National Grid, The Patch

Building a community for gas distribution operatives


National Grid approached us in 2012 to produce a regular print publication for employees who are mainly responsible for essential network repairs and emergency call-outs. Its purpose is to tie in business messages and ensure operatives who spend a lot of their time on the road away from the depot don’t feel disenfranchised.

Since launch, the bimonthly newspaper has become a community forum for employees to share their stories and maintain the camaraderie and familiarity that used to be regular fixtures of a gas fitter’s day job when they worked in pairs or teams.

Execution and challenges along the way

We created a traditional tabloid-style newspaper that reflects all the best qualities of a red-top title, as research showed that this was the preferred reading material of most operatives.

The ethos of the newspaper is that people should be at the heart of the stories to build a community spirit throughout. Stories are written to inform as well as entertain and engage readers with the newspaper.

The ethos of the newspaper is that people should be at the heart of the stories to build a community spirit throughout.

Design and editorial work hand-in-hand to to bring The Patch to life. With bold reds and blues, short punchy sections and attention-grabbing headlines – the newspaper is strong visually and encourages readers to pick it up.

As part of 2016’s refresh (based on readers’ feedback from a survey), we gave the newspaper a cleaner style. This included introducing a wider variety of typography.

The photography is people-focused with the aim that readers spot colleagues they know throughout the newspaper. However, when a photograph is particularly impactful without people in it, we let the picture speak for itself.

The front page contains several access points to draw in the reader’s eye and hold their attention, while big numbers, pull quotes and box-out summaries are used to provide quick and easy access to articles for operatives who are always on the go.

We also use a variety of different design treatments throughout the newspaper, so each page is interesting and exciting.

Once we’ve drawn readers into each edition, we need to back this up with the highest quality copy to make people read on. Headlines and articles are written in a concise, direct manner, with a twist of humour.

Based on feedback received as part of the 2015 readers’ survey, lead stories reflect what employees enjoy reading most. Popular topics including the history of the gas industry and sport were identified, so we sourced more lead stories to reflect that. We also introduced a sports section on the back page and angle stories to link in sporty lines where relevant.

The integrity of the newspaper depends on the way we communicate key corporate messages, so we need to make sure our stories are focused on frontline staff rather than senior members of the company.

This peer-to-peer approach also gives the newspaper more credibility, which is reflected in how The Patch has progressed – gaining the trust of its readers to include more hard-hitting stories.


Madebysonder, Results


Took it home


More connection with colleagues


More understanding of National Grid