Mining communication systems to save time and money

Mining Communication Systems for Mining Marketing in Africa

What if you could set up mining communication systems that save you time and money? Sidestep long procurement processes and red tape, which leave your latest news as old news, your mining communications manager frustrated and your employees disengaged.

It’s easy and actionable if you set up correct mining communication systems tools as part of your stakeholder marketing and communication strategy. And why would mines need their own systems? Because it’s a unique sector, with specific requirements and challenges. Let’s unpack this further.

If we go back 20-30 years (or, with some companies, a few years ago!), we’ll see that communication channels were stilted and limited. Options were frequently limited to generic communication channels, with limited targeting of who you were speaking to.

External Communications

  • Newspaper adverts
  • Letters sent via the post office
  • Billboards and posters in public areas
  • Public meetings

Internal Communications

  • Noticeboard
  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Staff meetings

All of these are costly and time-consuming, especially when implementing them at scale. And when you factor in that most mines are off the beaten track, you face logistics issues of reaching far-flung areas. Add to this, communicating in the language spoken in that area, and by your workers. Finally, if you wanted to respond to an urgent and critical matter, something like dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, you’d still have to go through printing and delivery. So, to say this must have been challenging and expensive, is an understatement.

However, mining communications systems have changed greatly using digital channels. You’re able to respond almost immediately. Using defined channels to speak to specific groups of people. Educating and sharing in their language in a range of options. Greatly reducing your carbon footprint whilst keeping your budget in check. Let’s explore your options and go a bit more in-depth.

Firstly, it’s important to define the following: WHO, WHAT and HOW.

Mining communication marketing and graphic design for Africa

WHO: Who are we communicating to?

This includes your external stakeholders – investors; community leaders; governance; suppliers and the public. It includes your internal stakeholders too – Exco; management; health and safety; environmental, social and governance (ESG); employees and contractors. Once you target WHO you are speaking to you, you can now define WHAT.

WHAT: What are we saying to them?

What is the purpose of our communication? Is it sharing Corporate Social Responsibility programmes you have in place with local communities? Is it teaching your employees and contractors how to stay safe during the coronavirus, with COVID-19 Health and Safety practices? And what are you defining as a successful engagement? Once you have outlined what you want to achieve, you can expl0re HOW you will implement this through your channels.

HOW: How will we share our message?

If we look at the earlier list, we’ll see that it was somewhat limited. Options are far greater now, and even those traditional channels can be used more effectively now. So let’s explore the channels below. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are digital channels.

Digital channels are a key differentiator as they are quick, cost-effective and have no borders. For this reason, we encourage our mining clients to embrace digital as one of their key mining communication systems.

EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

Branded Emails*
A branded email can be a simple branded picture message, which is added to the top or bottom of your email. Or you can subscribe to software solutions like ClickitMedia, which gives you the option to brand your messaging from a central hub allowing you to tailor your comms immediately.

Email Newsletters*
Mining doesn’t traditionally use email newsletters as an external form of communication due to the nature of the industry. However, it can be used highly effectively if you segment your audience well. For example, sending press releases to a list of journalists and publications or alerting stakeholders that you are releasing your new Sustainable Development Report.

Website*
Your website is an obvious place for your communications. The key with your website is to ensure it’s mobile friendly (responsive) and your news centre is updated regularly. Your website is the place where you can house all your information about your company for external visitors, so it’s often one of your most important communication tools.

LinkedIn*
Your company LinkedIn page is an extremely powerful platform, especially in the Business to Business (B2B) area. The main reason for this is that it’s the only common channel for professional people to share news and research companies. The starting-level LinkedIn page is free, but as you go up in functionality, you’ll need to pay. For the free version, the biggest challenge is keeping it updated (we struggle with ours too!), so you need to assign a dedicated person or team to keep your page updated. Chat to us about a solution we implement for a company in the mining industry, which automates engaging LinkedIn posts.

Facebook Page*
It may seem at first that a Facebook page wouldn’t be part of your mining communication system, as it’s often associated with more consumer brands. But the truth is that a fair amount of your employees, clients and customers may be on Facebook. We’ve seen many, many cases where staff are “checking in” to their mine on Facebook, but there is no official page. So now you have a digital channel, which is representing your brand (due to the check-ins) but is unmanned. In one case, we saw pictures of staff at their workplaces not wearing the correct PPE and with their feet up on tables; the completely wrong image for their brand. Had that particular mine had an official Facebook page, it could have controlled the images that were being posted on their page and the appropriate messaging sent out. Anglo American are a great example of a mining company Facebook page. Once you have a good page set up, you can also look at promoting your content through digital advertising.

Google My Business*
You may not know it, but you’ve probably looked at Google My Business several times, maybe even today! You know when you search for a company on Google and on the right-hand side of the web page you see their contact details and sometimes photos? That is a space that is created by Google, but should be controlled by you. There are several reasons for this, but one of the main ones is that this is a place that people post reviews. If you have positive reviews, this is a place that you can respond to them, but more importantly, if you have bad reviews, here is where you can publicly respond. If you haven’t claimed your space, then you aren’t able to control your public persona.

Instagram Page*
There are 1 billion Instagram users. For that reason alone, you cannot ignore it. Again, we’ll reference Anglo American to show brand continuity. 71% of the billion users are under 35 years of age, so this is a primary channel to talk to your younger audience.

Twitter Page*
Twitter is used for quick communications and keeping up to date. It’s perfect for sharing quick news and company information. It can also be a powerful tool for your community. Here’s a first-hand example of how Twitter can be used – we had this experience whilst driving to a mine we were developing marketing material for. They had been burning firebreaks in the surrounding forests and fields. The wind had picked up and crossed over the road. When we were driving we were too nervous to go into the area as we couldn’t see through the smoke. We couldn’t get hold of the mine switchboard, as it was flooded with calls. If they’d had a Twitter feed they could have updated the status, which by that stage was that the fire was under control and it just looked worse than it was; that we could safely travel through.

WhatsApp Broadcast (for media alerts)*
If we refer back to our experience with the fire above – a WhatsApp group would have been an ideal way to engage with the community, local security companies and journalists. A WhatsApp broadcast group allows you to send to a predefined list and pushes your content to them immediately. Unlike sharing with a group, a broadcast doesn’t show who else it’s been sent to, nor does it allow dialogue within that group. With the exception of SMS, this is the most direct method of instant communication we have.

Newspaper Adverts and Articles
We’re leaving this on the list as it’s often a reliable way to speak to community leaders in traditional areas. Print media is still effective with covering events, sending out key messages and sharing company news. We’ve not marked it as a digital channel, as you have no control of what and when it’s posted.

Brochure & Reports*
Your Annual and Sustainable Development Reports are key information providers. Nowadays, they are often designed primarily for digital distribution, however, some company policies stipulate printed versions be distributed. The best part is that they are inherently digital, so whatever you design will be ready for distribution by email, on your website or via web link on your other online channels.

INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

Branded Emails* (see above)

Email Newsletters*
Internal email newsletters differ from external. Internal newsletters may already form part of your communication desk. They are a great way to reach your administrative staff, however, remember they may not reach workers in the field who do not have company email addresses or access to devices to receive them. With this in mind, your communication can be tailored to that group of employees.

Noticeboards
Most mines have an old and tired chipboard noticeboard with an overlapping stack of notices pinned to it. This is chaos, but not of the organised kind. A planned noticeboard system brings neatness structure into your noticeboard. Our noticeboard system utilises a smart installation with easily updated frames for content. The content prioritises safety, CSI initiatives, employee wellness campaigns and culture-building programmes in addition to company news.

Digital Screens*
Screens are one of our favourite internal communication systems. A well-placed screen can update and inform employees in any high-traffic area, with the reward of high engagement. Once you’ve determined your design style, a template can be created for internal updated information, which is on-brand and quick to edit. Screens are perfect for welcome messages; safety messages; health and safety campaigns; awareness programmes and more.

WhatsApp Messages and Videos*
We believe WhatsApp hasn’t fully been explored yet. With the exception of SMS, it’s about the only form of communication that allows you to “push” your content to your audience (since the push factor can be turned off on email). You can send text, images, video and audio and can send it to a broadcast group, or an intimate group. It is suitable for both external and internal communications, however, we’d focus on using it more for team communications. WhatsApp for Business is for the small business, but also has features that can be utilised for team communications at your mine.

Facebook Groups*
The difference between a Page and a Group is that you can make a group private and it’s a space for dialogue, as opposed to your Facebook Page, which is more of a broadcast tool. We like Facebook Groups for learning applications, or as a space for employee engagement, e.g. as part of your Employer Branding and Graduate Campaigns. You can use the ‘Units’ functionality as an educational tool, and Facebook Live Video to talk to your members.

LinkedIn Groups*
A LinkedIn Group can be either external or internal, but it is used more for business, networking and related discussions, than as a primary communication tool. It, like your LinkedIn page, provides a perfect space to set yourself up as a thought leader or for prospective candidates to look at your company in the job-seeking world.

Intranet*
Your intranet can function as a perfect digital message board, storage hub and news source for people. We like to use it as an access point for important company documents and notifications.

Flyers
The humble flyer is always a winner in mining communication systems. The reason for this is that the design can be distributed digitally or physically. And it can be distributed in multiple languages and in all areas of your site. Flyers are quick and cost-effective to print. Your only challenge is distribution, but if you use key personnel to share in high-traffic areas then you can ensure that all corners of your mine receive the flyer. It is ideal for campaigns or to promote a specific event or function.

Canteen Communications (table-talkers)
Your canteen table-talkers are essentially table flyers. They can have the same, or more simplified information as your flyer. They can be used as part of a campaign; to educate about your vision and mission or to provide topics for thought-provoking conversations at mealtimes.

Posters
Posters remain a steady favourite in mining communications. They are easy to produce, and if you use a snap-frame, will look professional and smart. Posters are great for reinforcing key messages (like safety campaigns) or to promote a specific event or function.

Pull-up Banners
Pull-up banners have their place, but it’s not for everywhere. Where would you use one? When you are having a specific event where you’d like to drive a message (e.g. next to a speaker podium) or drive foot traffic (e.g. to a room which is the venue for a seminar). They aren’t expensive, and if you buy a good frame, you can reprint the banner only and refit it. Make sure not to choose the cheapest option, however, as they often fall over. Spend a bit more initially to get a solid frame that can stand up to passing people.

Toolbox Talks
A toolbox talk is an informal group discussion, which focuses on safety issues. It is a great way to promote safety culture and keep staff up to date with health and safety measures, like COVID-19 protocols for example. If you plan and design your toolbox talk well, you are able to take serious issues and turn them into interesting, yet simple, messages so that all employees, regardless of their literacy levels, can grasp the topic at hand.

As you can see, you have many options to choose from to develop and refine your mining communication systems. It’s why you need a team who are experienced in mining marketing. If you need help planning, implementing and running yours, please speak to a member of our team.

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We are marketing designers working in partnership with select B2B companies in  UK, Australia and South Africa

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