To an Unexpected Epic January

With the way January is going, I wish I had made resolutions. Instead, I was busy dancing in my PJ’s singing, Thank you, next. So I’m taking a moment to catch my breath, soak it all in and appreciate it all over a cappuccino.

I had the incredible pleasure of sitting in Rachel Miller, All Things IC hot seat. I met Rachel last year when she delivered an internal communications masterclass at a Partnership event.  Not only did she unleash an internal communications monster, but she also became a mentor, guiding me through the highs and lows. Rachel is very supportive, kind, encouraging, and honest.  The All Things IC blog is rich with knowledge and information I would recommend visiting it.

Last year while in Birmingham for the Public Sector Communications Academy over a glass of wine, because the best things happen over a glass of something. Darren Caveney, Carly and I had a chat about the role of business partner in communications teams, account management and working with agencies. That conservation evolved into something tangible because Darren makes things happen. He contacted the fantastic agency One Black Bear, and a day trip was born. Darren wrote an informative blog post on his site Comms2Point0, “be fierce and never mediocre – 28 lessons from a top creative agency”. Head over there and check out the other great resources.

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And then we come to this week, and the Employee and Engagement Awards. We lost of Ministry of Justice and I would like to congratulate them. I can’t wait to read their submission. That brings me to this post which is our submission. This campaign took a lot of trust because it was something different and it was a step forward in using Internal Communications to solve business problems at zero cost.

“Be Epic” Campaign

In May 2018, Merton Council’s communications team conceived a highly successful internal communications campaign to help the overstretched IT department build staff engagement towards its live, but largely unadopted, IT Password Reset system.

Low enrolment levels meant that password resets continued to be one of the top requests to the IT Service Desk, which was already receiving approximately 1800 calls per month.

The “Be Epic” campaign transformed staff engagement, accelerating enrolment levels by 214% at no cost. It further freed up valuable IT resource and changed internal perceptions of the powerful impact communication can have upon behavioural change.

Evaluation of ‘Be Epic’ Christmas campaign, shows a 580% increase in staff using the self-service portal to reset passwords and unlock accounts compared to same period in 2018. There was a 65% decline in calls to the IT service desk requesting password resets, 70% of staff are now enrolled.

  

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The Merton Council “Be Epic” Campaign ran for three months between 30 May and 30 August 2018 then at the festive period from Mid December 2018 to end of January 2019. This was a creative internal communication campaign which successfully addressed a critical IT challenge for the council, i.e. to persuade staff to enroll to the Password Reset Self Service system, a live but largely unadopted system which allows staff to reset their passwords across the Merton Network.

The campaign, therefore, set out to accelerate staff enrolment and reduce the number of staff calling the help desk for password resets, a regular Service Desk request which tied up valuable IT resource which could be more efficiently deployed elsewhere.

The Communications strategy took an inclusive approach to the challenge, by borrowing the highly engaging “Feel Epic” equity from a recent and very well known “Money Supermarket” advertising campaign.

The campaign used bright, eye-catching visuals, referencing the summer by deploying many fun “ice lolly” characters which invited staff to “be Epic” through signing up for the Password Reset service and sharing their positive experience of the process. This clear call to action and the light, non-corporate, tone were identified as crucial elements for some staff in helping to remove the fear-factor around adopting a new IT process.

The campaign’s creative use of all the key internal media channels (intranet, staff bulletin, email, posters and lift screens) guaranteed high visibility to all employees.

Crucially, the campaign ensured that employee engagement was built into its very design. The messaging was regularly refreshed as enrolment numbers increased to create a peer influence effect in the countdown to the enrolment deadline of 31 August.

In the early stages, the campaign effectively targeted the early adopters amongst staff, using light messaging which drove awareness around the option to enroll. As the campaign developed, our messaging successfully referenced team dynamics to target more resistant staff cohorts.

Updating the campaign with the latest enrolment numbers created a peer influence effect which encouraged staff to either bring their colleagues on board, or to join their colleagues who had successfully done so already: “So now I’ve got to get down with the epic kids too?”.


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The characters were carefully curated taking into consideration the age, ethnic and class difference. The messaging was made relatable to different groups with a clear understanding of what their interests are.

 The tone of the campaign also held broad organisational appeal, referencing topical events such as the heat wave, upcoming summer holidays and the World Cup.


A strong partnership with the IT department played a vital role too. Their system access allowed them to keep the creative work up-to-date with the latest updates on enrolment numbers, and to target individuals who had not yet enrolled with a direct email entitled “Do you want to feel epic?”.

This campaign approach was highly successful. On the first day of the “Be Epic” launch, the IT department recorded a dramatic increase in system engagement, with six enrolments in the first six minutes.

The “Be Epic” campaign, as referenced earlier, was inclusive by virtue of its design. The campaign included a clear call to action: “Share your story about your password reset experience here”. 

Staff were delighted to share positive testimonials which could then be incorporated as social proof in the later stages of the campaign, their stories proving to be highly relatable and persuasive.

The humorous execution “An Epic fairy tale in Merton” told the story of John, a senior member of staff who had got into a spot of IT trouble:

“Over his morning coffee, using his keep cup, he locked himself out of his Merton account!

He didn’t despair as he had already joined the epic gang and followed all the steps to get a new password…...Now John feels epic!”.

Another execution, entitled “Abby reset her own password, and now she feels epic!” focused on staff empowerment and the benefits of being able to reset your password outside core office hours:

“My token was locked at 6:45 am this morning, and I unlocked it using the password reset service – amazing! I did it in less than 2mins! If I hadn’t been able to do this, I would not have been able to work until 8 am, when the IT Service Desk opens.” 

This creative agility would not have been possible without the commitment of the Internal Communications team to learning the Canva design tool. This allowed them to bring creative skills in-house so that they could design and update the campaign in real time, in collaboration with the IT department, and at no cost to the organisation. Regular meeting with the head of IT service delivery team and helpdesk staff ensured that the campaign solved the bottlenecks identified. For example, staff enrolling before they go on their holidays, as there is a spike in calls after school holidays. It has led by the IT service desk changing their ‘on hold’ message to reflect the self-service options available.

The knock-on effect of this campaign is that it demonstrated the value of peer-peer interaction. This has begun feeding into new internal corporate change campaigns where staff are the face of the message. Staff feel more empowered to share their stories and trust the internal communications channels.  

This simple creative campaign has been shown to have increased cross-departmental collaboration. The communications team were often viewed as the broadcasters of pre-approved messages, with one staff member once asking, "Why do comms have to change everything?" There has been a change in this view following the success of the Epic campaign, with services contacting communications for advice and support to communicate better to their internal and external stakeholders.

This campaign has opened the door and laid the foundations for a new wave of digital marketing and communications, with agreement now in place for new investment in digital communications platforms to improve how we communicate internally and externally. Merton have now full incorporated the use of Sli.do which can provide cherished staff feedback through sessions such as chief executive briefings, and  live webcast question time with corporate management team.

The campaign was highly successful in positively changing staff behaviour by empowering them to reset their own passwords, thus achieving its goals of accelerating staff enrolment and reducing the number of staff calling the help desk for password resets.

 

Measurement

Before the campaign launched, the overstretched IT team typically received 1,800 calls per month, with password resets being one of the Top 10 call types. The IT team estimated that each reset request would usually take 5 minutes, meaning that successful adoption of the new Password Reset system could potentially save up to 150 hours of valuable IT time per month. Despite the IT team’s previous efforts to communicate the benefits of their new system, enrolments had remained low. In one year, they had achieved only 700 enrolments (28% of their user base), and they projected that it would take four years to reach their target.

By the end of the three month long “Feel Epic” campaign, enrolment numbers had increased by 214% to reach 1,402 staff members and this number continues to grow. 70% of the workforce is fully enrolled.  

 Lastly, the campaign has positively changed internal perceptions of the communications team and their value, opening a gateway to more collaborative working partnerships across the organisation.

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