Standard Life: specialist communications training

Case Study


Standard Life

Type of Work

Specialist communications training

Training corporate lawyers to communicate clearly

The challenge

When pensions and long-term savings and investments company Standard Life rebranded, they asked us to create and roll out a programme of communications and cultural change.

A year in, we had already had some big wins. Customers had a far greater understanding of the products they’d bought into. Relationships with intermediaries had improved. Critically, more people were buying Standard Life pensions – and transferring and adding more into existing plans. But not all communications had changed. Some were still opaque, legalistic – and very far from being customer-centric.

At Standard Life, the legal team – motivated by a will to protect the company from potential risk – was insisting on using heavy, difficult-to-understand language. The results were twofold. At one level, some communications remained too difficult for consumers to understand and engage with – even when the communications were really important. At another level, this insistence on old-style communications from the legal team had begun to chip away at the new approach, with team members wondering if it was worth the effort of creating customer-centric communications when the legal team was only going to change them back again.

What we did

The legal team at Standard Life was acting with absolute integrity and with the best interests of the company at heart.

Our job was to convince them that the new approach to communications would 1) be more compliant and 2) best serve the company and its customers.

We carried out a series of interviews to understand the lawyers’ attitudes and approaches to language and communication. We also did root cause analysis reviews of communications that hadn’t been as successful as we’d hoped.

We used these insights – as well as proven instances of the new approach to communications working well across the organisation – to create specialist guidelines and training for the legal team.

In two day-long sessions, we took the legal team through the reasons for the change, how they could help to bring it to life – and the changes this might mean for their day-to-day communications.

We took steps back to analyse text that “felt” wrong to the legal team, highlighting its fitness for purpose.

It’s been refreshing to hear colleagues in legal and compliance saying, “Let’s change that text – it’s not putting the customer first.”

Claire Sinclair Marketing Communications, Standard Life


Not only did the legal team achieve a radical shift in their communications, but they also changed the way they think about customers.

These highly specialist teams no longer think of customers as “risk centres”. Instead they think of them as individuals they can help.

And almost overnight, the legal team became much more of an enabler in the sign-off process – so projects speeded up and morale improved.

You can read more about training teams to communicate in our FAQs.