Yes, it’s good to see one of the UK’s flagship brands investing in communication. But why the “push” approach when they have such a rich history of occasionally very good employee engagement?
In the late 90’s BA faced a CEO who, in the staff’s view, went from ‘safety and service’ to ‘costs and cutting’; plus an airline pilots strike; plus a cabin crew strike. They then made the infamous mistake of re-branding the legendary livery leading to the ultimate ignominy of UK PM Margaret Thatcher covering the new ‘global’ tailfins with her handkerchief.
WPP agency MCA (which I was operating at the time) then won and ran PPFA2 – Putting People First Again, a 3 year integrated change programme for over 32,000 staff. This had the impact (which BA tracked) of taking staff morale from the pits at 2/10 to among the highest it had ever been. And we won the New York Times non-broadcast video gold award too.
At the same time, Omnicom change and communications agency SDL (where Ian was a partner), was transforming the World Cargo operations by taking a similar culture transformation approach.
Importantly, staff morale wasn’t the focus, as reported in the BA-focused Marketing Week article., The change programmes made a DIRECT correlation (which BA tracked) of lag indicators after 1/ employee satisfaction with 2/ increasing customer satisfaction followed by 3/ increasing passenger numbers followed by 4/ increasing profitability. This is what inside-out branding is really about.
But here’s the rub. Despite repeated requests to BA at the time, (nay pleading), to continue to position PPFA as a brand transformation programme and continue to build an ongoing brand from the inside out i.e. aligned internally and externally, BA eventually regressed back to the ‘programme’ mentality. And so years later, and more strikes, and bad PR, and dropping sales and profitability, it appears to be groundhog day at BA. Have they learned the difference between an up and down focus on employee engagement, vs a round and round campaign mentality?
As the press release says, BA will introduce “creative and strategic campaigns needed to engage its 32,000-strong global workforce. Why are they disengaged, huh? The release goes on to say “The campaigns will embrace a range of channels including video, posters, social media and email. They will also use existing BA internal communications tools, such as colleague and leadership forums, the intranet and the company’s existing staff magazine ‘Up to Speed’”. Isn’t this push communication wrapped in the “sheep’s clothing” of brand engagement?
Engagement simply is NOT about campaigns, Nor is it about (failed) media or up-beat messages like ‘Up to Speed’; that’s marketing speak for a push based strategy (with often token involvement via forums etc). Brand engagement is about culture, vision, legacy and the future of the people, the product, and the personalities that create the brand. It’s an integrated marketing, communication and HR strategy in an ongoing trilogy. This is not about the misleading concept of ‘employer branding’ it’s about proper, joined-up branding full stop.
Great to see BA spending the money. But unless they are really listening to their stakeholders, then as the song goes “There may be (more) trouble ahead…” !