Content playfulness at work at CIPD

In my last post I talked about content playfulness

Content re-imagination, divisible content, digital first – all of these approaches really boil down to a sort of content playfulness – a more imaginative and more expansive approach to what might otherwise be dry, complex, academic content. Like the monks with their mischievous mythical beasts in the Book of Kells, we need to use the 21st century techniques to augment the text and illuminate the main messages.

As you’ll know, if you’ve been following these last few posts, CIPD has been well and truly stuck in a print-based paradigm. CIPD invests a lot of money in its research and policy content, but when we analysed the web traffic we discovered something shocking: not only does this content has no longevity, it also doesn’t have any real impact upon first publication. No one is reading the damn stuff.

But when we looked to how print news media, as well as how content marketing, has responded to the digital revolution we found inspiration and practical strategies to help CIPD to increase the reach and the impact of our thought leadership content. We realised that we could apply a combination of these complimentary approaches to our research and be more playful with our content.

We could assemble the ‘cutting room floor artefacts the researcher collects whilst building the research report – interviews, case studies, data sets, etc. And we could also create ‘divisible content’ – spin offs from the final report – videos, podcasts, animations, infographics – and further spin offs from them: ‘info-bites’ from the infographics and ‘shareables’ from the animations.

And we could use social media to engage existing and new audiences and ultimately drive traffic to web hubs rich with a diverse range of interesting multi media content alongside the PDF report.

So we proposed a second stream to our original Create Once Publish Everywhere project. Not only would we pilot a CCMS and DITA workflow for the authoring, editing and publishing of research reports. We would also investigate whether through:

  • assembling & creating various multi media assets to accompany the report
  • and a dedicated social media campaign

we could make a difference to the impact & the reach of our research content.

We designed a project to help CIPD envision what is possible If we married content efficiency with content playfulness, and chose reports that both represented typical output but were also in production during the project’s timeline.

(You’ll find an account of how we got on with the content efficiency side of things in my next two posts: Structured content and content efficiency and Agile content strategy: flexing to changing business reality).

So what did we produce?

Growing the Health and Wellbeing Agenda

We were somewhat constrained by the current web CMS (we’re currently building a new responsive site) – but this is what the first report on Health and Wellbeing looks like.

web page for health and wellbeing

The web hub page includes

  • a motion graphic animation
  • the report in PDF plus ebook files (both EPUB and Kindle format)
  • for those too busy to read the full report there’s an executive summary
  • a video case study
  • links to related content and the researchers’ blog posts on our new communities platform
  • and links to CIPD’s various social media channels

Labour Market Outlook

Appropriate to the type of report, we were a little more conservative with the digital assets produced for the Labour Market Outlook survey. Alongside the PDF the report is available in ebook formats as well as an animation.

The Future of Talent in Singapore 2030

We had more room to play with the web page with this one – particularly in terms of design – as it sits on a responsive microsite built specifically for CIPD Asia.

web page for Future of Talent report

The page includes:

  • the motion graphic animation
  • graphics
  • the report in PDF and ebook formats
  • and accordion sections with an in depth summary of each of the chapters. This teaser text also provides more content to help the search engines actually find the report.

The creative process

The creative process starts with a conversation between the designer and the author, to understand the report’s key messages. Salvatore (Turi) Scandurra (our multi-media designer) sketches out his interpretation of those themes for stakeholder review and further iteration. The approved illustrations are used to create the animation and multiple spin off assets – creating a unified visual brand for the report that also fits within CIPD’s corporate brand guidelines.

LMO assets

The three animations sit on the CIPD website, but here’s a ‘mash up’ that Turi created of all three, that gives a taste of what was produced.

We built three rich website experiences, with many ways for readers to engage with each of the reports. But of course we’re still publishing in a vacuum if we don’t tell anyone about them. So let’s look at the social media strategies.

The social media strategies

All three campaigns trailed the report across Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook before publication and on launch day.

We ran imaginative campaigns that included Tweet chats and big-name endorsements and made good use of the multi media assets and spin offs – the animations, shareables and infographics.

A successful campaign initiates and convenes a community debate that continues beyond launch date. From that perspective the wellbeing hashtag was the strongest, still active four months after the report’s publication, continuing to drive traffic back to the report.

You can take a look at all three campaigns at #wellbeing2016 (Growing the Heath and Wellbeing Agenda), #sgtalent2030 (Future of Talent in Singapore 2030) and #cipdLMO16 (Labour Market Outlook).

So what was the impact of these strategies on the traffic to the CIPD website and those all-important PDF download numbers?

The impact on web traffic and download numbers

We compared the data to all three reports with thematically equivalent comparison reports, analysing traffic over a 16- day period after publication.

Here’s the detail (skip this if you’re not a detail-person!)

Wellbeing was the most successful

  • Organic traffic – that is traffic from search engines – increased by 158%
  • Traffic from social media increased by over 300%
  • And we had a staggering 6,069 unique page views in 16 days – that’s close to our best annual numbers!
  • Report download numbers are up by 117%
  • And 86% of visitors to the page downloaded the PDF (our average is around 38%).

The numbers for Labour Market Outlook were also up.

  • Organic traffic increased by 45%
  • Traffic from social networks increased by 98%
  • Referral traffic is up by 58%
  • Total traffic was just shy of 3,000 unique page views (up by 22%)
  • Report download numbers were up by 58%
  • And 60% of visitors downloaded the PDF.

And the numbers for the final report in our project – Future of Talent in Singapore are also a big improvement.

  • Organic traffic is up by 493%!
  • There was a healthy amount of traffic from social media
  • Referral traffic was up by 500%
  • Total traffic was just over 2000 unique page views – not bad when you think what a niche audience this report has.
  • But only 37.5% of visitors to the page downloaded the PDF. I’ve wondered why that number is so low (38% is our average), and think it might be because the web page itself includes a précis of the text; with so much content on the site there’s maybe less need or desire to read the report itself.

In conclusion, unsurprisingly, we discovered that a dedicated social media campaign makes a significant impact to web traffic to a report’s landing page and to engagement with the PDF report itself.

Observations and recommendations


Effecting change is never easy, and during the project we put a few noses out of joint and stepped on a few toes. But with careful stakeholder management, and by embedding the agile development principle of reflection and incremental improvement we managed the negative politics that often swirl around change initiatives.

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

(Agile Manifesto principle no. 12)

That feedback loop, as well as the sheer quality of the outputs, won over the naysayers in the end.

And the people who most mattered in our project, the researchers – who’s hard work previously published into a void – well they were hugely engaged with the project and delighted with the results. We interviewed the researchers to record their reactions.


At the end of our project we made three recommendations to the business that would help to embed content playfulness into the research publication programme:

  • multi-media
  • social media
  • digital first research


We recommended that all priority reports include some flavour of engaging multi media assets. Both those ‘cutting room floor’ artefacts that the researcher collects as they develop their report, as well as the spin off digital assets the multi-media designer can produce.

These assets augment and they explain the main report, they draw out the most interesting findings and data, they enrich the web experience and they can be used across social media to increase reach and impact.

Social media

All research reports should include a dedicated social media campaign, making full use of those multi media assets – with the effort involved commensurate with the report’s strategic value.

And we recommended extending the campaign beyond the report’s publication date to give it greater impact and to continue the debate.

Digital first research

And finally we recommended that the role of the researcher is extended to become more like that of the digital first journalist (see my post Digital First and Content Playfulness).

diagram representing the expanded role of the researcher

As well as authoring the report the researcher

  • gathers those ‘cutting room floor’ multi-media assets
  • actively engages with the social media campaign
  • blogs and participates on CIPD’s Community platform
  • and appears in the news media as required

In conclusion

With this more playful approach to CIPD’s research content we’ve demonstrated that we can drive more traffic, reach and engage with bigger audiences.

CIPD has this amazing purpose – Championing Better Work and Working Lives – content playfulness helps us to amplify that message.


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