8 month consultancy contract overseeing all marketing, branding and corporate communications activity for Birse Rail Ltd following their inclusion into Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering division
- Key liaison with Balfour Beatty plc during re-branding following takeover. Responsible for successful adherence to schedule and ensured re-brand activities across all sites, fleet, promotional literature, signage and PPE achieved completion on or before key milestones and target dates
- Decision maker for PR, advertising and design agencies to progress PR and marketing strategy
- Development, management and implementation of internal and external communications activities, including devising site specific roadshows to roll out and progress takeover culture change programme
When Birse Group became part of Balfour Beatty plc, a significant portion of the Birse Rail senior management team moved on from the business, including the marketing & business development director and the marketing manager, leaving the company without the resources to implement the various internal and external communication tasks required for a smooth shift to a refreshed identity. My remit was to cover both of these roles, ensuring day to day marketing and business development activities continued unhindered, while developing new internal and external strategies, implementing the re-branding process and assisting with the recruitment of a new permanent communications team.
Re-branding the business; Keeping comms on track
Initially the expectation was that the group would be de-branded and incorporated into the corporation, as is the case with many other Balfour Beatty acquisitions. However, the Birse name carried significant brand value and maintaining selected existing Birse Group divisions as stand alone brands would enable each division to benefit from their inclusion into the Balfour Beatty portfolio while minimising any confusion or loss of confidence within the marketplace.
While the division names remained, the brand image needed to be brought in line with Balfour Beatty corporate livery, which required every branding element to be replaced with new colours, typography and style.
I worked closely with Birse directors and senior management and BBCE’s Head of Communications to redevelop the existing communications strategy and implement a workable re-branding project with clear targets and deadlines.
All buildings (both permanent and temporary), paperwork, hoardings, fleet vehicles, PPE equipment and signage was successfully rebranded within or ahead of schedule. New advertising was rolled out in industry publications promoting the new identity and the ‘general’ elements of the marketing strategy (those not related to the takeover) continued as planned, including several successful award wins, timely and appropriate PR response to significant breaking news within the rail industry and the development of a new safety awareness campaign for front line staff.
Implementing the new corporate culture
A internal culture change programme was also needed to help staff through the transition.
The views and concerns of staff across the country, some in remote locations, needed to be taken into account to enable its success. I devised a series of site specific monthly roadshows, to be hosted by key members of the senior management, where staff would not only be informed of the changes in their workplace but would have the opportunity to speak directly and in person to those from head office. In conjunction, I produced a new staff newsletter, in both email and paper formats, which enabled any queries brought up at the roadshows to be properly responded to and distributed across all sites and offices.
Recruiting the new team
Additionally, the roles of business development and marketing staff were to be redefined. Reviewing previous job descriptions, employment market trends and the current and future needs of the business, I developed new job descriptions for both business development and marketing communications, with clear definition between the two disciplines. A new business development manager was recruited, who I worked alongside until the end of the contract. By serendipity, the original marketing manager then returned to the business in the new role of marketing communications manager to take the new strategy forward.
What I learned
This contract was challenging yet highly fulfilling to undertake. The re-branding process was extremely hard work but nonetheless incredibly satisfying, especially when out-performing complex targets. Working as a liaison between both Birse and BBCE senior management involved tact, diplomacy and top notch negotiation skills.
Maintaining the day to day running of the marcomms and business development functions while simultaneously implementing a raft of new policies and keeping them all on schedule took my project management and team building skills to a whole new level. As key liaison with several department heads in both companies I needed to be able to keep everyone’s focus on the tasks at hand as well as ensure they also received the support they needed from the rest of the business.
Rail construction is a highly safety conscious industry and focus must be maintained. With the company in such flux, it was crucial that existing staff felt secure and able to continue their work unimpeded. Uneasy employees needed to be reassured and able to communicate with top level management easily. Involving both front line employees and head office directors in deciding the way their internal information is distributed helped create an open and on-going dialogue.