Featured Technical Communicator: Rosalie Chamberlain

December 2023

A headshot of Rosalie Chamberlain, smiling.Rosalie is a self-employed Policy Analyst and Technical Writer. She has 25 years’ experience in communications and has focused a lot of that time on writing clear policies for businesses and government organisations. Check out her website:

Rapco Limited

How long have you been a technical communicator and how did you start out?

I’ve worked in the communications space for about 25 years in various roles. For the last 15 years, I’ve worked as a contractor in Wellington, helping businesses and the government create clear policies, content and communications. I focus on ensuring that business content is concise, written in plain language and up to date with current legislation and standards.

I completed a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration at Victoria University of Wellington. I worked at various organisations in marketing, public relations, communications and IT. Working with technical content early in my career helped me to learn how to make complex information simple.

I worked in London for five years in communications and management roles for global telecommunications companies. When I moved back to New Zealand and started a family, I set up my business so I could work flexibly. I was fortunate to start contracting with a previous employer, writing and editing the Standards Magazine and developing web content.

After that, I started working on content and policy writing projects in the public service. Along the way, I’ve developed transferable skills and valuable knowledge that I can apply to my work. My ability to understand the strategic implications of issues and technical writing background has helped me move into policy analysis and development.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

I’m organised and will start my day with a list of things to do, in priority order. That helps me to manage my workflow. I regularly update my project plan and check in with my client to ensure I’m meeting their requirements.

I usually do the hardest and most important item first while I have energy earlier in the day. I work flexibly and remotely, which helps me to balance by work life and personal life. For me, this means working part time and from home. I have online or face to face meetings with clients as needed.

What kind of content do you create?

I currently work on projects as the lead policy analyst and technical writer. Mostly I develop policies, which set out objectives, principles and mandatory requirements/high-level business rules at an organisation. I develop content to help my clients improve strategy, compliance and workplace safety. My work involves:

  • scoping the programme of work:
    • project management, agreeing deliverables and user requirements
    • setting up the project plan, content development plan, templates and consultation timelines
    • completing audits of current content
  • drafting documents:
    • seeking input, doing research and finding up to date, best practice content
    • business analysis to identify issues and develop solutions to improve the content
    • developing policies, standards, processes, procedures, guidelines and flowcharts
    • explaining legislative changes and simplifying operational policy into plain language
  • improving readability, reviewing feedback and editing documents
  • getting Board, Chief Executive or senior leadership team approval of policies or documents
  • developing stakeholder engagement and communications plans, online policy hubs and key messages to launch new policies or systems.

Do you work with subject matter experts or product owners? How?

Yes, it’s important to engage with subject matter experts early when developing content. During my work, I seek input from subject matter experts and build relationships across an organisation.

I’ll have a conversation with the subject matter expert and I prepare questions in advance, so I can find out about the audience, purpose, format and tone of the content they need. I’ll ask them to review draft documents, to ensure that:

  • policy content is correct and meets their requirements
  • procedures and guidelines reflect how they do things in their organisation.

How much focus do you or your team put on using plain language?

I’ve always loved working with words. I’m passionate about plain language and making technical content easy to read. I use plain language guides and I’ve completed training with TCANZ, Write Ltd, Contented and the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand.

It’s great that we have the Plain Language Act 2022 in place to help the public to access services and meet requirements more easily. The Public Service Commission has issued useful guidance:

Plain Language Act 2022: Guidance for agencies

Another useful tool is a new international standard, ISO 24495-1:2023, Plain language – Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines. The standard helps writers to develop communications to put readers first. It includes guidelines on how to make content relevant, findable, understandable and usable.

Can you tell us about a rewarding project you've been involved in lately?

I work in a lot of industries and with a variety of people. I never get bored!

I learn about all sorts of interesting things in my work. Some recent projects include developing:

  • operational policies for the Climate Change Commission and Children and Young People’s Commission. This work:
    • ensured their policies and procedures are fit for purpose, comply with government requirements and provide clarity for staff
    • covered acceptable behaviour, business continuity, code of conduct, communications, finance, health and safety, human resources, privacy, risk management and wellbeing
  • a Defence Force Instruction and Defence Force Manual (logistics policies), to ensure the safe management of operational energy across the NZ Army, Navy and Air Force
  • policy and provider standards for the NZ Police Te Pae Oranga (Iwi Community Panels) Programme, to help NZ Police to manage the programme and improve relationships with Iwi and providers.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as a technical communicator?

Make connections on LinkedIN while you’re working at an organisation to grow your network. Ask your manager for a reference on LinkedIN when you leave a role or contract. This year, I’ve been found by several recruiters on LinkedIN and have secured contracts as a result of that. Also ask for any feedback on your work and improvements you can make going forward, this is valuable learning for you.

If you’re starting out in contracting, contact previous employers as they might need help and already know you. Be willing to learn and develop your knowledge in technical subject matter areas.

Use plain language guides. Complete plain language training, this will help you to structure your writing and communicate effectively with your readers.

Pay attention to the detail and to the reader. Focus on being reliable, professional, competent, adaptable and knowledgeable. Aim to deliver high-quality work on-time and to meet or exceed your client’s expectations.

Ngā mihi nui, Rosalie!

We find the relationship between policy analyst and technical writer very interesting, and crucial to the success of a business’ core goals and projects. Thanks very much for taking the time to share your story with us.