Featured Tech Communicator: Letitia Morrison - Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency

June 2021

Letitia Morrison standing and smiling in front of a wall of car rego plates

Waka Kotahi covers a lot of areas - how does your role fit in?

Yeah, we’re quite a huge organisation that branches off in a lot of areas. Our team specifically work in the driver licensing, commercial licensing, and motor vehicle space – for the registration and licensing side of that. And then we specialise in a whole bunch of different touchpoints, communication areas, forms and things under those specific areas.

What content do you produce?

In the driver licensing or rego space, if there are words, we’ve probably got a finger in that pie! So we create or maintain things like:

  • Forms – to renew your driver licence or rego at our agents, like AA, VTNZ or NZ Post
  • Web forms – for applications or sending information
  • Factsheets – that you see at agents or Citizens Advice Bureau (mainly driver licensing, vehicles, or safety factsheets)
  • Road code – motorcycle, general car, and heavy vehicle/truck loading code
  • Website content – for anything that’s involved in the above on our public Waka Kotahi website
  • Agent communications and their instructions – for example, AA, VTNZ, and places that are contracted to Waka Kotahi to do our transactions for us. We tell them when things change and what they need to do. We do this through an online portal that has instructions and manuals for everything they do for us.
  • Bulk communications – renewal reminders for driver licences and motor vehicle regos.

We also edit, peer review, and give advice on communication methods, including a lot of plain language advising.

How many people are on your team?

Technically, there are only two of us who are Publishing Advisers – Operational. There’s a cast of thousands when it comes to peer reviewing and gathering the content. And depending on which topic we’re talking about, we have a lot of subject matter experts. But the people who are responsible at the end of the day for this particular content – there are two of us. In our team, though, we do also have a Publishing Advisor that specialises in the vehicle inspection space, and other team members that maintain our internal knowledge base and our customer relationship management systems.

What tools do you use to create and maintain the content?

There are a couple of content management systems we use for online: Squiz Matrix for the agent portal and SilverStripe (the all-of-government CMS) for the main Waka Kotahi website. For our more static publications and forms, factsheets, etc, we do everything in Adobe InDesign.

Do you put content directly into InDesign? Or do you use any other tools beforehand?

No, we find it a lot easier to go straight into InDesign, particularly with the forms and the factsheets because we’re squeezing a certain amount of information into a very small space most of the time. That has a lot to do with the way that we write things, so it’s easier to do it straight into InDesign and go from there.

You mentioned that you work with SMEs. Do you do that directly or indirectly?

Most of the time it’s directly, but it depends on what’s happening. A lot of the time it’ll be from, say, a legislation change. So that means actually sitting down and reading the legislation, translating it, and checking with policy and legal and a bunch of different people to make sure we’ve got it correct.

Otherwise, if it’s just a process change to improve or streamline a process, it’ll be sitting down with the team to nut out exactly what the change is, what we’re trying to fix, how we need to make it better, and how we need to communicate that to people. But most of the time it’s working directly with people.

Do you user test any of your content?

Not as often as we would like. Unfortunately, particularly at the moment, there’s been so much legislation change that it’s pretty much – get this out there and move on to the next job. We do receive a lot of feedback through the website from people and through our contact centre – they’re talking directly to our customers all of the time. So we utilise that as much as we can to get feedback on our content and forms, etc.

I’ve seen some great Waka Kotahi content which uses plain language. How much does your team focus on using plain language, and what support do you get for using plain language at different levels of your organisation?

For our team, it’s absolutely fundamental to everything we do, regardless of the audience – whether it’s our agents, public, or internal audience. It just makes everyone’s life easier to use plain language, so it’s a part of every single thing our team does.

And we’re getting a lot more support than we used to. It’s getting to be a more visible thing around the organisation and management is really buying into it now – it’s an exciting time to be writing in the plain language area. We also have teams that are signing up to do workshops around plain language and getting us to edit or proofread, or just give advice on how they can write things better. So it’s really taking off at the moment.

You’ve been with Waka Kotahi for a while (17 years). Have you always worked in a content or writing role?

No, I haven’t. I started in the driver licensing contact centre way back in the day – I’m a bit of a dinosaur now! I did a couple of years in the contact centre with secondments into different processing teams along the way. Then I got the role for a Document Specialist, which just dealt with our agent communications – and only me doing it. Then we added the forms, factsheets, road code, and everything else along the way. And it’s just grown exponentially in the time that I’ve been here.

What value does your work give to the average New Zealander?

I see that it’s a huge amount of value. People come to us at quite stressful times – quite often when they’re looking for information on what on earth they need to do. For example, when you’re getting a licence for the first time and you’re terrified of your driving test, or you’ve been in a crash and your car’s been written off, or a police officer’s taken your licence off you at the roadside.

If we can communicate what these people need to do in the shortest possible space of time, so they can get on with their lives and just take that little bit of stress away from them, I think that’s massively important to people. And that’s why we try to do everything as plainly and as quickly as we possibly can.

Thanks very much, Letitia!