Print Internal Audience Tabloids and Newsletters: Duke University - Bronze Medal

Category 22A: Print Internal Audience Tabloids and Newsletters
Duke University, Working@Duke

Contact: Leanora Minai, senior communication strategist and editor, Duke University, Box 90496, Durham, NC, 27708; phone: 919-681-4533; e-mail:

Housekeeper Willie Mae Daye reads Working@Duke each month because it connects her with colleagues, campus issues, and the institution.

"For the first time, I know what's going on," Daye, a six year employee, said during a recent Working@Duke focus group.

Such sentiments are heard frequently since Working@Duke was launched in March 2006 following a communications assessment by a Duke-wide committee. In its review, the committee studied internal communications across the university and health system and concluded that "many members of the Duke community now feel overloaded with e-mail messages, newsletters and other information while, at the same time, feeling uninformed about developments that affect their lives."

Working@Duke evolved from the committee’s recommendations and is now the primary monthly internal publication for the university. Working@Duke consolidated information from multiple sources and replaced two major publications, including a 20-year campus newspaper.

Planning/Objectives: Duke is in the business of education and research, and our intent with Working@Duke is to help connect people with purpose – to show them how what they do every day contributes to Duke’s mission of education and research. This is important because it helps influence engagement, which is critical to how well the university is able to deliver on its mission. We provide employees with news they can use – relevant content that is interesting, inspiring and informative. We engage employees and help them gain a better understanding of resources available to them and the issues that affect their work and life at Duke. We offer a blend of strategic and human interest stories through news and narrative writing and infographics with creative design and visuals.

We are imaginative and develop behind the scenes narratives to highlight how areas within the university operate and contribute to Duke’s success. We do not shy away from the controversial and address difficult topics such as the lacrosse case to build credibility and foster dialogue and awareness. We promote two-way dialogue by publishing Letters to the Editor and "Glad You Asked," in which readers can submit a question that we research and report back on. We also include a monthly feature called "Dialogue@Duke," in which we ask three people on campus to respond to a question of relevance and include their photos and quotes. We intentionally design the publication for today’s reader – with concise articles and pull-out quotes and facts/information boxes to draw readers into the piece or to provide them with key messages when they’re pressed for time.

Audience: University faculty and staff, everyone from the housekeeping specialist and student program coordinator to the professor and university president.

Staffing: We have a designer and three writers (one is editor.) Each person has other communication functions at Duke, not just the publication.

Total Annual Budget: $74,800.

Circulation: 20,000. Delivered by campus mail courier to individual mailboxes and also racked.

Unit Cost: 37 cents per issue.

Plan for Evaluating Periodical: We developed a two-pronged approach to evaluate Working@Duke. First, we conduct quarterly readership surveys with a random sample of our audience for qualitative analysis of key measures. Second, we convened an advisory board comprised of 17 employees from different departments who commit to a year term. The group meets monthly and provides anecdotal feedback regarding perceptions of the publication and its articles and helps provide context for readership survey results.

Response/Results: We are meeting our goals, and we are also committed to continual improvement. An average of 68 percent of people surveyed say they read Working@Duke each month. This is significantly higher readership than the campus paper that preceded it and higher than other existing internal publications at Duke. Sixty-eight percent of readers say the publication is credible and 68 percent say the publication helps them better understand the benefits available to them and their families. Another gauge for success is the anecdotal feedback from members of the Duke community. Employees report that Working@Duke is the first publication that keeps them informed and that they enjoy its concise, easy-to-read stories and navigable design. Duke president Richard H. Brodhead told a group of senior executives that Working@Duke is "non-fiction empowerment for Duke employees."