AB Thinks  →  21st August 2018

On track for Hitachi

AB Thinks

AB received three Awards of Excellence from the Institute of Internal Communication for its work with Hitachi Rail Europe in 2018 – Best News Magazine, Best Design (print channels) and Best Storytelling. This is the story behind the awards.

Hitachi Rail is building and maintaining the UK’s largest new fleet of high-speed trains, with hundreds of new employees joining the company every month.

To address the needs of this growing workforce a printed publication was created with a focus on the hard-to-reach, non-wired frontline audience. These time-poor employees needed to understand what was happening across Hitachi Rail and research showed they wanted a quick, engaging read during their breaks.

Reader input

Fusion was launched in November 2015 following in-depth research with the audience who gave very specific direction on the tone and style. It aims to to reflect the personality of the frontline – fun, friendly, and straight-talking. The goal for 2017 was to build on its success with more personal, intimate stories that didn’t necessarily always need a hard business angle. This would be backed up by punchy, eye-catching and highly accessible design.

The involvement of the magazine’s editorial panel – which had grown to nine men and women drawn from across Hitachi’s business – is key to planning each issue – they are the eyes and ears on the ground. Editor Simon Ward focused on digging up great people stories and finding new and creative ways to move the magazine forward.

Bolder design

“That meant bolder photography and more personal, intimate stories,” says Simon. “Every feature needed to work harder, there had to be a purpose behind every story – whether that’s informing, entertaining or making you think. In an ideal world, I wanted articles that could exist outside an internal publication – stories that are simply great stories.”

“The design is part and parcel of how we tell each story,” says Simon. “Fusion relies on strong photography and we often go to extraordinary lengths to get the shot we need.”

Moving storytelling

For the December 2017 issue, the spotlight was on the women working at Hitachi. The original proposal was to feature three or four different women in different disciplines. But once Hitachi Rail employee Kastin contacted the editorial team to share her deeply moving story, the team knew the approach had to change.

Kastin had grown up in the rough neighbourhood of Gardena, California. She was just 12 years old when someone first pulled a gun on her, and the only opportunities available to her growing up – in her own words – were to be ‘a gangster or a drug dealer’.

Kastin’s own quotes formed the basis of the piece as telling the story in her own words gave it honesty and power allowing readers to connect in a more personal way. The story doesn’t pull any punches and the design allows space to tell the story fully.

The front cover visually encapsulated Kastin’s deeply personal journey from LA to her position in Hitachi’s head office. The busy Procurement Mobilisation Manager was photographed in two outfits – her office attire, and her street clothes – while standing in exactly the same position in Hitachi’s main reception area.

Inspiring and engaging

Anecdotal feedback on the article was extremely positive, with colleagues from across the business stating how it made them think differently. Vanessa Unwin, Hitachi Rail’s group head of internal communications, commented: “Employees said the story was fascinating and inspiring. It shows that anyone who feels they are ‘starting at the bottom’ can make a better life for themselves. At Hitachi we work hard to ‘inspire the next’ generation and that’s exactly what Kastin’s story does.”

A reader survey showed stories like Kastin’s had helped to build on Fusion’s strengths – 71% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “Fusion had improved the way Hitachi Rail communicates with me.” Those in the ‘strongly agree’ category had doubled from 10% to 20% on the previous year.

To find out more about our work with Hitachi or how AB can help with your communication needs, please contact Janice.Fitzgerald@abcomm.co.uk