Grand One Award applicant for:
Best Web Service & The Most Innovative Digital Service


Aalto University is a community of roughly 20 000 students, 4000 employees, 6 schools, 3 fields (business, technology, art), over 30 departments and special units, 90 000 alumni, 7 key research areas, and 10 000 applicants yearly to 100 study programmes.

How does such a large community ensure, that its messages get across – to right audiences – while maintaining a unified brand and tone of voice in its digital communication?

Digital Playbook is a novel representation of an organisation’s digital content strategy documentation.

The challenge

Aalto is a large community of bold thinkers and future game changers, but only a few are communications professionals or even know Aalto University’s digital content strategy.

There is a lot of potential for great content to be shared. Aalto publishes more than 10 000 news, stories and events on a yearly basis in its digital channels. But the quality varies. As you may guess: it’s impossible for the Aalto Communications services team to personally assist each and every single Aalto community member in sharing views and thoughts. On the other hand, content strategy documentations are complex guides to follow and get outdated in the rapidly evolving world of digital communication.

All in all, when the project started, Aalto’s official channels were not documented or profiled, audiences were unclear, the online content lacked clear targets, and the channel’s success was not strategically measured. This needed to change.

From the viewpoint of communications, we are privileged to have a constant stream of exciting content to share with a substantial audience. However we have a wide variety of channels, stakeholders (both internal and external) and a large network of communicators representing a broad array of research areas and functions. Maintaining consistent quality and tonality has been a challenge for us. Rules, policies and guidelines in document form don’t work and they are hard to manage or update when things change.
— Jaakko Salavuo, Communications Director, Aalto University

OUR approach

In order to enable successful digital communication, Aalto needed to clarify its audiences: who they are, what channels they use, for what purpose and why. Aalto University wanted to create a practical, concrete and inspirational set of tools and guidelines for creating and sharing content online.

Based on the needs, we realised that the main objective of the project was to understand Aalto’s community and audiences – internal and external. A new digital approach was needed to ensure, that all content produced by Aalto is intelligible, readable and in-line with its content strategy.


Aalto wanted Digital Playbook to be: light, practical tool for everyday use, concrete and full of examples, an ever-evolving document, inspirational and visual, for everyone in the Aalto community, to support earned and owned visibility, to share the best practices and to showcase Aalto's tone of voice in different channels.

Aalto didn’t want Digital Playbook to be: a heavy strategy documentation, high-level document with specialist terminology, a static text heavy plan or a strict rule book to follow, only for communications professionals, for paid media or for marketing campaigns.


ACHIEVING THE audience insight

To gain the needed audience insight, we interviewed Aalto Communications’ professionals and content producers – group by group. We analysed existing media channels and went through the existing user studies from the past. We also interviewed eight most important external stakeholders, and made a survey to find out their channel and content preferences in Aalto’s digital communication.

After the insight gathering we formed audience descriptions for Aalto’s digital communication.

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Every audience

Special needs.

BETTER Channel knowledge

Evaluating the role of each Aalto’s digital channel was also a key part of the process. We analysed the content types and messages per channel – in referring to the audiences’ content preferences. By doing this, we achieved a better understanding of the best practices at Aalto.

Based on this insight, we wrote Aalto’s channel descriptions. Each of the channel description explaining the basic idea of the channel in Aalto’s use, type of content preferred, other channel specific information, audiences of the channel and link to the actual digital channel.

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every channel

Telling a story.

Creating content

After matching the audiences and digital channels, we described the best practises regarding how to create content per channel and came up with tips for publishing content in different channels.

We also formed a tone of voice guide for each channel based on Aalto University’s strategy to showcase the difference in each channel to serve its purpose:

An example of the tone-of-voice: “How to create your content for Aalto University Snapchat”

An example of the tone-of-voice: “How to create your content for Aalto University Snapchat”

KPIs and measuring

We also described the basic ways on how to measure each channel’s content success – to improve content quality and support the content production.


And for the questions, we gathered contact details, and Playbook help content to explain, what the new service was about.

CLOSE Collaboration

The content was created in close collaboration with the client, and the final texts were improved in close collaboration with Aalto Communications services team to ensure the best possible materials for the upcoming Digital Playbook.


Creative solution

At this point, we had 50 pages of digital content strategy insight. To insure it was light and easy for everyday use…

We needed to enhance the user experience

We decided to skip the very much expected printable Digital Playbook PDF documentation – since we were talking about “digital” not “printable” Playbook – and come up with a more creative, digital approach.

We created online platform: an open access service for everyone at Aalto community, to answer all of the questions regarding Aalto’s digital communication. An ever-evolving online “document” to support the earned and owned media visibility and to guide with the best practices and tones of voices.

From an organizational-driven-approach to audience-insight-driven approach

Instead of explaining how Aalto as an organisation uses its digital channels and what are Aalto’s best practices, we focused on the audiences and their needs by asking: “Who do you want to reach?

This led the way towards successful digital content production, while educating the user about Aalto’s different audiences’, their content preferences and Aalto’s digital content strategy.

The service was tested with Aalto Communications’ employees before and after the soft launch.


How it works?

Digital Playbook, is an online service that simplifies the process of targeted communication. Most often, the user begins the content production journey by answering to the simple question: “Who do you want to reach?”

Choosing the core audience(s) for the communication starts a funnel during which, the user will receive targeted support and tips for the content production keeping in mind the chosen audience(s) and channel(s).

“This validated guiding digital tool enables tailor made impactful content for different audiences, delivered through the most relevant channels.”

All in one place and accessible to everyone:

audiences | audience preferences | digital channels | content requirements | guidelines for creating content | tips for successful content production | tips for measuring

tOP 5 Results

As a result of Digital Playbook, Aalto Communications services team has been able to make its supportive role more transparent to the whole Aalto community.

1. Simplicity
Digital Playbook makes the often complex digital content strategy simple to comprehend – for every user – by answering questions like: Who do you want to reach? What channel(s) should you use? How could you make your message a success?

2. Less support requests
Aalto Communications services team receives various support requests. But now, the users have been able to solve their issues on their own or the requests for Aalto Communications have been improved.

3. Focus on the right things
With the help of Digital Playbook the faculty and staff members have now more time to focus on what they do best, e.g. research or teaching, since digital communication support and guidelines are always at hand.

4. Opportunities for better media visibility
Digital Playbook is already opening doors for gaining larger impact in the digital media. Aalto community has a lot of social media potential with its thousands of stories and now a clarified idea on how to create and share them.

5. Additional benefits
Aalto wants to encourage its community members to become active Aalto representatives in social media and digital platforms. Digital Playbook serves this purpose.

Digital Playbook is an extremely good example of what the future of communication as a service can be: passing on the professional knowhow in forms of open, inspirational tools. Taking a step like this in today’s world is vital, since everyone is present in the digital environments.
— Elina Kuuluvainen, Content Strategist, Digital Communications, Aalto University
We’re very happy with how Digital Playbook turned out, it’s an easy-to-use tool that guides our communicators in making the right content, for the desired audience in the channels where they are active. We also see great potential in the concept and are already expanding it with more content tools, such as our visual guidelines.
— Jaakko Salavuo, Communications Director, Aalto University


Concept, UX & content: hasan communications
Nina Lallukka, Content Strategist
Tea Saloranta, Content Specialist
Piia Bertényi, Channel Insight

Audience insight: Frankly Partners
Tuija Wikström, Audience Insight
Tiina-Maaria Laihi, Audience Insight

Social media examples: hasan & partners
Mette Åström, Best Practices
Noora Kirjavainen, Best Practices

UI, UX & technical implementation: Siili Solutions
Tommi Leskinen, UI, UX & Design
Tomi Sjöblom, UX Developer
Aki Alapiha, UX Developer

Client: Aalto University
Elina Kuuluvainen, Content Strategist, Digital Communications

To find out more, visit:
Aalto University Digital Playbook