Internal communication: what it takes to win


With our editorial director set to host tonight’s IoIC event on what makes for internal comms ‘gold‘, we thought we’d revisit one of Speak’s own  projects in the field and see what it takes to put together an exceptional piece of  internal communication. Read on to find out how we did it for one of our founding clients, RBS Coutts…

The creation of an award-winning staff magazine  

WQ launched Winter 2010 with the aim of creating an inclusive culture and ‘oneness’ for 5,200 staff working across four different RBS Wealth brands in the UK and abroad, including Coutts & Co.

Audience engagement was impressive, with a 98% reader approval rating in an online survey.

The title went on to win an IoIC ‘Award of Excellence’ 2011. Award judges, in their feedback on our entry, commented: “There’s an engaging, adult tone to the way much of WQ’s material is written, allowing the personality of some of the subjects to come through… A firm sense of the firm, its people, senior personalities and client base, is effectively conveyed within the covers of WQ.” They also praised the high production values.

The business need for WQ

The division, and more importantly, the RBS group, underwent enormous change in the two years prior to the launch of WQ. Following the decision to restructure the Wealth division, there was heavy pressure to ensure communications were fit for purpose for this new grouping of people and brands. WQ magazine was created to report on news and activities across the group, including top-down messages from the CEO and other senior executives, as well as colleague-to-colleague knowledge sharing, at a time of major constant organisational change.

A key requirement was to create a forum for a unified community – and a hub between separate, brand-specific IC channels such as intranet sites – reflecting the merger between four previously distinct and separate brands (Coutts, RBS Coutts, Adam & Company and RBS International) under the umbrella grouping of RBS Wealth Management.

The audience

  • Diverse 5,200-strong workforce within RBS Wealth Management division, spread across the UK, Switzerland and Asia. 50/50 split between UK/international staff.
  • From front office to back office staff, from senior management to private bankers, team assistants to call centre staff, and those working in the fields of marketing, law, risk, change management, investments, product development and more.

The goals

  • To add value to the business by informing employees of all levels of what is going on across the organisation and how they contribute.
  • To create an inclusive culture and ‘oneness’ to help bridge divisions across brand cultures, geography, and functions.
  • To promote understanding among employees about the different departments and jobs within the division.
  • To strengthen employees’ sense of identity and pride within the organisation – and hence boost morale and ambition.
  • To give an insight into employee’s lives outside work, highlighting what’s important to them and, in turn, the organisation, including work in the community, charity and individual challenges.

174_mainWhat we did

A collaborative approach

Speak Media worked closely with the marketing and communications team at RBS Wealth, planning all text and visual content at editorial meetings at the start of each production cycle, to ensure the magazine retained an ‘internal’ feel.

Speak Media also liaised with a specially-formed internal editorial board, made up of stakeholders across the business, to ensure WQ’s content reflected the division’s size and diversity. The board met regularly to review each issue’s content and design, and to provide suggestions for future editions.

Relevant, engaging content

Speak Media devised and developed a number of regular feature ideas to engage and inform employees, including ‘We Work Together’, ‘Client Confidential’, ‘The Knowledge’ (CPD), ‘How I Got to Where I Am’ and ‘City Insight’.

These editorial ideas – many of which feature first-person accounts by staff representing different roles and geographical locations across the Group – encouraged staff to participate in the creation of WQ.

Our design and editorial team collaborated to plan and commission artwork and photography to create impactful, visually arresting pages. We also introduced editorial ‘access point’ devices such as info graphics, stats, boxouts and CTAs to draw readers in to longer, often technical features.

We were also careful in our selection of forward-looking, in-depth content, covering global themes and topics that hold longer-term interest of readers in a magazine that published quarterly. Interim news updates and pre-issue teasers were circulated via email and intranet (see below) to ensure visibility and awareness in the months between issues.

Multi-channel integration

Speak Media also re-purposed editorial content from the magazine to feature in other RBS/ Coutts channels, including the RBS Coutts (UK) intranet site and press/marketing materials.

We also worked closely with the RBS Wealth communications team to produce internal reports (for circulation via intranet, email and presentations) on key events and initiatives such as annual staff conferences, press coverage, and client-facing marketing materials such as the annual ‘Global Outlook’ investment publications.


Ready to launch

Prior to launch, Speak Media created an intranet and email ‘teaser’ campaign, building up to publication day with strong, image-led promo messages offering glimpses of the new-style design and content. This created a sense of excitement around the launch and helped ensure audience ‘buy in’ for the new direction.

The results

The highly successful launch issue was further improved in response to emails and comments from readers, including requests for bigger ‘flashes’ to promote competitions/ reader incentives, wider columns and larger font size for the news nib columns, and thinner paper stock.

Following the second issue, a survey was conducted to gauge reader feedback, asking questions about the magazine’s content, design and relevance. The survey was online for four weeks after publication.

Feedback from all levels of staff on the first two issues has been overwhelmingly positive, with many remarking on the stimulating content and sophisticated design. Staff particularly feel the magazine ‘informs’ them of news they otherwise wouldn’t be privy to.

Survey highlights

  • More than 80 people (1.5% response rate) completed the survey
  • 98% were ‘very satisfied’ (53%) or ‘mostly satisfied’ (45%) with the magazine
  • The editorial content, design, and photography were all rated highly

Staff responses

  • “The articles by Rory (Tapner, CEO) and Wealth Executive Committee, reflecting on key achievements of 2010 and opportunities to make Wealth’s business even better, were really inspiring”
  • “It’s a good idea of what happens in a senior manager’s day”
  • “The content was engaging, particularly the cover feature which explored internal issues around next generation high wealth clients in the wider context, touching on external, ‘real-world’ finance themes”
  • “I really like the new look and feel – it’s a great representation of our global brand”
  • “There’s a strong sense of community within the pages of the magazine, staff from across the Group (geographically and in terms of their roles) are well-represented, giving them a sense of ownership and encouraging them to interact more”


Where next?
Read a report of a previous speaker event at the IoIC
Need help with internal communications?
More from George Theohari

Author: Tom Owen

A strategic storyteller and compelling content creator, awash with acuity and adept at alliteration. I work for Speak Media.

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