AB Thinks  →  7th July 2017

Making print work harder

Paul Smith

Its circulation beats that of some national newspapers. Royal Mail‰’s newspaper, Courier, started in the 1960s and remains a vital source of information for the nation’s postmen and women. With such an impressive track record, its redesign was handled with care.

The backstory

Established in 1964, Courier is one of Europe’s oldest and most well-read internal publications. Its print run currently stands at 190,000.

Its core audience is the organisation‰’s frontline workforce, based at delivery offices, mail centres, distribution centres and customer service points across the country. Here, 80 per cent of employees are male and around 40 per cent have been with the company for more than a decade.

Courier has evolved over time to meet the changing needs of its business. This continues today as its industry becomes increasingly competitive.

Strategic punch

Courier’s role is to convey strategic messages through the eyes of its readers. In 2017, this required a fresh look at its content, editorial style and design. In essence, Courier needed to be punchier and more business-focused.

First, the internal communications team, working with AB, identified the teams, sites and locations that would best bring Royal Mail‰’s strategy to life. Then, AB’s team of reporters, video journalists and photographers spent more time out in the field, capturing a wider range of genuine employee quotes and imagery.

Editorially, Courier began taking a bolder approach with short, punchy coverlines and no-nonsense copy.

The structure also changed. Research showed readers’ letters were the most well-read pages, largely because they are unedited and always receive a response. To reflect this, letters were moved from the back of the publication to pages four and five.

As you’d expect with a modern day tabloid, Courier now also acts as the gateway to digital content on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and myroyalmail.com – a website for employees available on any device connected to the web without a login or password.

Decluttering the design

When it came to design, the team was keen for Courier to retain its popular tabloid appeal. To reflect modern tabloids, such as the i newspaper, a cleaner, more uncluttered style was introduced.

Icons, graphics, bold headings and highlighted text are now used throughout to capture the attention of readers. Pages have a deceptively simple structure so that even skimming readers are able to pick out the most salient facts and figures.

Counting what counts

What do readers think of the redesign?

Regular measurement – both quantitative and qualitative – has been vital to the on-going success of Courier.

After only two issues of the new design, AB’s research team asked readers if Courier was improving – an impressive 65 per cent said yes.

They asked whether the new-look Courier was helping readers understand the future direction of the organisation. More than 74 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed.

And, when asked: “Is the new Courier keeping you informed about what’s happening across Royal Mail?” An overwhelming 86 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed.

Rachel Stansfield, senior internal communications manager and Courier editor at Royal Mail, says: “The redesign has breathed new life into one of our core channels. The challenge is to maintain reader engagement and ensure the newspaper remains a trusted, valuable source of information during a vital time in our history.”