CAMPAIGNS: Turning staff into Star gazers - Internal Communications

Gardner Merchant is a contract services company employing over 40,000 staff in 3,500 units around the UK. The bulk of its business is in catering, with sites ranging from Gatwick airport and Sandown racecourse to Aldershot Garrison.

Gardner Merchant is a contract services company employing over

40,000 staff in 3,500 units around the UK. The bulk of its business is

in catering, with sites ranging from Gatwick airport and Sandown

racecourse to Aldershot Garrison.



Talisman Communications, publications and presentations specialists, has

handled the company’s internal communications since 1991.



Objectives



To communicate effectively with all levels of staff, within a company

that runs a wide range of operations, at sites all over the UK.



Tactics



In March 1996, Gardner Merchant felt that Communicater, its in-house

tabloid style newspaper, was not catering successfully to all levels of

staff. So, from April through to August 1996, Gardner Merchant and

Talisman conducted an internal communications audit. This involved focus

groups, composed of various levels of staff at five different locations,

from Glasgow to Bristol.



They found that over 70 per cent of employees were females who read

magazines in preference to newspapers. Talisman therefore proposed to

segment the company readership with two appropriately targeted in-house

publications.



Stars, the magazine for ’frontline troops’ who make up the majority of

the workforce, was launched in November 1996. With a print run of

33,000, Talisman based the format on the best elements of their core

readers favourite reads: Bella, Best, and Chat. The result was a fun

publication, focusing on staff achievements, handy work tips, recipes

and competitions.



Vision, the quarterly magazine for unit managers and above, was launched

the following month. As a communications vehicle for management,

Talisman aimed for a formal approach with an up-market glossy feel. So

the 24-page publication carried news of contract wins and financial

growth alongside senior management profiles.



Results



After each edition of Stars, feedback sessions are held with staff. Both

Gardner Merchant and Talisman say these have shown ’a very positive

response’.



The meetings have also resulted in amendments to the magazine, such as

the horoscope column which kicked off in the May 1997 edition.



Bob Cotton, Gardner Merchant’s director of communications, claims that

Stars is much more widely read than the former publication. This is

based on the improved level of readership response. However, the company

is not planning to do any formal evaluation of the two magazines until

November of this year.



Verdict



Gardner Merchant senior management were reluctant at first to segment

their internal audiences. However, they accepted that Talisman was the

communications specialist and listened to its advice.



Nick Turrell, Talisman’s senior project manager, edits Stars, and says

that the magazine obviously doesn’t appeal to senior managers, hence

their initial scepticism. But, he says: ’It’s been refreshing that they

heard what we said and responded to it.’



Turrell adds that even if senior management still don’t like the

magazine they now appreciate its effectiveness. More so since May this

year, when Stars won a Communicators in Business award for the best

relaunched publication.



Client: Gardner Merchant

PR Team: In-house and Talisman Communications

Campaign: Relaunch of Gardner Merchant’s in-house publications

Timescale: March - November 1996

Budget: pounds 20,000 (excluding cost of producing magazines)



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