A new highly interactive website designed and developed by Pixl8, the specialist digital communications agency, is helping the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) create a new breed of ‘active’ members.
With an average of 208,000 visits per month to the PCS website, members are getting online to sign petitions, set up motions and vote, take part in campaigns, contact their MPs and unite in calls to action.
Unions are traditionally slow to change, but when it came to developing a new website for the Public and Commercial Services Union Pixl8’s WebConnect content management system soon got them moving with the times.
“We’re a changing organisation and focus a lot more on campaigning than we did in the past,” explains PCS Web Officer, James Patterson. “Pixl8 understand our philosophy, how we’ve changed and how the website must be accessible, engage people, keep them informed and cater for a wider, much more interactive audience.”
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is one of the largest trades unions in the UK, with around 300,000 members mainly employed in the civil service, government agencies and privatised organisations.
The PCS is a democratic organisation, ‘run by its members, for its members’. It campaigns for fair pay and conditions, decent pensions for all and equality both inside and outside the workplace.
The original PCS website was not user friendly. In fact, a lot of the site content could only be accessed with a membership number. “It was almost a ‘closed shop’, and the content management system was complicated and difficult to use,” says James Patterson. “Only a small number of staff were trained to use it". The site was also poorly designed, cluttered and not very functional. So when Pixl8 came on board it was clear that a complete transformation was needed. “Our aim was to have a website with increased access that would involve existing members and attract new members and visitors with an interest in the civil service, trade unions and government,” says James.
James says PCS selected Pixl8 because they are a friendly team, good communicators and quickly grasped the objectives of the website development project.
“They came up with some great new suggestions and ideas for making the site more open, such as posting up news items for members to comment on,” explains James. “This immediately captured a bigger audience. Nowadays this kind of engaging with people takes place on Facebook and Twitter, but three years ago this was quite ground-breaking for the PCS.”
One relatively unique aspect of the PCS website is that 150 – 200 trained editors use the WebConnect content management system developed by Pixl8. They come from regional and national PCS offices and each have access to their own particular group or employer pages on the site. The Department of Work & Pensions and the Ministry of Justice, for example, each have two or three content editors with their own specific applications.
“Pixl8 have made the site a lot easier to use,” says James. “There’s better information architecture, improved use of space, links across the site and plenty of campaigning calls to action.
“More people are visiting the site and taking part in ‘e-actions’ which encourages MP’s to support our campaigns.”
“With Pixl8’s help we are now making good use of specialist software and they have shown us how to use Google Analytics, so we can track our website traffic and evaluate our marketing effectiveness.”
Members really feel the PCS website is keeping them informed and a number of recent awards demonstrate that it is easy to use and to interact with.
The PCS won the 2009 Trade Union Communication (TUC) Best Website award and was commended in 2010. The judges described the site as 'offering good resources, easy navigation, attention to accessibility and a topical debate area where comments could be posted'.
The Motions Online facility has also been recognised in the 2010 TUC awards for Best Use of e-communications. Linking to the membership database, this feature allows members to submit motions online for the PCS annual conference and their own individual group conferences.
Pixl8 are currently working on some design changes to the PCS website to make it even more interactive and user friendly.
“The site needs to cater for as wide an audience as possible,” says Pixl8 Operations Director, Tim Jenkins. “It’s constantly changing; content is being added all the time, like a living and breathing application. PCS have a real drive to maximise the use and impact of their website, they recognise that to do this it needs constant focus and regular investment.”