This is a great example of how an internal publication has driven a cultural change in an organisation. There is strong evidence of staff engagement with a clear understanding of business objectives and the target audience. The clear use of brand champions has been integral to the magazine’s success which has resulted in a step change in people’s pride and commitment to the organisation. The consideration of internal and external communications working together to support the business objectives and improve reputation impressed the judges, with the combination of all these elements making for a worthy winner.


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Brief and objectives:

British Steel was formed in June 2016. We moved from an uncertain future with demotivated employees to one where we wanted to reinvigorate the workforce.

Effective communications were vital, helping rebuild our reputation as a vibrant organisation with a positive future.

Employee surveys show our newspaper is essential for engaging our diverse employee population. Our brief was to use this channel to implement our new vision, brand and values. We wanted a step change from the previous company newspaper, introducing something that looked and felt different, signalling our new start.

The new paper – Steel Matters – is carefully designed to align with our brand, sharing our news, successes and business updates in an approachable, trustworthy and reliable tone. Importantly it also reinforces our new vision and values.

Steel Matters supports the delivery of business objectives, helping employees understand their part in delivering them. Content is grouped under key themes:

  • creating a sustainable future
  • protecting people and communities
  • helping customers succeed.

The newspaper is printed monthly, reaching manufacturing and shop-floor employees without intranet or email access. It’s distributed to 4,000 employees across 19 of our 21 European locations. Nearly 2,000 copies are printed; it’s also available electronically.

Project objectives:

  • Re-engage disillusioned employees, focus on our new values of pride, passion and performance
  • Instil a sense of pride for working for British Steel
  • Raise employees’ awareness of business issues communicated in a credible way, building an open, honest and trustworthy culture
  • Excite employees about the company’s future
  • Recognise people and business success.


Rationale behind publication, including research and planning:

The business had been up for sale for 2 years, media coverage was negative and 1,200 people had left through voluntary redundancy. Employee surveys demonstrated morale and engagement were at an all-time low. These factors impacted employee retention and recruitment – people no longer saw the business as a desirable workplace.

Around 70% of employees are shift-based, working in harsh environments. Only 75% have regular access to electronic communication so engaging through other channels was vital.

British Steel becoming a stand-alone business presented the opportunity to review, refresh and revitalise all our channels and re-engage employees.


Steel Matters is read by all employees from senior management to shop-floor operatives. Research is regularly undertaken through annual employee surveys, focus groups, face-to-face feedback, conversations and online surveys. This information is used to fine tune content and tone.


Every issue is planned through a rigorous editorial process; this ensures all business areas are fairly represented with content supporting business objectives, as well as a fair spread of ‘people’ stories. Each edition focuses on core messages and themes, ensuring it’s up-to-date, relevant and topical.

Informal focus groups and feedback discussions were held to identify what employees want to hear about and what would make them read their new publication.

Communication champions across the business were ‘recruited’, providing context and content through regular meetings. This created local ownership and their feedback has helped create and steer content in response to employee needs.


Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:

Our approach:

  • Build anticipation for the new publication by running an employee vote to select its name
  • Redesign scope, content and layout – move away from perceived corporate ‘propaganda’ to an engaging, friendly and informative tool, using strong imagery to attract readership
  • Change style and tone to write content in first person instead of third person and avoiding jargon, creating a familiar sense of ownership and pride; this helps live our brand values and builds trust
  • Redesign the editorial process to strategically align with business needs, including bringing all article research and writing in-house where there is a better understanding of business priorities, processes, performance and employee morale. The Communications team adopted a business partnering approach to garner leads from employees across the company
  • Work closely with our brand agency to ensure our brand and values shine through our new approach, content and appearance.


Implementation of tactics:

Following the creation of our new business, our locations grew from 6 to 21. We’ve replaced and repositioned newspaper bins across our sites for improved distribution. This included removing old branding and ensuring access to newspapers in key plant locations.

Design and delivery of the publication was completed in a tight 6-week timetable so the new newspaper could be introduced as part of the British Steel brand launch.

Engagement, sponsorship and promotion by senior leaders and trade union representatives was an important part of the roll out programme, helping give the newspaper credibility.

Keeping the paper contemporary but creating a design mirroring the brand values was critical. Cheerful and creative ideas, e.g. using seasonal topical imagery, keep the paper vibrant. Using pull-out boxes for important details directs readers to the most salient information.


Measurement and evaluation, including engagement of target readers:

Employee surveys indicate an extensive positive swing:

  • In January 2016, 62% of employees surveyed said they read the paper
  • In October 2016, this figure increased dramatically to 85% – the highest readership levels for 5 years (79% in 2011)
  • Employee engagement has grown from 63% (Jan 2016) to 73% (Jan 2017).

Feedback includes:

  • Easy to understand articles
  • The paper looks and feels much better – stories are also more informative and upbeat
  • I love the new paper – it’s digestible and has helped me understand where we’re going
  • Steel Matters looks like a ‘real’ newspaper, people pick it up and actually read it
  • It’s great to see evidence of our employees’ passion – the stories show there’s new energy in the company
  • There’s a better spread of stories, including more about what people are doing, including the support they’re giving to our communities. We’ve even got a competition in our area to see who can get their picture in the paper the most!

Budget and cost effectiveness:

Moving to a higher-specification publication in June to reflect our new brand was expected to increase costs; however we achieved better quality print and feedstock for a minimal cost increase, moving from £0.75 to £0.77 per copy.

Feedback shows the value achieved far outweighs the minimal cost increase.

Our annual budget is only £16,000 – this equates to an annual figure of around £4.00 per employee. The intranet supports story distribution and readership, optimising our integrated communications strategy.