Growing the ScotEng membership through the pandemic
- Grew membership by 10% during the pandemic
- Increased revenue by estimated £130k
- The organisation’s first positive cashflow in over five years
- ScotEng acquired of three national government funded campaigns
- Project lead Rail Cluster Builder
- Project lead Net Zero Skills Programme
- Project manager for the Forth and Tay Offshore (FTO) cluster
- Increased web traffic by 10% year on year
- Increased web traffic from all major acquisition channels
What I did
Sub-brand logo designs
Following the successful rebrand and relaunch of the ScotEng website, I was asked to work with the marketing team to manage the growing brand.
The new image had helped secure new large scale government funded projects which led to an increased number of events and training programmes. The brand needed ways to communicate with their new audiences as well as strategies to grow the separate sub-brands that they needed to create.
Working with the marketing team, I was tasked with guiding that growth.
Before completing the ScotEng rebrand in 2019, I commissioned research into members, staff and key stakeholders to find what each group thought of the organisation. This research was the foundation of the comms strategy we have developed since 2020.
The research gave five focus points for member comms:
- Unify the look and language of all touchpoints across the web
- Show members the benefits of membership not just the services available
- Create sub-brands to differentiate large scale projects that only affect sections of membership
- Use website and email data to find most effective comms and marketing channels
- Use these channels to direct members to training and event sign-ups
Reshaping the comms culture
With a busy team, ScotEng were relying on familiar and easy to do comms processes. This left many brand and format decisions to the discretion of the team member sending out the messages. The inconsistent brand image and disjointed tone of voice gave the feel of a company unsure of itself. We created new comms processes that reduced the decisions making of the team while maximising how we could use the existing content.
I introduced web and email analytics into planning meetings to show the past efficacy of comms outreach. The data showed many emails and social posts were ineffective in driving traffic to the site. A further dive into specifics found at times the language was unrelatable, sounding like a corporate robot, and more often than not comms did not include a link to the website.
I reviewed all social channels to find how the brand was presenting itself. Brand language from before the rebrand was rife, imagery was inconsistent and many channels were devoid of any about the brand text. Posting was inconsistent and interaction from followers was close to nil. The brand’s social following was high but was missing a human feel that would connect with the people the other side of the screen.
An additional dive into the email strategy found members received on average over 30 emails per month. Despite the deluge of messages, they had an open rate around the industry average, a huge positive. The click rates were low but this didn’t prevent the new events and training being filled – to the team’s mind comms were working.
When surveyed, members said they weren’t sure how ScotEng helped them, from the comms strategies used it was clear why – to an average member ScotEng was a mailing list who told you about news and events. There were no links to a website, sporadic social posts and nothing to suggest there was a world of information available a few clicks away.
I changed this approach by introducing two questions to all planning meetings:
What are we trying to achieve?
How will we know we’ve done it?
If you can’t name a goal and how you know you’ve hit it, anything you have planned is wasted time and money. Only by answering those two questions can we know time and money is being well invested and that members will benefit from it.
Showing a consistent brand image
Website data showed the main comms channels leading to the site were Twitter and LinkedIn. These were also the two getting the most interaction from potential members so we would focus on these and drop all others.
I wrote brand intros for the two channels, focusing on the purpose of the organisation’s presence on the channel and what followers could expect. This outcome focused language was a major shift from the service based language of before – don’t tell them what you do, tell them what it does for them.
We focused channel imagery on ScotEng’s flagship industry report, the Quarterly Review, to show non-members a reason to join.
ScotEng’s comms were split into four main categories
- Events and training
- Member only briefings
- Industry news
- The Quarterly Review
When rebranding ScotEng I had created image styles for each so the reader would know at a glance the type of info that was being shared. I formatted the image styles for the two social channels so relevant posts would have the same visual style on the site, emails and social channels.
This consistency of language and imagery was the foundation we’d build the new comms strategy on.
Being more visible to members by expanding offline touchpoints
Before the rebrand, members only saw ScotEng when they accessed the services they paid for or when it was time for their renewal. Events and training opportunities came by email but were mostly paid events – most interactions were ScotEng asking the members for something.
My aim was to change that feeling, to make membership feel like something to be treasured, like a club you want to be part of. To redress the balance, to be seen to give to members.
Brand research showed high levels of trust in the organisation, so we would lend members some of that credibility. Previously ScotEng sent new members a paper certificate each year.
You and I know, when you receive a paper certificate it goes in a drawer never to be seen again. So I created digital certificates to be displayed on screens in member’s offices and waiting rooms. I paired this with a member’s logo that companies could display on their websites to show they’re part of the membership.
The impact of this kind of work is difficult to gauge but only by letting go of some control of how your brand is seen can the brand grow beyond what you know. With a small investment of time we improved what we gave to members when they renewed or signed up and increased the visibility of the ScotEng brand.
New ScotEng sub-brands I designed in 2021
New campaigns and sub-brands
In 2020/21 ScotEng secured contracts to lead major national campaigns, Rail Cluser Builder and Net Zero Skills Programme. These high profile opportunities would allow us to grow the membership by presenting the brand to a much wider audience. To keep the clarity of message we were creating with the main brand, we chose to separate the new campaigns from the main brand.
I designed a visual style for each campaign, both based on the main ScotEng brand. I created sub-sections of the main website for each campaign, with sections for info, events, catch up videos and downloads.
The online events from each campaign led to the creation of the ScotEng YouTube channel. I rolled out the brand’s main style to the overall channel and created playlists of the new videos branded with each campaign’s imagery.
Attendance to both campaign’s events have been high and several attendees have subsequently signed up as ScotEng members.
The ads and banners for the new in-house programmes and events use variations on the main brand style
The Scottish Engineering Awards
September 2021 saw the first in-person Scottish Engineering Awards since 2019. It was also the first year the prestigious Hammermen of Glasgow award for best young engineer was being rebranded to the Young Engineer of the Year Award (YEYA).
We took the opportunity to bring both the event and the award into the ScotEng stable of brands. Both were modernised with the imagery behind YEYA updated to reflect the diverse range of engineers who were nominated.
The pandemic and digital first
Parts of the engineering sector in Scotland are beholden to old white man ideas of how things are done. Despite improving online comms channels, major ScotEng publications like the Employment Guide and the Quarterly Review were being printed and posted to members.
The flaws in this way of working were many, the cost of printing and posting, the inability to track how members are using the documents as well as increased lead times on time-sensitive publications. The pandemic presented an opportunity to trial a digital-first approach.
I designed a page template for the QR broken down in a similar way to the printed report. Key information was available at-a-glance with full data presented for readers who wanted an in-depth look at the quarter. I paired this with a new email style, giving just the key info.
Email opens are above the organisation average with clicks and page visits steadily growing. Though the change to online is not an unmitigated success, working with the data is showing how we can improve what we are delivering to members to give them what they want to see more quickly.
The Employment Guide
The Employment guide is a 600+ page document of up to date legal and HR advice. Every member receives a copy and it is hailed as a universal positive of membership.
The pandemic highlighted a flaw in the print and post system. After completing the 2020 guide in February, the UK went into lockdown. New laws were being created and furlough schemes and work from home policies were changing the relationships between employers and their employees. The printed guides were missing key information before they’d even arrived with members.
I proposed taking the opportunity to move the guides online, giving all members access through the website’s member’s dashboard. To encourage members to use the new format, I made the PDF guide easy to use, filling it with clickable contents pages and cross references that took you to the supporting information. The digital employment guide was more accessible and faster to use than the paper copy.
From ScotEng’s point of view, they saved thousands in printing costs and could update the guide at any time, meaning it would never be out of date.
With ScotEng I have taken a blend of hard data-based decisions and softer brand awareness approaches. The work I have done has supported the organisation to grow its membership by 10% over the last year leading to an estimated additional £250k in revenue. This additional revenue has given the organisation its first positive cashflow in over five years – the realisation of a major goal of the 2019 rebrand.
The more consistent, reliable brand image we have presented helped ensure the organisation has been trusted with national government funded projects. Projects that are supporting Scotland to a low-carbon future – a key reason for me supporting the organisation.
These improvements are set against steadily increasing web traffic, up 10% year on year, as well as increased site entries from all major acquisition channels.
Into the future
As the brand has grown, its comms have become more focused on news and events. With this change in focus, those pages on the site needed updating to be more accessible. I redesigned both pages, incorporating the new news categories and giving visitors quick links to the most important projects ScotEng are delivering. The new pages will go live in 2022.
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