Following 15 years of negative publicity and a substantial lack of internal and external communication methods designed to inform and promote Company achievements; Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) used the production of the 2003 Annual Report as the catalyst to redress ASCs undeserved reputation.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
A review of previously produced ASC promotional materials revealed that nothing had been done to educate uninformed stakeholders about the Company and its achievements, in fact former annual reports consisted only of financial information.
With a goal to inform and educate staff and external stakeholders, ASCs annual report broke away from traditional reporting requirements and used the opportunity to promote capabilities, values, corporate directives and skills beyond expectations normally associated with an annual report.
The development of the report was mindful of cultural hurdles, specifically the undervalued mentality of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Western Australia contingent; in addition to ensuring that a balanced portrayal of blue collar and white collar employees was maintained photographically and within the content.
Providing enormous internal and external informative value, ASCs 2003 Annual Report met its set objectives and served to promote ASC well outside the manner in which the Company had become accustomed to.
Now wholly-owned by the Australian Government, ASC was established in 1985 and was subsequently chosen in 1987 as the prime contractor for the design, manufacture and delivery of the Royal Australian Navys fleet of six Collins Class submarines.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The contract between the Australian Government and ASC represented the largest defence contract ever signed in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia at the time.
Informed commentators recognise that the Collins Class submarines are the worlds most advanced and lethal conventional submarines. The submarines are a credit to the Nations vision and are a testament to the men and women who built them.
Despite a high level of recognition within the community, ASC has suffered from a poor public image, compounded by the dud subs label commonly used to refer to the Collins Class submarines.
The effect of ASCs external image was having serious cultural ramifications internally; staff felt that their work was undervalued and misunderstood, and the absence of any internal communications activities was only fuelling this problem.
While staff based in ASCs Outer Harbor (SA) facility felt the effects of minimal communication activities, ASCs Western Australia staff suffered the most. Representing a small contingent of employees, the WA team often felt forgotten and unappreciated.
In response to this long-term issue, ASCs Board of Directors endorsed a communications strategy intended to redress ASCs undeserved reputation. An outstanding 2002/2003 financial performance was used as a catalyst to promote ASCs achievements both internally and externally.
Research for the 2003 Annual Report included:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
- Government research to determine the Department of Finance and Administrations requirements for annual reports, i.e. Hansard mandatories;
- A review of ASCs 2001 and 2002 annual reports and other promotional materials;
- A review of annual reports produced by ASCs competitors; with greater emphasis placed on reports produced by media savvy companies;
- Briefing sessions with department managers to ascertain internal perception issues throughout the Company;
- A review of all print media over the previous six months pertaining to Australian Submarine Corporation or the Collins Class submarines in an effort to gauge public opinion;
- Solicitation of feedback from department managers to determine which staff members have interesting stories for profiling; and
- A review of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Western Australia operations, including briefing sessions with managers to determine photo opportunities.
Preliminary research identified internal and external target publics, which were broken down specifically as follows:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Internal target publics:
- <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />OuterHarbor white collar employees;
- OuterHarbor blue collar employees; and
- Western Australia white and blue collar employees.
External target publics:
- Politicians (Federal and State);
- Defence Materiel Organisation Maritime Systems and Submarine Support;
- Royal Australian Navy Submarines;
- Subcontractors to ASC;
- Maritime defence industry competitors;
- Defence media (community influencers); and
- Prospective ASC employees.
Communications strategy<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
While researching ASCs previous annual reports and promotional materials, it became apparent that the Companys had made little effort to promote its capabilities and business functions to external stakeholders. In fact, previous annual reports consisted of only financial information in an unimpressive B5 format specifying nothing about the Company itself or year-to-year achievements.
Internally, the lack of knowledge and understanding about other functions outside a staff members immediate department was rife.
In an effort to overcome the shackles of the past and properly introduce ASC to its stakeholders, a strategy was developed to use the annual report as an introduction to the Company.
Specifically, the document was used to present ASCs core business functions, profile capabilities unique to ASC and profile employees who have interesting life stories, in addition to random staff environmental shots.
It was felt that this communications strategy would present ASC as a cutting-edge company with highly-skilled professionals who offer enormous value to one of the Nations most effective defence assets.
Implementation<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
In order to demonstrate the importance of both <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />OuterHarbor and Western Australia facilities, a two-day photo shoot was held in each location. Although many of the production shots were quite similar, it was important to show by way of activity that both sites are unique and significant to ASCs business.
From an equality perspective, special effort was made to ensure a gender balance in the photographs, particularly around the blue collar production areas where few women work.
Likewise, an appropriate balance between blue collar production areas and white collar office areas was maintained in order to demonstrate the importance of both elements of ASCs business.
ASCs 2003 Annual Report served to introduce stakeholders to the Company and its business functions; therefore the content was more of an explanatory nature rather than simply a review of operations for a financial period.
Core capabilities specifically relevant to the business of building, maintaining, designing and supporting the Collins Class submarines were profiled within the prime copy as a way of drawing attention to those specific functions and highlighting a selection of ASCs high-end skills unique to the Company.
As a way of drawing focus to ASCs people and presenting staff as pivotal to the Companys success, six individuals were chosen for profiles. A balance between age, gender, employment tenue, nationality, blue collar and white collar, position status and OuterHarbor and Western Australia staff was maintained.
Because of the introductory nature of the document, information about ASCs product, the Collins Class submarines, and the history of the Company was included for the benefit of those uninformed about ASCs heritage or success with the Submarine Build Project.
As a standard in all annual reports, a full financial statement was also included.
The importance of developing ASCs annual report in such an informative manner was realised following the distribution of the document.
Internally, all 950 staff members received a copy of the document, in addition to contractors working on site in OuterHarbor or Western Australia.
Company directors and executives were provided with their own stock of reports to be distributed as required, in addition to the provision of copies to core functions within ASC having considerable interface with external publics, e.g. Human Resources, Procurement etc.
Externally, the document was distributed to the following recipients:
- Federal Government members cabinet ministers, outer ministry, shadow ministers, ministers advisors and parliamentary secretaries;
- State Government members SA Government ministers, WA Government ministers and ministers advisors;
- Department of Defence Defence Materiel Organisation personnel and Royal Australian Navy personnel, including all Collins Class crew members;
- Major service providers, including recruitment agencies, law firms, merchant banks and venture capital companies;
- Major institutions of interest, including the Engineers Institute of Australia;
- Executive members of ASCs subcontracting firms;
- Defence journalists and key media outlets; and
- Parliament distribution (as per Hansard requirements).
Results<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
ASCs 2003 Annual Report has been well received by the Companys stakeholders both as a source of information and as a promotional tool. Most importantly, the amount of feedback on specific items and compliments received from both internal and external sources has been qualitatively validating.
Negative feedback about the document has not been received, however numerous editorials and articles have been published based on the information presented within the report.
Shortly after the distribution to staff of ASCs 2003 Annual Report a request for feedback notification was made to staff about the usefulness of the report, in which the following comments were received indicating that the report did indeed meet its internal objectives:
I was in the West earlier this week and the guys were very happy with their coverage in the report.
Well done with this years annual report. It was nice to see some familiar faces in the photos rather than the same old tired shots from a decade ago.
The information about the other departments within ASC is great.
Its about time we promoted ourselves a bit and its terrific to see photos of people we know for a change.
Working over here in WA its difficult to understand what the other departments based in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Adelaide do. The report has opened my eyes to other parts of the business which I didnt even know existed.
The report is 100 times better than any of the other reports ASC has put together. Well dome.
I think you did your best to promote women in the workplace considering we dont have many women working for the company.
I really liked the annual report particularly since the information was interesting and wasnt a chore to read.
I have received some excellent feedback from the customer about the annual report.
I really enjoy the mix of production and office workforce photos and profiles.
While its difficult to solicit feedback from external stakeholders regarding the usefulness of an annual report, the following outcomes were derived:
- Secured media coverage pertaining to ASCs financial position and profiles on ASCs then Managing Director and CEO, Dr Stephen Gumley;
- Generated positive feedback from ASCs subcontractor firms head offices;
- Positive feedback from representatives of Electric Boat Corporation, ASCs submarines capability partner;
- Managing Director and CEO, Dr Stephen Gumley, became inundated with phone calls relating to information contained within the report;
- In their commencing work interview, 60% of new employees cited the annual report when discussing the professionalism of the Company, while 85% reported they prepared for their interview by studying the annual report;
- The Chief of Navys Office and Head of Defence Materiel Organisation contacted senior representatives of ASC to provide positive feedback about the annual report; and
- By way of formal notification, ASC was advised that parliamentary Hansard requirements were satisfactorily met.
Formal quantitative and qualitative research was not undertaken with external publics given the nature of the project; however external evaluation was based on:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
- Unsolicited feedback from key representatives within the Department of Defence, including the Chief of Navys Office and the Defence Materiel Organisation;
- Unsolicited feedback from the defence industry, including competitors and subcontractors;
- Ongoing feedback from ASC management and staff interacting with external recipients of the annual report;
- Monitoring of media enquiries based on information presented within the annual report; and
- Requests for additional copies of the report by previous recipients.
This evaluation highlighted that:
- The document served its promotional and informative purpose with external publics; and
- The media valued the report, which became the basis for editorials and articles.
Internal qualitative evaluation was based on a request for feedback via e-mail, in addition to unsolicited feedback. Internal quantitative evaluation was undertaken with 30 new employees in their commencement interviews. The internal evaluation highlighted that:
- A perceived importance was placed on <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Western Australia operations in addition to OuterHarbor operations based on the photographic content;
- The document served its purpose to promote and inform internally (and externally within a recruitment sense); and
- Blue collar and white collar workers were evenly represented.