The new comms team had a formidable task on its hands when the LNER brand was brought back into service, after 70 years lying dormant, in summer 2018. The new train operator, owned by the Department for Transport, succeeded Virgin Trains, which had handed the East Coast rail franchise back to the Government.
LNER brought in the new Azuma trains to operate on the 1,000-mile track between London and the Scottish Highlands, replacing the old InterCity125 High Speed Train (HST) units.
Not only did the comms team – initially comprising just three people – have to cope with the demands of running a public transport business, it also had to launch the Azuma rolling stock to the public and media.
The team’s unique challenge was to start all systems, tools, assets and processes for external comms from scratch within two months, while preparing for its first big campaign launch – a process described as running a marathon and a sprint at the same time.
In less than a year, the comms team had grown to 22 people, delivering campaigns and building LNER’s brand reputation, as well as managing issues, stakeholder engagement, social media and internal comms.
In 2019, the team delivered a 10-event launch campaign for the Azuma fleet, which was recognised by journalists including The Independent’s Simon Calder, who described it as: “A formidably well-organised and effective launch.”
The launch events generated nearly 1,000 pieces of positive coverage, while the 'farewell tour' for the retiring HST rolling stock generated more than 200 pieces of coverage.
Three-quarters of LNER employees gave survey feedback saying they felt the company had kept them informed about the challenges in moving over to the Azuma fleet, up from 40 per cent the previous year.
“An impressive example of how you build a communication function, develop a plan and then executive it flawlessly.”
London Ambulance Service NHS Trust
The small team of just six full-time-equivalent people have achieved great things in the past year. The pandemic led to intense media scrutiny of LAS’ work, with March and April this year among its busiest months, as the comms team rolled out a campaign to recruit volunteers, manage demand for 999 services and reassure Londoners of the service’s capabilities.
The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust