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Setting the digital agenda

by James Sparks Web & Digital Officer

In the last few weeks you may have noticed that we have had a face change, digitally speaking. On the 5th of September we launched a new website with a different strategic vision.

Several years ago the BALPA website was the mainstay of our communications and one of our only online assets. However, as time has progressed and technology has changed so have the requirements of our digital communications.

Over the last year we have actively been monitoring statistics, analysing user flows and considering audience behaviour. Along with feedback from member surveys, the volume of statistics available was overwhelming and gave a clear indication of what purpose our new website should serve. When the statistical analysis was combined with our own strategy for the site, the agreed direction was to be based around one key principle – simplification.

Several years ago it made sense, as our primary source of digital reference, to load the website with almost all content. This resulted in a useful reference to begin with but over time the website turned in to a library full of dated agreements and documents of increasingly less relevance; the website even included newsletters dating back as far as 2003! While providing historical data for members can be a useful tool when revisiting a particular topic or past negotiation, it seemed illogical to host such information for the small minority. Statistics showed that the vast majority of members were trying to locate their latest company agreement or a particular BALPA guide such as tax or fatigue reporting. There was a clear need for change and a reduction in volume. After all, newsletters are now available directly via email or in the 2Way app. Why the need to host them on the website?

As part of our review of the website, we took our initial plan to an independent user experience consultant, Experience UX. Our aim was to clearly understand what our website users’ needs were before designing any new digital products and services. With the birth of so many new BALPA communications channels (e-newsletters, 2Way App, Webinars, On The Radar), the website needed to be refocused and repositioned amongst all our other tools. The agreed goal at the start of this UX journey was to:

“Refocus the BALPA website to allow the key audiences to easily access relevant and up to date information on desktop and mobile.”

With the help of Experience UX we went through three stages of review:

1) Initial UX audit with high level findings and recommendations
2) A user journey and information architecture workshop
3) Wireframe design

Stage two of this journey was the most critical. We spent significant time going through what our website audience profiles were (Member, Public, Rep, etc) and what their trigger might be (what would bring them to the website). With those in-depth profiles, we were then able to work out what the best user journey might be for that individual based on the agreed goal statement above.

With that information, we were then able to draw up a set of wireframes upon which to base our design. Each user now falls in to a defined audience, has a common trigger and an expected journey which should make sure the website as intuitive as we can make it. Despite the internal departmental complexities of BALPA as an organisation, members should now find the website to be more reflective of their needs rather than any BALPA structure.

With simplification in mind, the website now serves up some very specific reference material for members and reps. Airline documents and agreements continue to be listed, but only in their most recent format. General advisory information from BALPA, such as tax, fatigue, or reporting has been designed to take the form of member guides. These are now in PDF format with a uniform design and can be taken away by any member or rep for offline viewing. Much of our flight safety work has been redrafted to form part of an official BALPA position on a particular topic. These positions are less in-depth and give a firm answer to what policy BALPA adheres to on subjects like lasers, drones, or pilot mental health. The career services, member services and reps’ areas have also undergone a reduction in volume of content but this reduction is countered by an increase in quality. In general, we are aiming to provide less available information on the website but what remains will be of a better standard.

By reducing the capacity of our website, it does mean making more use of our other communication channels which have steadily grown over the last few years. One very recent introduction is this blog which serves as an overflow to the website. Previous material that may well have been “dumped” on the website can now be drafted in blog format to create engaging topical content. The very active BALPA forum community remains untouched and, while the forum does not serve as a communications channel, it does offer members the continuing facility to take part in professional debate amongst peers.

The BALPA 2Way app holds all company newsletter material for offline reading, contact details for reps and staff, report facilities, as well as details on how to access the BALPA emergency service. HTML newsletters have been hugely popular with members. Each company newsletter is now sent directly to members, often received on tablet or mobile, allowing for greater design, engaging content and the return of analytics which help to gauge levels of readership and engagement. Also popular via email has been the monthly industrial update On The Radar and other all member emails.

Our social media channels on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have grown to give BALPA a potential reach of nearly 10 million, which is an important tool for not only communicating with members but also non-members, the general public, general media and parliamentarians. And finally, only this week, we have started to see the second installment of our recently redesigned quarterly magazine The Log land on member doorsteps.

With the increasing number of communication channels now available, we have a firm hand on which channels can suit the needs of each campaign or single member communication. It gives BALPA the flexibility to be creative with tools and engage with its members in different ways. The website remains a part of that toolbox but is no longer the single driver of our digital communications.

Results from out member polling in 2015 revealed that the vast majority (85%) of BALPA members feel that they are ‘well informed’ about what BALPA is doing. That figure was broadly in line with results from previous years and is a really healthy number in comparison to other associations and other general industry levels. However, our aim in 2017 is to see that figure even higher – our target is 90% – and small changes such as improving the website and making more strategic use of other channels will hopefully get us close to that target.

We do rely on feedback from members, reps and the public, as well as ideas for future content. On either front, feel free to leave us comments here or contact us at communications@balpa.org