AB Thinks  →  15th May 2020

Continuing to make history in a crisis

With a readership of more than 130,000, Royal Mail’s internal newspaper, Courier, has had a crucial role to play in the company’s comms strategy during the COVID-19 crisis. But with a 56-year heritage, the team behind the title are also facing a new challenge – to get it to its frontline audience.

Voice of reason
With both AB and Royal Mail’s internal comms team moving to remote working on the same day and a print deadline for our March edition just a week later – it was essential to establish new ways of working quickly.

We wanted to fit in as much important safety information for our audience as possible, as this would be the first edition to land after the pandemic really took hold in the UK.

As keyworkers truly on the frontline of the crisis and continuing to deliver to the public, anxiety was naturally high among the workforce. Royal Mail was providing daily safety updates through digital channels, however, Courier still needed to be a voice of reason and provide clear, consistent messaging direct to the homes of every colleague.

At the same time, aware of the saturation of coronavirus messaging across mainstream news channels, we were keen not to let the rest of the newspaper’s content slide.

We designed a new eye-catching and inspiring cover thanking employees for their efforts and dedicated the first four pages to advice and customer feedback, but allowed the rest of the pages to cover more “business as usual” topics.

Keeping up connections
This strategy was taken forward for our April edition – the first edition of Courier to be produced entirely remotely. Along with the new edition, AB welcomed a new content manager, Meganrose, to the title.

‘Starting a new role is always a challenge, and a huge part of the learning curve is meeting the team, observing how everyone works and picking up on the small things that make a big difference to the process,’ she says.

‘Without an office, and unable to attend any face-to-face meetings to facilitate this kind of training, regular catch-ups via video and phone calls were hugely important. This constant contact with the team meant I could ask the questions necessary to learn the ins and outs of the role and ensure this issue upheld Courier’s reputation as the go-to resource for its regular readers – more important than ever in this unique time.’

Showcasing support
Meanwhile, the Courier team was flooded with emails from readers telling us about the fantastic efforts of colleagues up and down the country. We conducted phone interviews with more than 20 postmen and women to fill Courier’s pages with inspiring and heart-warming stories that showcase how Royal Mail employees really are at the heart of their communities.

Photoshoots took place at a safe two-metre distance – leading to some creative compositions – and we were sure to include testimony from business customers to demonstrate how vital mail is when the economy is under unprecedented strain. Our regular letters page was dedicated to questions from across the network about the coronavirus crisis, so that all Courier readers felt their voices were being heard.
‘We really wanted to do something to express our thanks and give colleagues the right messages to do their jobs effectively during a very difficult time,’ says Paul Smith, senior channels manager at Royal Mail.

Closer than ever
Ultimately, the fantastic collaboration between the AB and Royal Mail teams, as well as the determination to put out inspiring content for employees during what is probably the most challenging period of their working lives, led to an edition we are all immensely proud of.

‘There was a real sense of urgency and togetherness from the team to get this right. The challenge focused everyone’s minds and you can see there was a huge pride and care in the work that has been produced,’ says Paul.

‘There was also the logistical challenge on print and distribution for our readership of more than 130,000 colleagues. The team was quick to allay any fears we had and delivered on schedule, all while working remotely. We’re really pleased with the outcome and the whole process has got us working more closely than ever.’

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