Stop the press: per­sonal sto­ries are key to strong com­pany news­let­ters

Straight-talk­ing com­mon sense from the front line of man­age­ment

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - Sir john timp­son ask john

QOn your sug­ges­tion, we started a com­pany news­let­ter dur­ing lock­down, which hasn’t been badly re­ceived, but it’s not ex­actly mak­ing a big im­pact. What tips do you have for mak­ing ours a well-read, talked-about suc­cess go­ing for­ward? A The Timp­son news­let­ter has de­vel­oped over 24 years and now makes an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to our cul­ture. But we never planned things that way. It started by chance.

I was find­ing that ev­ery week started with a stack of new prob­lems (memos in those days, not emails) from col­leagues who wanted a so­lu­tion to some­thing that pre­vented them do­ing bet­ter busi­ness: stock short­ages, machin­ery break­downs, staffing prob­lems and the oc­ca­sional com­plaint about a line man­ager.

It was my fault be­cause I had en­cour­aged ev­ery col­league to write di­rectly to my of­fice, but it made my Mon­days a bit de­press­ing.

To pro­duce some­thing more pos­i­tive, I sent ev­ery­one a pad headed “GOOD NEWS – Dear John, here is my good news…” The fol­low­ing Mon­day, I re­ceived 11 sto­ries: mostly record sales fig­ures, a com­peti­tor who had closed down and a man­ager who had be­come a grand­fa­ther. Next week, there were 15 more that I put into a re­port and I awarded £10 to the col­league who sent the best news of the week.

The prize pro­duced a lot of in­ter­est and when we ran an “amaze me” week with £5 for ev­ery amaz­ing story, we got a bumper post bag that was turned into a four-page news­let­ter. Since then, apart from the be­gin­ning of lock­down, we have is­sued a news­let­ter ev­ery week, al­most en­tirely based on in­put from col­leagues. I wanted it to be their news­let­ter, not a ve­hi­cle for cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tion. I chose one bit of com­pany news each week for the front page un­der a tabloid type of head­line (I would love to have writ­ten head­lines for news­pa­pers), but most of the paper was about our col­leagues, with lots of pic­tures. In the early days, I pho­tographed ev­ery­one I met on shop vis­its, but now col­leagues send loads of pic­tures and sto­ries from their own mo­bile phones. For the most part, we’re telling the day-to-day story of our busi­ness through the eyes of our peo­ple. There are pro­file in­ter­views, cus­tomer com­pli­ments and re­ports of ran­dom acts of kind­ness. Col­leagues who have re­ceived one of our “dream come true” re­wards de­scribe their ex­pe­ri­ence (of­ten a visit to Ve­gas or meet­ing a close but dis­tant rel­a­tive on the other side of the world).

There is a bit of busi­ness. We quote the top 20 sales per­form­ers in sev­eral cat­e­gories and run ad­verts for job va­can­cies, but more than 80pc of the news­pa­per is purely about peo­ple.

For sev­eral years, the news­let­ter has been edited by Jools Payne, who pre­vi­ously did our pub­lic re­la­tions. Jools knows our busi­ness in­side out and is in con­stant touch with Timp­son col­leagues around the coun­try. The re­sult is to­tally dif­fer­ent from the com­pany magazines pro­duced by PR firms to ful­fil a mar­ket­ing brief.

Most of the content comes from our peo­ple, so re­ally is about the busi­ness. You should fo­cus on the same.

QIs it me or does ev­ery­one else find it dif­fi­cult to dis­cover what is re­ally hap­pen­ing in a pub­lic com­pany’s an­nual re­port? As more and more in­for­ma­tion has to be re­ported in ac­cor­dance with the lat­est ac­count­ing stan­dards, it be­comes ever more dif­fi­cult to dis­cover what’s re­ally go­ing on.

AIn 1943, fol­low­ing guide­lines is­sued by the wartime paper con­troller, the William Timp­son Ltd an­nual re­port was pro­duced on both sides of one sheet of A4. The chair­man’s re­port was pretty brief, but the fig­ures re­vealed all any­one needed to know.

As a fam­ily busi­ness, we don’t have to pub­lish a share­hold­ers’ re­port, but I send one to ev­ery col­league, as they have a right to know about the com­pany. I fol­low the paper

con­troller’s ex­am­ple by keep­ing the fig­ures con­cise, then talk about the busi­ness in pic­tures rather than words.

If some­one else is will­ing to do all the read­ing, I’m of­fer­ing two new Com­pany Re­port Awards: one for the long­est and the other for the most in­com­pre­hen­si­ble!

Sir John Timp­son is chair­man of the high street ser­vices provider, Timp­son. Send him an email at askjohn@tele­graph.co.uk

Emails from col­leagues can form the ba­sis of an en­gag­ing cor­po­rate news­let­ter

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