Welcome to the Third Space… welcome to We, DLG!Andy Holt • 9th June
Words&Pictures’ Creative Director, Andy Holt, showcases We, DLG, Direct Line Group’s “game changer” in internal communications. The development is an example of ‘Third Space Communication’ (TSC) – neither a traditional intranet nor social intranet, but rather a digital work-based social community
Here at Words&Pictures, we’re lucky to have a close, long-standing and creative relationship with Direct Line Group (DLG).
We produced Cover magazine, the group’s main internal news publication for many years and have supported the company in communicating corporate strategy in recent years.
Although the highly regarded, award-winning magazine ceased publication two years ago due to budgetary challenges and structural changes, it was recognised there was still a need for communications that would:
— celebrate the best of DLG’s people
— reinforce a sense of pride and also
— connect DLG people across the brands, functions and business streams.
As a result, DLG’s Head of Internal Communications, Paul Diggins, tasked Words&Pictures and the DLG Internal Communications Team with conceiving something entirely new. The development was to not only fill any gaps left by the absence of Cover, but also significantly progress the organsation’s IC as well as helping support the company’s vision “to revolutionise the insurance industry”.
In line with this, Paul set the bar high. He wanted to create a solution that, in his words – with his tongue firmly in his cheek – “would make me and my internal communications team redundant”.
Working in partnership with the DLG team, writers, designers and system builders at Words&Pictures, responded with an imaginative concept and a compelling vision of what the IC future could look like. The result of this has been the creation of We, DLG.
We, DLG is an example of what we’ve coined “Third Space Communication”. It’s neither a traditional intranet nor a social intranet, but is best described as a “digital work-based social community”. It’s driven by user-generated and user-posted content, whether in image, video or written word format. The development is further supported and driven by core content, provided by the DLG team in partnership with specialists from Words&Pictures. It’s now being described as a “new frontier in internal communications” and the team at DLG believe it’s going to transform the way IC works in the wider corporate community.
This new communication channel needed to be cost effective, self-sustaining and supportive of two-way conversations between DLG’s leadership and the general employee population. It also had to integrate with existing social channels, such as Yammer.
We, DLG joins up existing channels but has the benefit of acting as a complementary channel rather than duplicating content. We, DLG has Yammer functionality integrated throughout and in this way, allows content and articles to be commented on, pulling in related material from Yammer into We, DLG.
There is no intention for We, DLG to replace the main intranet and its useful daily updates. Instead, content is actually brought to life through We, DLG. Furthermore, the platform aims to build communities across the organisation, start conversations and highlight what it’s like to be part of DLG. In this way, says Paul Diggins, “We DLG is becoming a real hearts and minds piece.”
DLG, as a wider organisation, is still undergoing massive change. As such, its new communication channel needed to support the ongoing journey, providing employees with a voice and, at the same time, driving engagement across the company. In our view, such intentions are impressive and honorable: celebrating the rich diversity of DLG people and, at the same time, fostering pride.
A key component of the introduction, and future success of We, DLG was the need to create a core group of “advocate” contributors. As the project neared completion earlier this year and moved into the testing phase, a Words&Pictures’ specialist team facilitated workshops, where upwards of 40 DLG employees (from various departments, brands and grades, chosen for their interest in, or prior involvement in, IC) were taken on a creative journey. Topics included Tone of Voice, how to structure content and drive engagement with postings, and creative ways to bring content to life.
The workshops included exercises designed to help employees overcome any fear of writing or engaging with social media. Workshop attendees became ‘pioneers’ of We, DLG submitting a number of stories or posts pre-launch.
Writers from Words&Pictures then edited the articles and gave detailed feedback to the DLG group, encouraging them to develop their own personal voices, empowering them to create their own blogs on We, DLG. To do this, each DLG employee has a user login and can access the site both while at work and out of work on personal devices. Employees can post articles about work – related topics, outside-work interests, diversity and more – all geared to capturing how it feels to be part of DLG.
All articles and posts can be commented on. Comment feeds integrate with DLG’s existing Yammer capability (employees can comment on Yammer and We, DLG pulls comments into the relevant discussion thread within the channel, and vice versa).
Posts may be categorised and tagged, so they are displayed on easy-to-find pages. Users may also ‘like’ and ‘rank’ posts. In line with best practice, the most popular posts and most recent posts are displayed in box outs on the home page. There’s an excellent search facility, ‘top stories’ are rotated on a carousel gallery and each employee has his or her own profile page.
To support usage, alongside the workshops detailed above, Words&Pictures produced a ‘how to’ explainer video, hosted on the site, so users feel comfortable with using the new channel (post, add images, videos etc).
Meanwhile, more user workshops are now being organised throughout the company as We, DLG becomes the ‘go to’ place for enhanced and exclusive content. A good example here is the fact that DLG’s recent leadership conference was posted live on We, DLG with news articles, available in real time allowing employees to follow the day’s progress. Words&Pictures produced further vox pop videos and a longer, overview film of the day’s action. Similarly, a filmed interview with Marketing Director, Mark Evans, has been posted in instalments (to support written articles) on We, DLG.
In terms of design and overall visual appeal the team wanted something fresh, visually rich and easily accessible. The creative framework for We, DLG adheres to best practice in responsive design for desktop, mobile and pad.
The team here at Words&Pictures wanted to create something that felt human and inclusive, something with all-round employee appeal. It needed to feel uniquely DLG avoiding both a traditional intranet approach and digital magazine or news site.
Central to the experience is how imagery, graphics, articles, comments and rich media are incorporated into the channel. As the channel is built on user-generated and posted content, it’s essential in both design and technical framework, that content upload, presentation and user experience is clean and simple.
Fundamentally, the platform had to look great but be easy to use.
But we also had to intice people to use it. In order to drive engagement, Words&Pictures’ staff developed a teaser campaign to publicise the launch of We, DLG. It consisted of photographs of advocates wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the We, DLG branding reading, progressively (in terms of time, leading up to launch): “You…”, “Me…”, “We are…” and finally, at launch, all advocates together with t-shirts emblazoned with “We, DLG”. Similarly, posters alluded to advocates’ passions in and out of work, since the portal encourages people to post about these, in line with DLG’s value of ‘Bring all of yourself to work.’ Eg: “I am… a make-up artist and a loving mum”.
We, DLG is currently open to anyone in the company but is in a soft launch phase to allow advocates time to familiarise themselves with all the system’s features. As a measure, however, within the first hour of launch, more than 700 people had visited the site. Average viewing time throughout has been five minutes and page views are in excess of 12,000. We anticipate significant increases when full launch is achieved later this month.
So far, We, DLG has been received enthusiastically at all levels from leadership to frontline employees, which bodes well for the future. But the future success of the channel is in the hands of DLG employees, current advocates, new content providers and the personality and preferences of employees.
Leaders at DLG have pointed to “a real buzz” around the venture and sense “a sea change in internal communications”. Some have described the development as “a channel that’s genuinely for the people and by the people”.
Paul Diggins, meanwhile, told us: “We set out to change the way we brought our organisation to life, not just by telling stories through the eyes of our people, but by letting them tell their own stories. The response has been immense, and We, DLG proves how committed we are to letting our people live one of our key values by giving them an opportunity to ‘say it like it is’.”
At Words&Pictures we fully support that ambition. We’re convinced you’ll be hearing a lot more about We, DLG and similar developments over the coming 12 months.