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BAE Systems

Agency: Brand Conversation

Defence and aerospace company BAE Systems employs more than 83,000 people across 40 countries, of whom 35 per cent do not have access to company networks during their working day. However, the company’s Pulse Survey of employees had revealed that they would like to have more interaction with its senior leaders and wanted to be more engaged in the corporate strategy.

In short, BAE Systems needed to find a way to replicate the positive experience that employees had when they met its chief executive Ian King and other senior leaders in small groups, but also to amplify this and generate conversations in which everybody felt that they could participate.

The solution came in the form of a radio podcast, a communications channel available to employees all the time and on any device. Working closely with agency Brand Conversation, and drawing on the knowledge of national radio professionals, Our Conversation was born.

Our Conversation moved away from scripts and controlled recording environments used for videos to strategic themes, topics for discussion and surprises. The content was wide ranging, covering everything from financial results and milestone achievements to local community activities. Employees were made to feel welcome and at ease.

A commercial, low cost hosting solution (podbean) was used to make the shows accessible on any device, and they were promoted across BAE Systems’ existing internal channels and via promotional gifts, such as branded earphones, to encourage them to tune in.

Within days of the first podcast, which attracted 7,000 hits, King agreed to commit to a monthly show. Within three months, the podcasts were attracting 25,000 listeners, which continues to rise, and being used in team meetings by line managers to stimulate discussion.

BAE Systems receives at least 100 emails a month with feedback, questions or suggestions for future podcasts, which compares favourably with the 30 or so comments that King’s blog used to generate every year. A network of employees has been trained as ‘roving reporters’ and equipped with audio equipment to capture local news and activities.

Each podcast, which last between 15 and 20 minutes, is different. January’s Our Conversation discussed the company’s strategy while cyber threats were covered in November 2014 and October considered how BAE Systems is working to help athletes achieve their dreams in Rio 2016.

Such has been the success of this initiative that BAE Systems is considering trialling a new approach for special editions to showcase and support key events and activities, and is also looking at piloting a similar format for other stakeholder audiences.