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How the Mail Online create loyalty – and what HR can learn

I attended Roar Media’s Digital Transformation Conference where I listened to a fascinating talk by Hayley Cochrane, Head of Digital at the Mail Online. As I listened to her story of creating customer loyalty through the latest data and technology, I couldn’t help but apply the reasons for her success, to HR.

Employees at the Mail Online write stories that inspire and obsess the country. Through digital transformation, the Mail Online has thrived in an age where their core business of newspapers, is shrinking. With millions of readers visiting the site every day, the Mail reaches more British speakers than any other English publication and a sneaky browse through the thousands of glossy celebrity photos has become part of our daily routines that we wouldn’t dare to miss.

So how did they do it and what lessons can HR apply to creating loyalty in their employees and candidates?

1. Inspire through storytelling

The Mail Online have a group of talented journalists out in the world, writing digital content through some 1500 new articles every day. Only 12% of what’s published online comes from their printed newspapers.

Lesson for HR: get out there in the business and write stories about people that inspire others. New joiners who have interesting stories to tell, diverse teams who have immersed themselves in exciting adventures, longstanding employees who have helped to drive innovation and new products and services. HR can be storytellers and doing this through video can be incredibly powerful for attracting and retaining talent.

2. Always be relevant

The irresistible 14-meter homepage of the Mail Online is updated every 15 minutes, meaning that people who visit tend to return to the site on average 27 times a month. The Mail Online is the place to go for news you want to know more about, and news just in. Readers will never see the same content twice and our desire to absorb information and knowledge means we keep coming back.

Lesson for HR: OK so HR might not be as exciting as pregnant princesses or I’m a Celeb entourages but people love people. They love to read and hear about other people. Veran sends out a newsletter each week with news, quotes, pictures and stories from our employees – there’s no reason why HR can’t champion this spreading of regular good news.

3. Pictures and videos

The explosion of Instagram and other photo-based apps is just one indicator of how much humans love images and videos. The Mail Online posts 560 videos and almost 20,000 images a day and people love it!

Lesson for HR: a picture says a thousand words, so how many does a video say? We’re starting to see the use of video interviews for recruitment, promotion videos showing the world what it’s like to work here, HOW TO videos that walk people through processes and policies and HR systems that promote the upload of photos, so you can put names to faces. HR should engage people through images, videos, and graphics wherever possible.

4. Become part of the daily routine

Browsing the Mail’s famous right-hand column has become part of people’s daily lives. Hayley beamed with pride as she described how they can measure traffic on the website showing how many people are visiting, when and for how long. They see spikes at 8am before work, all the way through lunch time, and even at times during the night when new mothers are feeding waking babies whilst checking out the latest Strictly love affair. This is the loyalty that publishers’ dreams of.

Lesson for HR: Becoming part of people’s daily routines is gold, but possibly hard to achieve in your typical employee and manager population. However there are opportunities to drive more regular interaction with your HR services and platforms such as learning apps that deliver bitesize, tailored and timely training videos; landing pages provided by vendors like ServiceNow that push out announcements and updates as well as providing a one stop shop for all of your employees’ questions; and real time analytics available for managers to view information about their team to help them make day to day decisions.

5. Stay intuitive and emotional

I was surprised to hear Hayley talk about intuition as a key skill required and harnessed at the Mail Online; Intuition to know what to post, where and when.

The journalists and editors are also emotionally intelligent and know how to write and photograph stories that will change how people feel.

Lesson for HR: I know from years spent with HR professionals that intuition and emotional intelligence are traits that most HR people are proud to use in their work. Yet those same people often worry that data, technology and automation might remove some of the need for HR to be powered by these qualities. In reality, data and technology support intuition and give you the facts and trends you need to create loyal and happy employees who find news, relevant content and emotional support from your HR department.

For more information on how HR can use data and technology to support loyal employees and candidates, feel free to contact


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