Defence & Security: BAE uses its head to engage with staff

BAE Systems, the UK's largest manufacturing employer, set out to improve engagement with its staff from shop floor to office workers. Comms channels already existed, including an online briefing tool, a newspaper and intranet pages, but research showed there was a lack of coherence and messages were not penetrating to the lower levels of the firm.

BAE revamped comms channels
BAE revamped comms channels

Campaign: Heads Up
Client: BAE Systems
PR team: In-house
Timescale: January 2011-February 2012
Budget: In-house staff time only



  •  To engage employees with business aims and strategy
  • To make the comms tools more accessible to employees
  • To increase understanding of the wider business and political environment.

Strategy and plan

In January 2011, BAE Systems Military Air & Information was formed following a business reorganisation.

Seeing this as an opportunity, the team launched fresh comms channels under the banner 'Heads Up'. These comprised an intranet news hub, monthly DVDs and a quarterly magazine. All other channels were discontinued.

The comms team took ownership of the intranet news hub, creating a one-stop shop for all information. Content included daily news stories, business information, weekly people profiles and a series of blogs, both by senior leaders and those lower down the organisation. The news hub featured content including cartoon and video pieces, with comments from employees encouraged. Team leaders were sent a monthly DVD featuring the most important news of the month and were encouraged to watch it with their team.

The Heads Up magazine was developed, while a Kindle version was also made available.

This integrated approach was employed when a significant number of potential job losses were to be announced. In July 2011, the magazine carried an interview with the MD, who signposted the business was facing difficult times but did have a long-term sustainable future. Throughout July and August, the news hub carried many stories about the need to reduce costs, while the August DVD updated staff on the challenges. Finally, the September DVD featured the deputy MD explaining that the board was facing some difficult decisions due to changes in workloads, with the news hub giving more details of the changes.

Measurement and evaluation

A survey issued in July 2011 randomly selected 2,000 employees, with a 45 per cent response rate. Seventy-five per cent of respondents stated they were satisfied with the news hub, with 67 per cent noting the content as topical and interesting. More than 75 per cent found the DVD informative, clear and interesting.


The changes have resulted in dramatically improved engagement with the brand. A huge 92 per cent of those polled said they accessed the site at least once a week, which now has 40,000 hits a day. Survey respondents were also positive about the magazine's format and the quality of the production - 90 per cent found it clear, informative and interesting to read. The cost of producing the magazine is roughly half that of the older newspaper.



The challenge to keep staff informed of news without relying on a torrent of emails can create a headache for organisations of all sizes.

This innovative approach allows staff to dip in to get their news fill when it suits them, as opposed to emails interrupting their working day.

The in-house team had to put real thought into how staff want to access news and information - creating a suite of channels rather than putting all its eggs in one basket.

The statistics on satisfaction rates with the new channels are welcome news for the team's approach.

DVDs seem like a very bold move but I would question how long they will remain successful, given the inevitable restrictions on how and when the content can be viewed, particularly if the timing/information is sensitive.

BAE Systems has had some tough issues to communicate, so top marks have got to go to the team for its effort to engage with the workforce.

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