How Gatwick Airport uses Yammer

What does it take to have an award-winning internal social media campaign? Who is using Yammer well and what are the secrets to their success?

You’re in the right place to find out.

Gatwick is the world’s biggest single runway airport and the UK’s second busiest airport. Its internal communication team used Yammer to communicate with employees during the Olympic Games last year in London. This led to them winning the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Inside award in the Internal Social Media category.

Caroline Thorpe, Airport Communications Manager, is pictured on the far right of the photograph on this page, receiving the award at the ceremony in February. I’m going to examine what they did, how it worked alongside their usual channels, what the benefits were and what’s happened since the Games ended.

Yammer is an enterprise social network (ESN). It’s more than ‘internal Twitter/Facebook’ but ESNs are often described in that way to explain what they are to people who haven’t come across them before. Ideally done, they enhance business within companies by bringing people together to communicate, for the benefit of themselves and the organisation. These connections are achieved via high collaboration software (such as Yammer) and using social tools.

I’ve written about enterprise social networks numerous times on my blog and have linked to some further reading at the end of this article.

I’m Deputy Chair of the CIPR Inside committee and have written this article to share insight into internal social media in action. CIPR Inside is the sector group for internal communication professionals.

This year was the first time the awards have taken place, and I’d be keen to see them return next year because it was excellent to formally recognise some of the sterling work IC pros are doing in their organisations. Keep an eye on the CIPR Inside website because profiles of the winners are going to be shared over the coming months.

I thought it would be interesting to highlight the fantastic work the Gatwick team has done and what it took to make an award-winning campaign.

Using internal social media to engage Gatwick Airport staff during the London 2012 Games

CIPR_GatwickWhile Gatwick was not an official partner of the London 2012 Games, they were responsible for welcoming thousands of Games family from 68 countries (including Usain Bolt, Team GB, coaches, dignitaries, VIPs, media and Games tourists). The eyes of the world were on them and they had to deliver a consistently excellent level of service, at what was already their busiest time of year.

Two years of planning went into finessing the perfect processes for giving a warm welcome and departure to Games visitors. Their busiest day saw over 1,000 Games family members leaving on 55 flights, including a team of 260 Chinese athletes with two 7.5 tonne trucks of luggage.

Caroline Thorpe, Airport Communications Manager says: “Gatwick’s CEO wanted all staff (operational and back office) to be informed, involved and inspired by their efforts in these global events. It was crucial staff were clear on their roles and how they could help deliver excellent passenger experience. As well as faultless co-ordination between staff, airport partners and volunteer groups, it was important we maintained energy and a sense of celebration, recognition and community spirit to keep delivering through the summer. We delivered a high-energy and virtually faultless Games process thanks to the energy and dedication our teams.”

The campaign’s objectives were:

  • Engage staff with how Gatwick was preparing for the London 2012 Games
  • Recruit staff volunteers to meet and greet Games family
  • Consistently link this period of national celebration to Gatwick’s values to deliver ‘better together’ and their strategic priority to deliver the best passenger experience
  • Use dynamic social media as a source of information for keeping all airport partners and volunteer groups informed.

So how did they use Yammer and what did they do?

Gatwick Airport used its traditional channels (intranet, magazine, weekly e-update) to encourage staff to join a dedicated Games group on Yammer, Gatwick’s social networking tool.

The Games project team committed to sharing regular updates on how Gatwick was preparing. They held a ‘yamjam’ with the project team – an online Q&A where employees could post questions live or in advance (useful for shift workers) and have them answered personally.

To create energy around the Games, they used Yammer’s poll feature to run mini surveys e.g. what people thought of the GB kit or how many gold medals Team GB would win (I wonder if they got it right! – Rachel).

Yammer profiles were created for two fictional characters using cartoon avatars – George the Gatwick Employee and Anne the Airport Partner. They asked pertinent questions about how they could deliver better together during the Games. A budding romance was even played out between George and Anne on Yammer, resulting in a lot of ‘likes’!

They put calls out for volunteers via Yammer. Early volunteers were then encouraged to post about their training experience to inspire others to get involved and recognise the teams that co-ordinated training. As the Games got underway, staff were encouraged to post comments and photos of meeting and greeting.

What were the outputs of the campaign?

Yammer_logoThe most popular Yammer group was the one used for sharing dynamic updates about how the Games impacted Gatwick.

It had 200 members (representing 20% of Yammer membership), including the CEO, Operations Director, and 24/7 operational staff in security, the airfield, terminals, and engineering. It was also the most popular group by of number of posts, members writing, ‘likes’ and files uploaded. Many more staff got involved in the main company feed (so not captured in the Games group membership figures).

Caroline says: “The number of engaged users, ‘likes’ and files uploaded significantly increased in July. Anecdotally people around the business were saying: ‘I’ve just seen on Yammer that X team is arriving…’ It became THE place to find out what was happening, as it happened.”

There were more than 1000 comments and 650 photographs shared from across the company.

External news was shared on Yammer, such as positive tweets from athletes about their experience of Gatwick, and a staff member posting about being part of the opening and closing ceremony. The company exceeded its volunteer target via the use of Yammer.

What does the IC team say are the benefits of using an enterprise social network for internal communication?

  • Yammer provided a faster and more efficient process for sourcing regular Games round-ups during the week for the intranet, its main internal channel
  • The project team shared plans and actions logs on Yammer. This saved large emails and made plans open for everyone to see
  • It was used at all times of day and night as a source of up-to-the minute information to share with airport partners and volunteer groups e.g. London Ambassadors
  • Individuals got to ‘shine’ and were recognised for their efforts
  • Every department got involved and experienced the value a corporate social network can provide. This included their typically ‘hard to reach’ security officer population, who joined and logged on using their own phones/tablets to stay informed

Caroline says: “The demonstrable success of using Yammer has made it possible to influence parts of the business to try using social media, when previously they were ambivalent about using such tools.”

What has happened since the Games ended?
Gatwick AirportAnalytics show engaged users, number of ‘likes’, and files uploaded has increased since the Games.

Since the success of Yammer during the Games, the IC team says that employees are: “More empowered to share what they’re working on. It has become an invaluable source of instant news, and a place where Gatwick’s small Internal Communications team can tap into for stories. It continues to be used as a platform for recognising colleagues’ achievements.”

A positive impression of Gatwick was made on athletes, Government officials, business leaders and the passengers: they received public praise in Parliament and on Twitter by passengers and even some team GB athletes.

Head of Games Delivery Richard Townsend said: “Yammer was an invaluable tool for engaging Gatwick’s community in the run up to, and during, a critical time. It made everyone feel involved and part of the excitement. We shared information so our staff and airport partners were well informed about what was happening and clear on their roles. It was particularly powerful for recognising and praising individuals for their efforts.”

How much did it cost?

Caroline says: “There was no cost to the social media element of this campaign, beyond the corporate Yammer licence. Gatwick Airport says that “An overwhelming level of engagement was generated using just the time it took for our staff to share their Games experiences through words and photos.”

Would you like to know even more about how they used Yammer? See this interview with Caroline by Gloria Lombardi (@lombardi_gloria on Twitter). Gloria is a fellow CIPR Inside member, she wrote for my blog recently and is currently working at Simply Communicate.

What’s your take on how Gatwick Airport has and continues to use Yammer? You’re welcome to comment below to share your thoughts and experiences or tweet me @AllthingsIC.

I’m always on the lookout for stories to share of how people are using internal communication in their organisations. If you’d like to highlight what you’re working on, do check out my guidelines and please get in touch, Rachel.

Further reading to articles I’ve written on enterprise social networks
How Aviva uses Yammer
Aviva part two
How Coca-Cola Enterprises use Chatter
How accountants use Yammer
Why use enterprise social networks for internal communication?


  1. […] Read how Yammer was used to bring staff together and provide excellent customer service at Gatwick Airport during the Olympic Games, or watch how Suncorp (a large Queensland business) is utilising Yammer, […]

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