The election of Paul Eagland to the position of managing partner at accountancy and business advisory firm BDO in October 2016, posed a new challenge for its in-house communications team. With a new leader at the helm for the next four years, it needed to be able to outline his strategy to the firm’s 3,500 employees across the UK so that not they understood not only where the business was heading, but also the role they would perform to help Eagland achieve such goals. How did they do it? The short answer, according to the team, was sheer hard work, dedication and passion.
The long answer, however, was by professionalising the firm’s internal communications approach so that the team’s modus operandi was clear: Connections, Content, Campaigns and Consultancy. This allowed them to establish and build key relationships across the firm while creating and delivering an integrated communications plan, defined by audiences, delivered via a range of channels, which evolves according to insights and feedback. One of the cultural nuances within a partnership is the communications needs to support the firm at a central level while giving leaders the flexibility to tailor the approach for their local needs.
This led to a new communications strategy: centrally-coordinated, locally-led and centrally-celebrated. Within hours of Eagland’s appointment, the team provided a ‘comms thesis’ on how to create a strategic programme, which led to a ‘bunker’ planning day. Communications was to be at the heart of every strategic model, and the way to achieve this was through storytelling. Visual branding was created to support (and explain) the strategic framework for both central and local use. Every employee received a BUILD cube block and a booklet on storytelling.
The new strategy was launched at the partners’ and directors’ conference. Since then there have been regular monthly calls while every quarter, they receive engagement packs, which can be tailored for local use. There have also been two central campaigns, timed to align with local engagement sessions. For example, a campaign in May had the strapline At BDO, May is never good enough. Welcome to the month of ‘Will’. It was launched with a film-style trailer, a break from tradition in the firm which previously would have sent a letter from the leadership explaining the initiative. Each letter of BUILD was brought to life, linking each one to an existing priority campaign or client work. U signified the launch of U Tube, a new internal video channel.
The team also introduced Yammer for internal communications, and to date more than 93 per cent of the workforce has signed up, which is vital for collaboration and storytelling. To encourage participation in May, a Yammer treasure hunt was launched. There are already signs that the strategy is succeeding. Eagland’s end of year message was viewed more than 2,500 times; the average time spent on the page was six minutes. Storytelling is now one of the leadership team’s key performance indicators.
Such has been the success that Eagland invited the director of communications to sit on every strategic board, and the business case for doubling the size of the team was immediately approved. ‘This was an ambitious and creative strategy,’ said the judges. ‘They seized the moment of change to demonstrate value and push the comms capability.