UTS Library

Communications: From the Corporate to the Coalface


PR Company: 

Rio Tinto Coal Australia

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2009 C7 - 4



Executive Summary: 

In 2008 Rio Tinto Coal Australia (RTCA) needed an internal communications matrix to engage and keep informed:

• 3000+ employees in two states, across seven mines, three community shopfronts, a corporate office and several project teams;

• A workforce where 80% do not use a computer for their role.

Tools were developed to increase information flow, use more sustainable technologies and reduce costs.

The result has been:

• Two-way communication

• Important business news delivered when needed

• Increased profile of Managing Director through regular communications

• Improved engagement with employees

Additionally, the new communication channels have:

• Enhanced the information flow to mining communities and stakeholders

• Increased positive media coverage.

Situation Analysis: 

RTCA has a large decentralised workforce. 20% of employees use a computer regularly to perform their role. The company has grown dramatically; in 2002 it managed three Queensland mines and a corporate office; today it manages seven mines across two states, three community shopfronts, a corporate office and multiple projects. Workforce communications did not grow in accordance, and were limited to occasional memos, a quarterly MD presentation, a poorly used portal and a bi-monthly hardcopy newsletter (Mine Matters).

An internal communications review established the need for a set of tools to engage the workforce effectively, efficiently, and in a timely manner.


In 2007, Sequel Communications audited RTCA’s communications and previous workforce surveys. Telephone surveys with 36 employees at each site revealed:

• 80% felt Mine Matters communicated relevant but dated information

• Most operational employees did not use a computer regularly in their role.

This suggested a different approach could improve the timeliness of information and support leaders in cascading information.

The team decided digital communications could improve the timeliness, however as most operational employees did not regularly use a computer as part of their role, communications would also need to retain, but improve, non-electronic channels. Employees were given a choice: Mine Matters via promotional email or post. This enabled workforce buy-in for whichever communication tool best suited their needs.

Target Policies: 

5.1 Primary target publics

The primary target public was internal. The objective; to keep employees engaged and informed, assisting other company initiatives to increase productivity and attract/retain staff.

With more than 3000 employees in two states and various mine sites and offices, this public was further divided:

• Traditional internal publics - those preferring printed newsletters and verbal leader cascades. (Typically, site-based employees and mature workers less likely to adopt new technologies).

• Progressive internal publics - those comfortable receiving digital communication materials. (Typically office based, particularly younger workers using new technologies in their day-to-day lives).

5.2 Secondary target publics

• External publics – those accessing or subscribing to Mine Matters online (media, community members, industry and potential employees)

• Employees’ families - traditionally, a printed Mine Matters was mailed to employees’ homes, enabling families to read about the business.

Communication Strategy: 

The strategy was to complement traditional paper-based and verbal methods of communicating (i.e. printed newsletters and toolbox talks) with new communication tools that utilise new technologies (i.e. emails and a website).

This approach was chosen to:

• Ensure the team was able to communicate to all employees, regardless of role or technological ability

• Increase the sustainability of communications by phasing in digital communication tools

• Increase the timeliness of communications during a period of change.

This new approach was communicated to employees by informing senior business leaders about the change to encourage support, using screensavers to promote online tools and through posters, Mine Matters articles and RTCA portal advertisements.


The team built a communications matrix to best use existing resources.

Sustainability and cost reduction were key goals. Systems that had been used by other parts of the Rio Tinto Group were obtained at no cost, such as the Red Dot content management system and the Adestra Message Focus email system to create promotional emails.

The team undertook training to perform the work in-house.

The following approach was implemented:

• Mine Matters (printed)A1 would continue for employees (and families) who chose to receive a hardcopy edition

• Digital Mine MattersA2 introduced and hosted on a public website to maximise employee accessibility and external interest, and encourage sustainable practices and online subscription

• A Mine Matters promotional emailA3 developed to alert employees to new editions

• A monthly teleconference and Q&A with the MD introduced, with a leader pack to cascade to teamsB1,B2

• A Plasma presentationA4, introduced to provide targeted communication to visitors/workforce in the Brisbane corporate office foyer and in the Clermont, Muswellbrook and Singleton shopfronts

• An all-RTCA weekly emailB3 established for timely business news and print option for leader cascades

• Time-critical news to continue via email and notice-board memos

• Multimedia grabs from the Managing Director to be added to the portal.

The project ran over six months; three months for research and strategy, two weeks to design the rollout, two months for implementation. Meanwhile, the team:

• Ran workforce promotions regarding the changes and options for feedback

• Designed the Mine Matters website and email using Rio Tinto branding

• Created a digital Mine Matters subscription process enabling data collection and feedback

• Developed a weekly email protocol

• Undertook training to apply the matrix in-house

• Designed a Plasma template and schedule for monthly updates; existing screens were used where possible to minimise costs

• Created an email template and cascade pack template for MD communications.

A formal review started in June 2009 after 12 months of statistical collection.


A1 Appendix A, Attachment 1: Sample copy of Mine Matters print edition

A2 Appendix A, Attachment 2: Mine Matters newsletter – digital edition www.minematters.riotintocoalaustralia.com.au

A3 Appendix A, Attachment 3: Sample copy of Mine Matters promotional email

B1 Appendix B, Attachment 1: Confidential Managing Director cascade pack – email (hardcopy only)

B2 Appendix B, Attachment 2: Confidential Managing Director cascade pack – slides (hardcopy only)

A4 Appendix A, Attachment 4: Sample slides from Plasma presentation

B3 Appendix B, Attachment 3: Confidential sample copy of RTCA weekly email (hardcopy only)


The new multi-layered communications matrix has enabled better, faster and smarter communications across a decentralised workforce. An informed workplace is an engaged workforce, and a good indication of this is that quarterly State of the Nation presentations are now attracting unsolicited questions from employees who are keenly interested in company news.


The new multi-layered communications matrix has enabled better, faster and smarter communications across a decentralised workforce. An informed workplace is an engaged workforce, and a good indication of this is that quarterly State of the Nation presentations are now attracting unsolicited questions from employees who are keenly interested in company news.

9.1 Results - Mine Matters

Digital Mine Matters tracking captures readership levels to ascertain story popularity, enabling the team to tailor content. The multi-layered communications matrix enables RTCA to reach 100% of its employees, regardless of location or role.

Cost savings

• Cost saving of $16,000 (60%) in the first year due to reduction in design costs by bringing design in-house

• Increased output from one product to three.

Subscribes to digital Mine MattersA5

The release of digital Mine Matters saw 392 subscribes - 15% of the workforce – rising to 440 subscribes - 389 internal and 51 external – in December 2008.

Internal subscription rates have since reduced due to employees leaving the company after organisational changes, however no employees have asked to unsubscribe and external subscriptions continue to increase.

Mine Matters promotional email usage statisticsA6

Employee engagement with the email started slowly, but increased when the RTCA weekly email began in September 2008. Usage spiked in February 2009 with a message from new Managing Director Bill Champion.

Attachment 6, Appendix A shows the promotional Mine Matters email is opened by an average 34% of RTCA’s workforce. This is a 70% increase on the target rate (20% of employees).

Mine Matters website statisticsA7

Mine Matters website statistics have been measured since June 2008 once data was available. The statistics measure the number of unique browsers and page impressions.

Attachment 7, Appendix A shows visitors to the website have mostly increased with each edition, with the exception of February 2009. In February, an increase was instead recorded in the use of the Mine Matters promotional email, which reached its highest level since inception.

Promotional email and website statistics analysisA8

The statistics for the website and promotional email show employees and external viewers visit the website independently of receiving the promotional email.

Attachment 8, Appendix A shows that as employee numbers have grown, so has their use of the Mine Matters promotional email. On average, nearly 35% of employees open and read the Mine Matters promotional email.

9.2 Results - RTCA Weekly EmailA9

An average of 48% of all employees open the weekly email each week – well above the target of 20% (the number of employees who use a computer regularly as part of their role).

The weekly email was revised in May 2009 following feedback from mine sites.

Brisbane corporate information was removed and an additional ‘Corporate Catchup’ Brisbane-only email of social club news was introduced. While this has impacted employee numbers opening the RTCA weekly email, it has:

• Kept the RTCA weekly email strictly business focused and relevant to all employees

• Provided an additional tool to meet the wide-ranging needs of the business – in this case, social news for the corporate office.

9.3 Results – Managing Director’s communications

RTCA’s Managing Director’s accessibility to the workforce has increased through his participation in the RTCA weekly email, Mine Matters articles, monthly teleconferences and audio/video grabs on the portal, with some digital memos attracting more than 850 clicks.

B4 Appendix B, Attachment 4: Confidential budget information and a summary of total costs (hardcopy only)

A5 Appendix A, Attachment 5: Subscribes to digital Mine Matters

A6 Appendix A: Attachment 6: Graph showing Mine Matters promotional email statistics

A7 Appendix A: Attachment 7: Graph showing Mine Matters website statistics

A8 Appendix A, Attachment 8: Graph showing Mine Matters promotional email and website statistics

A9 Appendix A, Attachment 9: Graph showing RTCA weekly email statistics