2015 Class 6: Best internal newspaper (Winner)


Winner: Beetroot

Entry Title: Heathrow Life

Heathrow is one of the world’s leading international airports and the UK’s only hub airport – connecting Britain to the world. More than 73 million passengers travel through the airport annually on services offered by 81 airlines travelling to over 180 destinations.

It’s an exciting time for the airport. The new Terminal 2 is setting new standards for global air travel, and a new chief executive has refocused Heathrow’s vision to “give passengers the best airport service in the world”.

With a Government decision on airport expansion imminent, Heathrow continues to champion its plans for expansion, bringing economic benefits of up to £211 billion, and up to 179,00 UK jobs.

More than 76,000 people work in over 300 companies at the airport including airline employees, Border Force and customs officials. The site is also home to contractors and other associated businesses, making it one of the major contributors to the economy in London and the UK.

Heathrow’s people are operational and in supporting corporate services. This includes around 5,500 security officers and their team leaders, airfield patrol operatives, firefighters, engineers and technicians, customer service advisors and many more.
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3,000 copies of Heathrow Life are distributed around the airport’s many operational locations. Goals and planning

At its launch in 2013 Heathrow Life aimed to engage a traditionally hard-to-reach audience of frontline employees through a fun and frontline-focused tabloid, underpinned by subtle corporate messaging around customer care and international competition. Stories are written in jargon-free tabloid language, with clean and simple design, led by big pictures and bold headlines.

Initial feedback was very encouraging and a class win in 2014’s IOIC Awards reflected this success. The challenge for Heathrow was to build on that success and use the growing strength of the channel to help drive cultural change within the organisation.

The arrival of new chief executive John Holland Kaye in July 2014, combined with the opening of a brand new Terminal 2 and increasing competition from European and global hubs, brought a new focus on customer care and operational efficiency alongside passenger security.

John’s refrain of wanting the airport to “get its Mojo back” chimed with the existing tone of the messaging in Heathrow Life and endorsed the approach.

The aim was to keep what was working well, stick with and exploit the printed format with a series of special editions and inserts, and continue to tell stories that showed Heathrow’s values and behaviours in action on the frontline.

As ever, close working with the client would ensure a balance of news from around the business and the right mix of fun, facts, interaction and a hint of corporate messaging.

With the Heathrow Life brand established across the airport a number of spin-off special issues were planned to celebrate success, explain change and communicate significant landmark events.

These required a flexibility of production unusual for corporate publishing – especially for a bi- monthly. This was particularly true for June 2014’s royal “wraparound”, commemorating the official opening of Terminal 2 by Her Majesty the Queen.

In the weeks before the occasion, beetroot worked closely with Heathrow’s event planning team, including taking part in a full walk-through of the event. The content delivery and sign-off process was also amended to allow live production and an 18-hour turnaround (more details below).

Execution: design/production

Commuter tabloids and Britain’s biggest selling dailies are the inspiration for the design of Heathrow Life.

The emphasis throughout is on short stories, images of front line faces and facts boxes. Copy works hard on the page, while insets and roundels pick out key facts or useful ‘takeaway’ information.

The front page sets the tone from the outset, with a strong masthead, simple, bold headlines and a strong image dominating the layout for maximum impact.

Subtle use of company branding ensures that the newspaper belongs to the Heathrow family of communications without being overtly corporate.

Icons and graphics are used to display content in a friendly and accessible way, with text presented in bite-size chunks where appropriate to satisfy skim readers and provide a change of pace.

Professional people-focused photography is used throughout but submitted shots also lend a feeling of ownership.

The royal special edition provided particular production challenges.

With June’s issue hot off the press and awaiting distribution, the aim was to have the supplement designed, printed, folded around the paper and distributed across Heathrow the following morning.

Significant pre-planning ensured the required editorial and imagery could be captured.

On the day, beetroot worked closely with the client to ensure updates were relayed to production in real time. The latest professional images were sent to the design studio every half an hour, allowing the creative team time to view and select the best options for visual impact.

A pre-approved page template helped speed up the design process and, with the comms team on standby for speedy sign-off, files were approved for print less than two hours after the Queen’s departure and within minutes of the design being finalized.

The result looked fantastic and was ready to read just 18 hours after the event.


Execution: content

To keep the content in step with these design values, there were some firm rules: The paper should tell the stories from the point of view of frontline employees, reflecting the behaviours, skills and characters behind the facts, figures and corporate messages.

There are strict limits on story length, zero jargon and as few quotes from senior managers as possible.

Throughout, the focus is on frontline faces, creating a sense of pride in the company and ownership of the channel.

The October 2014 issue is a perfect example of tabloid values applied to a corporate channel. The main “Skyfall” image was selected for maximum visual impact, with the more strategic business story taking its place alongside. Page two features another example of a story being given prominence because of the image and playful headline (“H20oooo”), while the centre spread demonstrates how stats, frontline faces and “real life” case studies can be balanced to celebrate excellence.

June’s issue was wrapped with the aforementioned royal special, but stands as a great example of the channel in its own right.

It covers the earlier ‘soft’ opening of the terminal, and features frontline colleagues as life-savers (p2), star performers (p7), loyal servants (p8) and even film extras (p3).

The royal special was conceived as a picture-led celebration. Although the nature of the event meant we couldn’t guarantee specific images, careful planning of the itinerary and briefing of the photographer meant we could template pages in advance.

The professional images certainly didn’t disappoint and prominence was given to two stand-out images, with space also dedicated to less formal “selfie” pictures Tweeted by staff.

Part of the back page was devoted to a people story and archive images – elements we could pre- prepare – providing a strong “sign off” which echoed the style of the regular paper.


The Pulse survey in 2014 was the first proper opportunity to measure changes in engagement across the airport since Heathrow Life launched in late 2013.

Results, published in early 2015, revealed:

  • 71 per cent felt confident that Heathrow will achieve its plans – up 14 per cent from 2013
  • Overall engagement – up four per cent
  • 73 per cent understood where Heathrow wants to go in the next five years – up 12 per cent
  • 77 per cent feel their jobs contributed to the success of Heathrow – up two per cent

The first channel-specific survey opened in May this year. At the time of entry, early responses were positive.

58.6 per cent of respondents said they read Heathrow Life whenever they see it, while 31 percent said they took the paper home and almost 20 per cent said they shared it with friends and family.

Building advocacy among front line colleagues is a key aspect of the comms plan, so the latter two figures are particularly encouraging.

Pam Bland, Director of Airport Communications, said: “Heathrow Life is a firmly established favourite with operational colleagues and an important part of our strategic, integrated, internal communications. It is well written, well read, and celebrates the day-to-day work of our operations colleagues in an engaging, positive way.”