I have and it’s interesting to see all the information that it contains. When I looked after the John Lewis Partnership’s Gazette, my team and I went through a whole programme to reinvent the way the Gazette was put together. I’m sure we’ll have this in mind at some point for Fish Tales. No communication channel ever stays the same, it has to evolve to suit the needs of its audience and the way the audience wants to take on information. Over time we identified that the Gazette needed a refresh to suit the needs of our current generation of Partners.
By way of background, the Gazette is a printed, full-colour magazine, published every week, on a Friday, in hard copy and sent to every business unit in the JLP. It therefore has to appeal to over 80,000 Partners. Its role in sharing knowledge with co-owners is as important as ever, but in an increasingly 24/7, digital world, the Gazette needed a refresh to suit the evolving needs of our Partner audience.
When we researched how well the Gazette was read, we found readership numbers were lower than we had anticipated. Partners told us they were time-poor and preferred to spend their breaks on non-Partnership social media, rather than reading lengthy articles about our business. They preferred a livelier, easy to read magazine, with shorter, smarter, snappier content. They told us social media offered them more accessible content in small, bite-sized chunks containing pictures, images and videos that helped to tell them news stories in a more compelling way. Importantly, what they accessed felt relevant to them.
We had already started to experiment with different approaches to cover stories and presenting news content and for many, some of these more entertaining approaches had encouraged them to pick up the Gazette for the very first time. We had to grasp this insight in order to engage with an even wider Partner audience, more often. We needed a rethink on how to deliver fresh, exciting and relevant news content, in a new bite-sized way.
Alongside this, we also wanted a refreshed Gazette to return to a more independent journalistic approach. One where my team of journalists would choose which stories to run and how to position these alongside any requests they received to include articles about important business information from members of the Executive Team. The Gazette journalists would therefore report objectively and fairly, holding management to account to encourage healthy debate where appropriate.
Using this feedback, we redeveloped the whole of the Gazette and in 2018, we launched a new look which had a more simplified and streamlined way of presenting the Partnership’s news, using jargon-free language.
Whilst we continued to produce a hard-printed copy, we also significantly enhanced our digital format. We aimed to ensure each full Gazette publication was in easy to navigate sections, covering a number of key themes of information with Partners. We settled on six consistent pillars.
- News – news updates on the business, information that Partners needed to know about key matters happening in their business.
- Trading Information – providing information on how the business was performing and giving an insight on top lines sales in John Lewis and Waitrose.
- Investigative Features – thought-provoking features on relevant and current topics. For example, we published a feature on plastics and Blue Planet, which was hugely popular. We also ran items on the 7 Partner Networks, which offer advice and support on issues from gender diversity to parenting to religion. At all times, the key focus is making sure these features are both relevant and relatable to Partners.
- Partner Opinion & Comment – our reader letters pages are widely read and play a key role in supporting Partners to hold management to account. Partners are able to write letters on any topic – positive or negative - as long as they are courteous and not defamatory. The importance of Gazette letters is written into the JLP Constitution and requires that any Partner who writes a letter should receive a reply from the most responsible member of the Leadership Team within 3 weeks.
- Leisure & Wellbeing – this covers leisure benefits that are offered to Partners at discounted rates by external providers. We also run articles on Partner wellbeing and health.
- Showcasing Partners – each week we feature a different Partner. This enables Partners to share a little bit about themselves that their colleagues might not know: their interests outside work, who they most admire, their favourite John Lewis and Waitrose products, etc.
We keep this format and the features in the Gazette pretty constant in each edition, and as part of the refresh, we also reduced the page count, which helpfully managed to save some money in the process.
I think our Fish Tales publication looks good. I would just encourage us to think constantly about the publication from our readers’ perspective. That way we always remain alive to the evolutionary steps that might be needed in order to remain interesting and relevant to our Partners.
In an EO business, we need to demonstrate that we are different in a good way to other forms of doing business. Our communications must also do this by being open, transparent, authentic and trusted. These are some of the hallmarks of good communication and help Partners understand what’s happening, why it’s happening and, more importantly, how they can help make a difference.