challenging when multiple levels want to make changes. Lesslie used the phrase “synthesising all of their desires.” If you hold the pen, see yourself as the Lead Writer and do your best to ensure what you deliver hits the mark. You may have the most junior job title of all those in the process but allow yourself to lead – while ensuring the content remains true and authentic for the presenter.

  • Sign up for our latest news & views

Richard Rivlin


I am fascinated by the art and science behind how to get effective responses to the work our clients do. And I’m as ambitious for our future as I was when we set sail on 11th March 2002.

You might also like:

Let’s talk about your story