Why we are changing: brand matters

Prospect union
Sep 4, 2019 · 6 min read

Mike Clancy, General secretary of Prospect Union

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We are rolling out a new brand for Prospect and our Bectu sector over the coming weeks. The new brand includes new logos, colours and fonts and different ways of talking about the work that we do (see here). Our Communications team led by Andrew Pakes our Director of Communications and Research, have been driving this major project over the last year or so.

The first step is an update to our existing websites and social media content. Just like the tip of an iceberg, the new look represents the visible summit of a much bigger project aimed at making us fit for the challenges facing our members and the union itself.

Not surprisingly we are often asked why do we need a change? What is the point of a rebrand? And for a Union?

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The starting point for the project was simple. This is about doing our job better. Brand can be insubstantial messaging or it can really reflect what an organisation is all about. We need the tools to get across our values and work to new people. The new brand is part of that. Nearly three years on from Prospect’s merger with creative industries union Bectu, we want to create a shared family feel across our work, whilst projecting both
brands.

Our existing brands, website and materials have served us well and we have bucked the trend as a union in recent years with a net growth in working members. But, both brands were conceived in an era before the smartphone and iPad became common place.

Nearly 80 per cent of our members now join online either through the Prospect or Bectu websites. Just as consumer trends have changed with many people now shopping online, banking via an app or signing up to new services via their phone, we need to make engaging with us or getting hold of the relevant information just as easy. We need digital services to match the times.

Winter is coming

The project is one aspect of our response to the wider challenges facing trade unions. The world of work is changing and we need to keep pace with that change to provide a voice for current members and expand our reach for new ones. Unions21 has a good summary of challenges and solutions in its Roadmap to Recovery (see here).

The challenges facing unions in the UK are well-known:

• Rapidly changing world of work, with disruption from new technology, demand for
new skills and the growth in freelancing and flexible working.
• A perception that unions are stagnant, failing to develop their relevance to reflect changing attitudes and changing workspaces.
• Individual perceptions of collectivism and solidarity have changed.
• New challengers have emerged providing similar and different services to unions, much of it online.
• A government that is indifferent to collective voice and openly hostile to unions, and a legislative framework that severely curtails union activity

Reaching new audiences

We know the scale of the challenge. Trade unions need to double the rate at which we recruit members aged 35 and under just to replace those existing members due to retire over the next few years. We have drawn on excellent research by the TUC looking at how unions could adapt to meet the needs of a new generation of young workers (see here). We are also partnering with the Young Workers Lab at UNI Global Union, which is looking at new forms of organising and how we can responsibly use technology to strengthen our collective voice (see here).

Our focus group work with young workers revealed four main messages:
•They don’t know who we are (trade unions generally and Prospect/Bectu).
•They don’t think unions are for them.
•They think they’ll do better on their own.
•They aren’t aware of individual benefits.

These are not unique findings. Work by The TUC revealed comparable evidence with an increasing number of young workers unaware of who we are or what we do. But the same evidence also revealed a workforce anxious about their careers and worried about the opportunities open to them.

Our ambition

The research shows that our members are ambitious, even if they face uncertainty or precarious conditions, whether that is about their own career, the work they do or the industry they work in. Whether they are a freelancer, contractor or permanent employee, no one should ever feel isolated at work. So, in turn, we want to be ambitious as a union to adapt and change so that we attract new joiners and provide a welcoming space for members wanting to be involved.

So, what are we doing?

Faced with those challenges, our communications and teams have to work really hard to attract and engage people who don’t know us, or unions in general. Done right, a consistent brand across the union can give us a framework to make every piece of writing, every picture, every event, fit into a clearer story about who we are. It can make every interaction with prospective members that much more effective.

In early September we will start rolling out our new brand. Lots of work has happened already. The focus groups with potential members revealed a lot about the language we use to describe things and the expectations new members have.

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We have updated our online join pages on the Prospect website to make sure it is a simpler and more friendly process. We now have an ‘onboarding’ programme to welcome new members to the union, supplementing the brilliant work of branches and representatives, to make people feel part of our community. With UNI Global Union, we have been piloting a new way we can give voice to all of our members, no matter where they work, and how they work. It’s called Thought Exchange. With Thought Exchange we can take our member meetings online giving far more members the opportunity to have a say.

The journey continues…

Alongside new logos, look and feel we are also developing a new website that will be launched later in the Autumn. We will be launching it as a beta version and inviting members to help us prioritise and shape its future development. The new site will help us curate our story better and use plain English over union jargon. Language isn’t just about words, it is also about tone.

We will be developing our digital tools to make it easier to support active members and create online forums for branches/networks. The new website, along with our Member Contact Centre, will provide clearer metrics on member interactions, satisfaction and casework. This will help bring better quality data into our conversations about priorities and what works.

For some this scale of change for a trade union can be unsettling, but as the pace of change in the world around us ever quickens, we must keep up. This isn’t a brand project in isolation. We are also looking at our membership benefits, new ways of organising and growing our influence in new and changing industries. Only by doing so can unions demonstrate that they are as vital as ever in the 2020s and beyond.

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