CAMPAIGNS: Getting the MoD squad together - Internal Communications

The Ministry of Defence’s Procurement Executive (PE) annually spends around pounds 7 billion on new equipment and spares for the armed forces. In 1991 ministers decided to bring together over 7,000 staff from three main areas - London, Bath and the south coast - in a purpose-built headquarters at Abbey Wood in Bristol. The collocation was also intended to act as a catalyst for broader changes: job cuts, new business practices and restructuring.

The Ministry of Defence’s Procurement Executive (PE) annually

spends around pounds 7 billion on new equipment and spares for the armed

forces. In 1991 ministers decided to bring together over 7,000 staff

from three main areas - London, Bath and the south coast - in a

purpose-built headquarters at Abbey Wood in Bristol. The collocation was

also intended to act as a catalyst for broader changes: job cuts, new

business practices and restructuring.



Objectives



By means of an internal communications programme, to ensure all PE staff

understood the business reasons for collocation, and to prepare them for

new ways of working in a new business environment. The campaign was also

intended to persuade sufficient members of staff to relocate.



Tactics



Redhouse Lane began by creating a relocation brand identity which would

give coherence to all material used in the programme and capture the

attention of the audience.



PE’s existing newspaper Preview was used as the key tool for regular

communications with staff. A four-page pullout called Collocation Update

was produced. Initially this was designed to conform to Preview’s rather

formal house style, but branded with the relocation identity. However,

as the programme developed a stronger graphic identity was gradually

introduced, first with four-colour printing and then a livelier, more

colourful layout.



Information rooms were established in London, Bath, Portland and

Portsmouth.



These had relocation branded exhibition panels that were changed every

three months to encourage re-visits, fact sheets on local issues, and

allowance guides that used clear design and plain English to explain the

complexities of civil service allowances.



As the new headquarters, Abbey Wood was a green field site much of the

programme was dedicated to highlighting the attractiveness and benefits

of the new building, and sold new working practices such as open-plan

working.



Over the five-year programme there were four key events when audience

attention and response was critical - a staff survey, first preference

exercise (initial decisions about moving), second preference exercise

(final decision about moving), and the move into new offices.



For each stage a special booklet was produced which broke away from

existing house style in order to achieve impact and encourage a big

response. The first booklet, Update, stood out through its use of white

space and colour, but was still recognisably MoD style.



The final commemorative booklet, Abbey Wood, produced to coincide with

the formal introduction by the Queen, was designed to reflect a bright,

modern organisation embodied in the new building, and showed how far the

organisation had come in its use of modern design.



Results



Staff opinion was tested at various stages throughout the five year

programme.



Within a year staff rated relocation information higher than PE

information generally. Survey data in the first two years shows gradual

attitudinal change and a growing willingness to relocate. The initial

staff survey achieved a 63 per cent response rate, first preference

exercise 95 per cent and the second preference exercise 99 per cent.



Of some 3,000 mobile staff issued with compulsory posting notices, there

were fewer than 10 resignations.



Verdict



Design played a significant role in changing staff perceptions about

relocation. It was thought that MoD staff would reject a radical

redesign of core literature as expensive gloss and management

propaganda, so change had to be gradual and subtle.



The impact of the new designs is evident from the high response rate to

questionnaires.



The success of the project recently also led to Redhouse Lane scooping

the 1997 Design Effectiveness Award for corporate literature.



Client: Ministry of Defence Procurement Executive

PR Team: Redhouse Lane

Campaign: Collocation to Bristol

Timescale: 1991 to 1996

Cost: Undisclosed



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