Page 3: Communication management
Business television is a very versatile medium. The most common uses are:
- Senior management can explain the thinking behind important policy matters so staff understand not just what is changing, but also why.
- Day-to-day business communication provides staff with a better understanding of operational issues and the environment in which they work.
- Training can be delivered, either by programmes which employees watch and study, or through interactive programmes where “students” can speak live to experts in the studio.
- Customised broadcasts can focus on the needs of specific groups.
Research carried out before the Halifax’s pilot broadcast in July 1995, revealed the need to make the programmes concise, relevant and job related. Staff wanted to be better informed and to hear directly from the decision-makers. They did not want television to cover out-of-hours activities involving staff. The objectives of HTV were established on the basis of five driving forces:
- Business need - to help Halifax deliver its business objectives.
- Audience need - to keep staff informed, giving them news in honest, straightforward programmes.
- The medium itself - to maintain high standards of production.
- Halifax communications policy and values - to adhere to the key principles, for example, honesty.
- Currency - to be alive to the current focus of talk and speculation.
Introducing business television
Starting in April 1995, four months before the merger between the Halifax and Leeds Permanent Building Society, 1850 sites were surveyed and equipment was installed. An editorial team was appointed and a live studio was built in Halifax. The decision to proceed with business television involved an initial investment of around £5 million and an annual production budget of over £1 million. HTV is able to produce programmes at around about 50p per head and is Europe’s largest business television network.
HTV’s audience comprises every member of the Group’s staff i.e. 37,000 people spread over 1,700 locations, and in the Head Office sites in Halifax, Leeds and Bristol. HTV has become essential viewing for all staff at every level in the Halifax Group. In branches, the broadcasts are watched live by teams of staff with their managers and then discussed afterwards. In Head Offices, TV monitors are suspended from the ceiling above open plan areas, allowing staff to remain at their desks, or to gather around the sets.
Halifax Television News, or HTN, was originally a fortnightly fifteen minute bulletin, with interviews and longer reports about the Halifax Group – the branches, estate agency, financial services etc. The style was similar to the Nine O’clock News or News At Ten. After more than a year of broadcasts, it was re-launched as ten minute news programmes supported by ‘HTN Extras’ for each of the Group’s businesses.
A second programme, created specifically for the branch network, was launched in January 1996. Interact is an informal programme on new products and marketing activities aimed at helping branch staff better understand the products they are selling (e.g. the different types of mortgages) and how to put across their best features to customers.
Activate, the third strand of Halifax Television, was launched in May 1996 and concentrates on training. It has been used to test the use of interactive keypads as a potential solution to the growing requirement for training staff in many different locations. The idea is that all the employees watching the live broadcast can ‘talk’ to the trainer in the studio, either by pressing keys or by using a microphone built into their keypad.