Internal Communications Case Study
A look into corporate email newsletters
Since there isn't a lot of information or statistics on internal communications, I decided to address this through a short case study from my current position. I will be updating this post later, once the new email template is released.
The current state of internal communications is lacking. With a new identity needing to be implemented, this was the perfect opportunity to update the current newsletter for the company. Other emails that had been updated using the new brand standards saw a major increase in open rate and in click rate.
The current state of the monthly newsletter was a simple, unbranded header with airplane illustrations used in a way that made them feel like clip art. Underneath this was a long list of 8-10 items ranging from events, to safety reports, to news about the company. The list was based on a two column 4:1 ratio with 2 sentences for the description and one of those was always a "click to view" link. The right column had a picture that often had text overlaid that was impossible to read.
These emails also had no target audience, very little copy analysis, and went out on Friday around 10am on different weeks of the month. It was not an ideal setup that provided very little for content management and statistic tracking. The mailing list also included rooms and inanimate objects that clearly would never open the emails and therefore would skew the results of the collected data.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is not a lot of data or design guides for internal communications, especially in the field of manufacturing. I had to do quite a bit of digging since the brand I am designing for is luxury and this should be reflected on any design, internal or not, for the brand. Here are some of the newsletters I used as reference when analyzing design.
I also looked for some data on employee engagement and statistics on internal communications to strengthen my claim for redesigning the current email. Some of the facts included:
In a survey by Prescient Digital Media, only 13% of employees reported participating in their intranet daily—31% said they never do.
69% of employees say they’d work harder if they were better appreciated and recognized, Globoforce found.
The McKinsey Global Institute found that productivity improves by 20-25% in organizations with connected employees. That kind of increase in productivity has potential for revenues amounting to $1.3 trillion per year.
17% increase in open rate when an email subject line is personalized & 29.6% increase in click rate.
Organizations with effective communication are 3.5x more likely to outperform their piers.
I got a lot of this data from Enplug, BonfyreApp, The Social Workplace, Expanded Ramblings, and Slideshare. So while a lot of data doesn't directly relate to internal email communications, a lot of it does have to deal with employee engagement and internal communications that can be linked to internal newsletters. I also looked at a few case studies including Virgin Airlines, Experian, and Royal London.
Defining Our Audience
Since the email newsletter goes out to everyone in our branch of the organization (even rooms and inanimate objects), it's safe to say there's currently a large audience. I broke down the total audience into groups by position and then chose a target based on size. The main audience ended up being the front line and production employees since they comprise the largest group. This presented some major problems since they are the employees with the lowest technical skills in regards to email, social media, internet, etc and also are most likely the least receptive to change. They also spend very little time on the computer throughout the day since they are busy manufacturing parts.
To solve these problems, we needed to design an email that was not only enticing, but quick and easy to consume. Using imagery and large text, we could further the engagement of these employees. There is also the simple solution of tracking what time during the day people are opening and reading their emails the most.
JungleMail does show the statistics for timing on individual emails open timing, but does not allow for employee or multi campaign tracking. In order to combat this, I looked into more generalized statistics for timing with internal communications. BananaTag gives some good insight on prime time for sending emails internally. Of course, these statistics aren't perfect. For example, our front line workers, are not consistently on the computers. They also share these computers with other workers. Employees are also unable to access their emails from their personal devices and so 99% of emails are viewed from the desktop. So the new strategy now included a plan for implementation.
Before beginning design, it's important to think about what's going into you newletter. Your employees are your consumers in this case, so what kind of information would they like to see and what kind of information do they need to see. To help determine this, I came up with a simple excel spreadsheet. Information was broken up by category, content, priority, and more to help keep information organized and straight to the point.
This not only helps us, but helps the team coming up with the content for the emails as well as future designers that might work on this email. If that's not enough, it also helps with future content that may need to be added into the email. The most important information gets level 1 priority and is most prominent in the design hierarchy of the email versus level 4 priority, which get the least amount of attention. Level 2 and 3 priority information is our main focus for employee engagement. Level 1 is usually things like corporate messages and safety reports that need to be seen by everyone. Level 2 and 3 will most likely be new events, employee recognition, and the like. Level 4 is repetitive information and small company updates like stocks.
Once the design is approved and released, I will continue this post so please stay tuned for another update.