Network Rail and beetroot took an established publication packed with suit-wearing employees and took a big risk. They reinvented the title, creating Network, and in so doing, have not only showcased more of their rail workers in high visibility gear, but have also made an incredibly diverse employee base highly visible as whole people contributing to a changing workplace. It’s clear the team felt a strong personal connection to the stories they told and effected measurable change in company policies and language as a direct result. The team fought to ensure each issue was authentic and enriched the connections between many different kinds of colleagues at Network Rail. The end result was a collection of brave, interesting stories that did their internal publication proud.
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Brief and objectives:
Network Rail owns and operates the railway infrastructure in England, Wales and Scotland. We’re delivering a better railway for a better Britain.Our job is to give people line of sight and show them how their work is helping us achieve our goals.
Network is a carbon-neutral, 20- to 24-page magazine, published 10 times a year. The remit is to bring Network Rail’s strategy and priorities to life though the voices of the people at the heart of it. More than 10,000 copies are printed and distributed to almost 400 sites. A digital version is also available.
The magazine has clear objectives:
- Use Network to simplify the corporate narrative and share stories in an easy-to-digest format, in a language that is simple and balanced in tone.
- Network tackles tough subjects that matter to colleagues.
- Network aligns business priorities (5Cs: customer focused, cost competitive, commercial, culture and capacity) with a people-centric narrative.
- Network should drive advocacy.
Rationale behind publication, including research and planning:
Network was launched in January 2014 in the response to an audit (including 1,000 interviews), which revealed the existing print channels were missing the mark. Just 40% of colleagues recognised the previous magazine as a trusted source of information, while fewer than 20% said it helped them understand their role, or inspired them. Advocacy Network needed to be a driver in shaping advocacy internally, which should drive advocacy beyond work, too. It is an easy-to-access, people and feature-led magazine, made up of short and snappy content and engaging photography. The remit of Network is to:
- Present a people-centric narrative
- Be an investment in our people
- Have a greater resonance with ALL colleagues
- Represent the front line.
To achieve this, we work with our human resources and diversity and inclusion teams to tackle difficult subjects that shine a light on the issues that are important to front line colleagues. SafetyNetwork Rail is a safety critical business. The inclusion of safety stories is vital to keep our people safe. The inclusion of stories on safety tools, the dangers our colleagues face and first-aid examples should have a presence in the magazine.
For Network, good looks like:
- Our people tell the story
- Content is short with multiple entry points
- Content is straightforward and doesn’t assume technical knowledge – it’s written for people who may have been here 25 years or 25 minutes
- Features are balanced and honest, with the voice of the customer present wherever possible
- Content is aligned to strategic themes based on the company’s priorities.
Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:
Each story featured in Network links back to one of the internal communications themes: celebrating our people, better every day, Railway Upgrade Plan, safety and performance, Digital Railway and caring for our passengers and communities. These themes sit in line with the overall business strategy and highlight best practice across the business, showcase individuals challenging the culture and changing the way we operate. TacticsAs part of the treatment process, we scamp out key features and front page concepts. We’ve moved away from a person in PPE to more engaging, eye-catching designs.
Our approach to tackling important issues has allowed colleagues to tell their own personal stories, using Network as a platform. ‘Not just bants’ (October 2017, pages 12-15) highlighted the treatment Kauser Ismailjee, a female graduate, received from fellow colleagues on the front line.
We’ve also brought through people’s home lives into their working environment with the visual treatment we apply to the stories we tell. Lauren Masters’ account of battling depression and anxiety (June 2017, pages 08-10) encompassed her photography hobby, which helps her mental health. Mike Goodwin’s gambling addiction story (November 2017, pages 08-10) includes his wedding photo, once again showing colleagues are keen to share their own tales – highs and lows. These stories are designed to tackle the culture, to make it more inclusive and to start conversations about mental health, which was responsible for 14% of all absence days in Network Rail in 2016-17. The chosen fonts remain legible across all user platforms. Colour is “on-brand” but is deliberately limited to allow imagery to stand out from the white space. Commissioned photography of front line colleagues and core activity maximises the visual impact.
Features are built from short, sharp segments of easy-to-digest text, working hand-in-hand with images and with multiple entry points. In longer features, there is no room for jargon or wasted words.
Implementation of tactics:
We plan each edition six weeks in advance. Each area of the business is engaged by the Network editor to gather input on content ideas. This is followed by a planning meeting with beetroot to discuss the stories, explore treatment and to scamp out photography and page design to ensure we’re bringing the story to life editorially and visually.
Measurement and evaluation, including engagement of target readers:
Network is having a positive impact on colleagues and is a well-received publication. In the most recent (2017) survey:
- 79.8% of respondents read most or all issues of Network – a 12.9% increase from the 2015 survey.
- 65.6% agree that Network reports on issues important to the front line (+10%)
- 53.9% agree that Network is prepared to tackle difficult or negative subject matter (+5% )
- 44.5% agree that Network is useful to me in doing my job (+4%), while 7.9% disagree (-18%)
- 63.7% agree that Network is honest and trustworthy (+3%)
- 65.2% agree that Network is written for people like me (+10%)
More than 15% of the colleagues surveyed (2,700) took part in the 2017 survey.
The digital version of Network was viewed on average 8,580 times, with an average read time of 2.39 minutes.
Budget and cost effectiveness:
Annual budget is £113,257. On average each edition costs £10,965 this includes content planning, proofing and sign-off (825), creative treatment (£3,750), the print of 10,200 editions (£2,460), as well as the distribution and postage of the magazine (£2,070). Also included in the costs are four professional photoshoots (£400 each) and the design and platform costs for the digital edition (£260).
A small team of three internal contributors work closely with an agency designer and editor.
Efficiencies are driven by contributors taking photos and using external media materials.