AB Thinks  →  16th August 2018

Delivering for Royal Mail

AB Thinks

AB received two Awards of Excellence from the Institute of Internal Communication for its work with Royal Mail in 2018 – Best Newspaper and Best Single Campaign. This is the story behind these awards.

There is no shortage of important communication to share with the nation’s postmen and women. Royal Mail has been experiencing tough trading conditions, significant shifts in customer behaviour and expectations, plus a complex and lengthy 18-month negotiation with the Communications Workers Union (CWU).

Hard to reach

However, despite the pressing need to communicate, the process can be challenging. This is a large, highly dispersed workforce with limited access to digital channels. Around 135,000 employees work in approximately 1,800 sites across the UK and very few sit behind a desk. As a result, Royal Mail’s monthly print publication – Courier – is consistently rated by employees as one of their most effective communication channels.

Since AB won the contract to write and design Courier in 2012, the newspaper has consistently won awards, including the coveted Gold Award for Best Print Publication in 2017. However, with so much change and transformation continuing to affect its readers, Courier could not rest on its laurels.

The voice of the unions

Trade unions are known for their plain-speaking and direct style of communication to members. They have become adept at using social media and often react with surprising speed to changing events. Internal communicators are often hampered by the opposite – long, complex sign-off procedures with multiple stakeholders resulting in worthy but bland, uninspiring communication.

Both AB and Royal Mail were determined not to fall into this trap. Courier needed to present the facts to employees in the most straightforward, convincing and timely way possible. No hyperbole, omissions or prevarication.

The power of plain speaking

The editorial and design approach of Courier changed. AB used the inherent strengths of the newspaper’s tabloid roots to create bold, no-nonsense headlines and arresting front pages.

Inside, the uncluttered and no-nonsense approach continued, supported by crystal-clear design.  “The new style for Courier has a cleaner, sharper focus with icons, graphics and bolder copy,” says editor Jennifer Hardwick.

In February a dramatic headline on Courier’s front page – ‘Deal Agreed’ – highlighted the company’s historic deal with the CWU, ending 18 months of negotiations and resulting in fundamental changes for the entire organisation and its workforce.

Inside, the details of the deal were brought to life through eye-catching and engaging design, including a Q&A with Royal Mail senior management.

Proving its worth

Courier had become a straight-talking source of facts and insight for its readers. It had successfully taken the lead in keeping employees updated on the dispute and negotiations between Royal Mail and the CWU. AB was not surprised that in recent research, 74% of respondents agreed with the statement “Courier has helped me understand what has happened throughout the negotiations between Royal Mail and CWU”.

Instilling pride at Christmas

Christmas is always Royal Mail’s busiest time of the year and, given the union negotiations taking place, it was important to celebrate as well as inform the nation’s postmen and women.

Royal Mail and AB embarked on a special ‘Delivering Christmas’ campaign. Its objective? To instil a sense of pride and achievement among frontline colleagues during a particularly busy period and, if possible, increase traffic to Royal Mail’s employee website, myroyalmail.com.

Sharing personal stories

At the heart of the campaign was a competition, which unfolded over ‘12 days of Christmas’.  An ever-more impressive series of prizes built momentum and excitement. When they entered, colleagues were encouraged to share a personal story of pride and achievement at work. These stories were later shared across Royal Mail’s digital and printed channels.

A jump in website traffic

The campaign delivered. More than 15,000 employees entered the competition, an average of 1,276 unique entries each day. And myroyalmail.com saw a 37% increase in first-time visitors (new sessions) to the site.

To find out more about our work with Royal Mail or how AB can help with your communication needs, please contact tom.thake@abcomm.co.uk