#steelselfie and self belief


Tim Rutter, at Making an Impact, CIPR Inside’s annual conference, 2015

In the wake of Tata Steel’s announcement at the end of March that it planned to sell its UK plants, the company has been in the spotlight, a lot. Tata Steel is a past winner of the #insidestory awards for its print magazine, The Journey, in 2015. Later that year, Tim Rutter Head of Communication shared his insight on how they deliver that paper to 5,000 mainly shift-based employees across two sites in South Wales, every fortnight. It really is a great award winner. Every time we heard Tata’s name in the media again, we were thinking of Tim and the people he works with.


Then instead of the media bombardment, there was a different angle, the #steelselfie was in the news. So we asked Tim to share a bit of background with us about the #steelselfie campaign, from an internal perspective.


Over to Tim:


In hindsight we should probably have put together a project proposal with a timeline, stakeholder map, key messages, RACI, charter and so on, and then linked them to the team’s personal objectives.

And hey, I’m not saying that those things aren’t all important and have their place.

But to be honest, right now, in trying to change the narrative around the UK steel industry, we neither have the time nor the inclination.

And anyway, what’s the worst that could happen?


The #steelselfie campaign* was the result of a team brainstorm about how we could get people inside and outside the business talking about the million fantastic things going on in the steel industry rather than the (oft quoted, and rather inaccurate) ‘million-pounds-a-day’ losses.

It was, and continues to be, only one part of a massive comms effort from a relatively small team that now has one foot firmly in each of the IN and OUT camps (Internal Comms and External Comms that is, not Brexiteers and Bremainiacs)

Now the manufacturing industry may not be at the cutting edge of social media, but some of us have an inner belief that it has some real value, so we crack along in a spirit of ‘it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission’.


And we quite like it, too!

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. It went something like this:

“How about we get people to do selfies with things made of steel?”


So, hashtag . . . .

. . . ?






That’s it!


It was @KristianBall1 ‘s idea, so he can claim the royalties, but it landed with the rest of us, so that was that.

We didn’t really discuss whether we were targeting employees, customers, communities, politicians, all we knew was that if we could get some momentum behind it, it would

a) keep steel in the public eye, and

b) might educate and inspire people about how much of our daily life relies on steel (It’s a bloody lot, trust me!)

We also decided that we would tie in with the ubiquitous #saveoursteel and see if that would fly alongside it (which it has if the keyhole report on hashtag frequency is right!).

So what happened?

It all started, rather expectedly quite slowly and calmly with my first tweet – me and a Heinz Baked Bean can. It’s an iconic brand, and packaging is a massive user of steel (tin cans aren’t tin at all, they’re steel coated in tin!). Being a true selfie, the words Heinz were also back to front, which may have made it visually more interesting.


Maybe not.

Then a few colleagues, un-prompted, started getting in on the act with buildings and cars.


We also started using the formal @TataSteelWales twitter feed.

Within a day or two it felt like people kind of liked the idea, with more and more people getting on board.

So we started to get a bit more adventurous and started inviting ‘celebrities’ to get involved.


To be honest, this hasn’t quite had the success we were hoping for, despite the early involvement of Hollywood and Welsh movie star, Michael Sheen, and TV scientist Mark Miodownik.

But hey, we’ll keep knocking on doors and calling in favours.

Do you know how many TV programmes have filmed on our sites?

Top Gear, Materchef, Great Railway Journeys, Coast, Inside the Factory . . .

Need I go on?

Well now it’s payback time! We want your selfies!

So here we are only a week (written on Saturday 16 April 2016)  into it and we have hundreds of tweets and some 8 million impressions (whatever that is). The ‘campaign’ has featured on BBC Wales, WalesOnline, and the South Wales Evening Post.

We’ve had selfies from celebrities, politicians and communities. We’ve had selfies from New York, London and Afghanistan.

We’ve had cans, cars, buildings, stadia, washing machines, lamp-posts, retail parks, tractors, diggers, goal posts and office furniture.

We’ve even had some step ladders, which unfortunately are made of aluminium, but thanks for the thought, Nerys!

So what’s all this got to do with Internal Comms?

Well, when your business is in the national news every day and being discussed in parliament; when the place you work in and love is being put up for sale and the only thing people talk about is how much money it’s losing . . .

Well sometimes it can be hard to keep the faith.

And faith, energy and motivation is precisely what we need at the moment.

We need employees to believe in the turnaround plan we have, to believe there is a future and to believe that what they are doing not only makes a difference to the business, but makes a difference in the world.

Now I’m certainly not saying that Twitter is the answer to all your ills. In fact I know that it is not the preferred social media channel of steelworkers, who are much more likely to be on Facebook

Maybe that’s where we go next.

And I’m not saying that some rather light-hearted social media campaign with people creeping about public car parks and shopping centres taking photos of themselves, is the answer.

But it sure as hell can’t do any harm.

Now where’s your #steelselfie ?


Head of Communications, Strip Products UK, Tata Steel

*I feel rather embarrassed about calling it a campaign – it was a great idea that we ran with, and it is now, brilliantly, running away from us.






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