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PwC reimagines the company newsletter

In Examples by Peter Gearin

PwC’s broadsheet newspaper, The Press, tells stories about and for its employees.

Russel Howcroft isn’t the first name that pops up when you think of content marketers. The former advertising agency and Network Ten boss and Gruen television panellist is more likely to identify as a hero of a big-budget 30-second campaign than a champion of an owned-media strategy providing relevant and useful stories for a defined audience.

But that’s what Howcroft is. Since starting as chief creative officer at large Australian professional services firm PwC in March, he has launched a newspaper called The Press. The broadsheet, edited by former Business Review Weekly publisher Amanda Gome, is aimed chiefly at the company’s 7000 Australian employees. (A digital version is also available.)

Unlike Howcroft, Gome has form in content marketing. As ANZ’s head of digital and social media, she helped create BlueNotes, which is one of Australia’s best-known content executions. An analysis by Cognitives reveals the ANZ content site, which began in 2014, now publishes 37 articles and averages 10,000 unique views every month.

The Press is an example of a large business using a content strategy to service a largely internal audience, rather than reaching a defined group of consumers. Recent articles include a profile on a PwC corporate tax consultant who runs an ethically sourced coffee business in his spare time, an article on workplace gender equality through the eyes of the company’s chief diversity and inclusion partner Julie McKay, and an explainer from Asia-Pacific partner Andrew Parker on the threat presented to the world and region by North Korea.

Other stories cover Australia’s energy supply crisis, Brisbane’s growing pains, the need for tax reform and how leaders must deal with social media meltdowns. PwC has recruited well, bringing in former Melbourne-based Australian Financial Review writer Lucille Keen as senior reporter.

According to its own blurb, “The Press is a publication aimed at sharing expertise, capturing insights and working together to solve important problems”. These stories not only appear in The Press newspaper and web page off the PwC site, they’re promoted through the company’s social media channels, especially Facebook.

Corporate newsletters and the “intranet” have sure come a long way.

Howcroft says The Press is all about changing perceptions about a company that even its staff might see as stuffy. “The fascinating thing about PwC is what people think it is, and what it actually is, are different,” Howcroft told AdNews.

“When you look at the amazing stories that go on within the organisation you can only conclude that it does matter, so what’s the best way to communicate the stories, opinions and innovations PwC is doing every day of the week? We have a massive digital presence and you could argue that everything is covered off, but what’s interesting is using newspapers as a marketing tool.”

When The Press launched in July, Howcroft got some coverage in the mainstream financial media because it seemed odd for a former ad guy to launch a broadsheet newspaper. But the real story is how PwC has shifted towards a content model that targets its own staff – what they’re doing, and why it’s important for them and the businesses they work with. No doubt clients would also be impressed by the passion, expertise and commitment PwC’s employees show towards their work.

Todd Wheatland, a former King Content managing director, has spoken about a trend towards “below the funnel” storytelling. This is where marketers concentrate on creating stories that will generate and promote loyalty among existing customers and employees. It’s a powerful tactic, especially for companies as large and complex as PwC.

As the company’s most important advocates, employees are best able to spread the word about what it stands for. It’s also a powerful way to build corporate knowledge and morale … and attract talented employees.

“It’s a great vehicle for staff engagement and communication,” Howcroft said of The Press in the AdNews article. “Over time hopefully more and more people get to see it.” It reported that print production costs are just $3000 per issue.

Howcroft said he didn’t have a “limited horizon” for The Press: “You don’t want it to become a burden, or become wallpaper. It’s for making a marketing impact and if that stops, then it’ll stop and we’ll think about another idea.”

Now that sounds like an ad man talking! Perhaps The Press can prove its case.

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