The development and implementation of Project Services’ innovative staff e-newsletter Blueprint is a campaign that successfully revitalised an outdated information source for employees whilst providing a proactive response to identified, critical workforce planning issues.
The development of an improved and relevant communication channel for employees, promotion of a positive, engaging outlook about Works’ people, projects and achievements as well as engendering a sense of pride in the organisation were key imperatives.
A fully flexible, in house managed and produced e-newsletter, Blueprint has successfully pioneered a new method of communicating across a diverse, fragmented group of business units, by making maximum use of two way communication opportunities, building on past research and delivering a result that responds to employee needs.
It is unlike any other communication device within the Queensland Department of Public Works.
Catering to hundreds of employees across 19 professional disciplines working in regions from Cape York to Far West Queensland, Blueprint is an electronic newsletter that accommodates a diverse and complex readership.
Blueprint’s development coincided with a restructure within the Queensland Department of Public Works, which saw the Project Services, QBuild and Building Division areas united under the “Works” banner. This restructure created a need for a communication device that would travel across the newly aligned business units providing the opportunity for consistent messages to be dispersed across the Works division.
Released in February 2006, Project Services’ workforce planning report identified critical workforce issues such as attracting and retaining younger employees, opportunities for advancement and the need to promote the benefits of working within the Department.
With the Queensland economy experiencing rapid growth, the Department is experiencing internal and external pressures related to the competitive industry climate.
The Workforce Plan recognised the importance of having increasingly e-capable employees that use technology to communicate and work, with one of the six key areas for improvement “effective communication and feedback processes”.
Blueprint replaced an existing Intranet hosted publication called News in Brief, an email based communication, published in a word document format that was limited by its content and technological parameters (Appendix A). Using an e-newsletter delivery mode, Blueprint is an Intranet hosted website created and maintained in-house via the Ice Builder system (Appendix B).
Blueprint is accessed by more than 1000 Department of Public Works employees each month.
The communication strategy developed for Blueprint benefited from the application of public relations techniques particularly in terms of research and evaluation.
The campaign focussed on capturing a niche within the Department’s web of existing communication publications, incorporation of workforce planning considerations and identifying a cost effective method of communicating in an engaging, dynamic and relevant way to audiences.
A desktop audit analysis of the existing publication, News in Brief, was undertaken and included a review of content categories. A range of suitable options were then compiled and presented at a Directors Meeting in April 2005.
Further analysis was conducted on past qualitative and quantitative evaluation exercises conducted on News in Brief readerships, and current opinion was harnessed in 2005 via a series of anecdotal interviews. The last survey conducted in 2002 revealed that News in Brief was not being used fully by employees and the quality of the visual and written delivery needed addressing.
||Desk top audit of previous publications 2000-2004|
|Competing publications||Review of existing Departmental publications|
|External e-newsletters||Desk top review of other e-newsletters|
|Previous/existing research||Analysis of survey results undertaken in 2002|
|Workforce Plan||Review of findings and recommendations|
There are three key publics targeted by this campaign, Project Services, QBuild and Building Division staff which are united under the Works banner. Project Services is the primary audience with QBuild and Building Division secondary publics.
Within Project Services, readership is broken down as:
Health, TAFE, Law and Order Portfolio
Professional Services Portfolio
South Queensland Region
North Queensland Region
Other Business Areas
The readership ranges from Director level, through to administrative level.
Planning was driven by the expansion of content categories, identification of opportunities for facilitating two-way communication, improved quality of the written communication and the redesign of the aesthetic to appeal across audiences. The developed client brief incorporated these requirements and specifications.
Collectively, the objective of the campaign was to evolve the staff newsletter into an active communication device that engaged and captured its key audiences.
Choice of Communication Medium
The Department’s focus on electronic delivery of services (such as the eTender system) and a predominantly white collar based target audience, meant that it was a natural progression for Works Division communications to also remain electronically accessible and disseminated.
Previous readership research undertaken revealed that the majority of the readership preferred an electronic newsletter (80%), and electronic delivery was deemed most appropriate by Directors at a meeting in April 2005.
Choice of Name
A shortlist of names was compiled for the redeveloped newsletter, with Blueprint selected as the preferred option as it married well with the Department’s line of business – building and construction.
Development of client brief
This document relayed the requirements of the new Blueprint communication device to the successful tenderer, Ice Media. It incorporated the need for a redesigned aesthetic and an easy to navigate online newsletter.
Responsiveness to employee needs
Survey results revealed that more people focussed stories, regional contributions, events information and human resources information were desired.
Blueprint was designed to respond to these needs through the inclusion of an online forum (Appendix C), expanded content categories, a direct link to the Editor and the introduction of a monthly Blueprint teaser (Appendix D).
Development of WORKS focus
The Works Division restructure meant that the publication was no longer solely servicing the needs of Project Services staff. Blueprint responds to this requirement through a range of tactics including expanded content.
Evaluation of Performance
Blueprint readership was surveyed at the conclusion of the inaugural year to assess performance and make provisions for improvements or additions (Appendix E).
The tactics and implementation methods are detailed below and were designed to respond to the campaign’s goals and objectives. The Blueprint design and client brief were developed collaboratively within the Works Marketing and Communications Team.
|Is responsive to
communication and feedback
opportunities and respond to
previous survey findings.
Survey & 2005-2006
|Inclusion of two way communication
channel (online forum).
A direct Editor link.
|Online forum and editor link builtin
components via Ice Media.
|Monthly Blueprint Teaser.
More ‘people’ stories.
Expansion of content categories.
|Delivered progressively from
August 2005-June 2006.
|Develop a newsletter that
embraced the newly created
Works Division and delivered
|Link to QBuild magazine.
Regular Building Division stories.
Inclusion of a designated Works section.
|Collaboration with QBuild and
Building Division units to facilitate
Production of a Works story each
engaging and easy
|Develop a newsletter that was
colourful, visual, interactive
|Desktop Audit of
News In Brief &
Analysis of other e-newsletters
|Scrolling and changing header.
e-newsletter linking directly to website.
Read More links on feature items.
Links to features on home page.
Easy to navigate features grid.
|Design features delivered by Ice
Media in accordance with client
|Is cost effective
||Develop a solution that would
enable in-house maintenance,
|Tendering process||Design of client brief to communicate
requirements to allow staff to maintain,
update and manage Blueprint without
|Project was put to tender, with
Ice Media selected as the
|Is fully flexible
||Develop a solution that would
not be fixed and that could
evolve with the Works Division.
|Desktop Audit of
|Templates for easy changes to graphics.
Can add as many articles as desired.
Can update the website at any time.
|Surveying identified further
opportunities. The flexibility of
Blueprint’s format allows
changes to be implemented.
|Measure performance after 12
|Formal survey, face to face interviewing.
Use of incentive (voucher) to drive a
higher response rate.
|Email of survey to 649 staff,
interviews with regional staff.
Successful transition from Project Services-only publication to Works publication
Over the past 12 months, Blueprint has offered a seamless transition for readership and embraced two new target audiences (QBuild and Building Division). This has been facilitated through the expansion of content categories to help make Blueprint relevant across units, and the delivery of a monthly teaser to announce the forthcoming edition.
Successful delivery of a newsletter designed to meet the needs of the target audiences
Research and planning were successfully used to design the revamped newsletter, especially with regard to expanded content categories, increased human interest and project stories, a two way communication channel and a dynamic, interactive and engaging user interface. The success of the delivery is reflected in the comments and results of the formal surveying which yielded a total response rate of 11.24% and included 64 surveys with written comments.
Successful readership surveying with high response rates indicating increased interest
73 surveys were returned (72 electronically and 1 via hard copy). The data gleaned from the surveys was rich in both statistical content as well as written comments. 87.6% of the returned surveys included written comments. The total response rate was 11.24% which is a very reasonable sample.
The delivery of the Blueprint newsletter successfully met the key objectives of the campaign and successfully met the designated measurable objectives set for the evaluation component.
Decrease the overall dissatisfaction level of the staff newsletter as an electronic medium from 20% to 10%
The overall dissatisfaction level was significantly reduced to 1.4%, with only one respondent preferring a printed version.
Increase the overall satisfaction level (rating = good or excellent) from 69% to more than 80%.
The overall satisfaction level (good or excellent) was increased to 89.85%
To increase the volume of the identified content categories respondents were “most likely to read” in the staff newsletter (personal achievements of staff members, human resources, regions, new initiatives and projects, stories about people and events).
Volume of items has increased across the board from 134 items to 168 items. In key categories, content has increased significantly:
|Aug 04-Jul 05||Aug 05-Jul 06||Change
|New Initiatives or
|Regional Projects and
|Human Resources||12||12||No change