Division C - Audio/Visual Tools of Public Relations
Category 11 - Other
Employee News Online Employee Newsletter
Angela Dean Vigil, City of Jacksonville Public Information

Golden Image Award

Research/Situation Analysis: The City of Jacksonville was looking for ways to reduce costs in all areas of government. Although the City’s employee newsletter, the Consolidator, was a high quality, award-winning publication, it took one full-time editor, an average of six part-time contributing writers, a photographer and a web designer two months to put together one issue. Besides the cost of hundreds of staff hours, it also cost more than $45,660 a year to print six issues. And the publication wasn’t a timely source of news because by the time it was disseminated the information was often out of date.
It was clear that the delivery and timeliness of the internal newsletter had to change. A team of Public Information Office (PIO) writers, editors and other communicators held a series of meetings to decide on how to create an informative, entertaining and valuable employee-focused publication. They decided the articles would focus on the employees themselves, the programs and services they provide to the public, and their lives at work and after hours. The group adopted the motto Employee News, Civil Servants, Helping Citizens, Caring for Our Community.
PIO wanted to reduce costs but still provide an outlet to inform employees, build community and have a venue to recognize best practices. PIO conducted research to evaluate the best practices in strategic employee communications. Research showed that an informative employee focused newsletter didn’t have to be in print to be a key component to a successful employee communications program. A cost analysis showed that an online version could significantly reduce expenditures and effectively convey policies, philosophy and goals.

Objectives: 1. Reduced newsletter production costs by at least 75 percent and reduce staff time by 100 hours.
2. Create a newsletter that at least 50 percent of employees would read.
3. Have at least two story ideas per issue generated by employees.

Implementation: All employees were sent an e-mail telling them about the newsletter and asking for suggestions. PIO used the information gathered from these key stakeholders to design a new online format. It included large, colorful photographs of the employees featured in the stories, a message from the boss (the Mayor), news about programs, video clips of relevant topics, a featured city Web site to educate employees about what the city offers the public, an adoptable pet of the week, and a countdown to the next paid holiday.
When the first edition was ready, a mass e-mail with a letter of introduction from the Mayor was sent to all employee e-mail accounts. A link to the newsletter was included in the e-mail and on the employee portal, which is always available to all employees on their computers. A new edition of the newsletter is available online each month and a mass e-mail is sent to all employees when the stories change telling them the top stories and asking them to visit the site for more information.

Evaluation: The Employee News online newsletter met and exceeded all goals. It reduced production man-hours, is published more frequently than the former newsletter and eliminated the printing and distribution costs.
1. The editor works approximately 60 hours a month on the publication as a portion of her job responsibilities and other contributing writers, a photographer and proofreaders, combined, work an average of 30 hours per month. This reduced the staff-hours for production by more than 200 hours and saves $45,660 in printing costs annually.
2. Cost reductions make the newsletter a financial success. But it is also a hit with employees. The first edition had 3,057 page visits. The second edition had 3,305 visits, up almost 13 percent from the previous month. More than 80 percent of employees open the mass e-mail announcing a new edition of Employee News and then jump from the internal link to the newsletter, based on Outlook data cross-referenced with Webtrends Web monitoring reports. Additionally, employees are voicing their satisfaction with the newsletter by sending thank-you e-mails and by staying on the site for an average of one hour 17 minutes to read the stories (see Webtrends report example for March 2007).
3. Although the Consolidator is missed, the Employee News provides the essential elements required in an internal newsletter and, judging by a sample of positive e-mails included in the entry notebook, employees enjoy the publication. Employees are writing in to give information and to offer suggestions for future topics averaging five employee generated ideas per month (three more than initially desired). And, because of the newsletter, one employee was even able to reconnect with a long-lost family member (read the entry notebook for more details).

Budget: The Employee News online employee newsletter has no external hard costs associated with production. Going online saved $45,660 in printing costs annually.