Archive for the ‘Public sector communications’ Category

Rebranding a postcode’s chequered past

Thursday, November 11th, 2010 by Jon Clements


Aside from rebranding the Yemen Tourist Board, what could be harder than overhauling the image of a entire city suburb dogged with a bad reputation stretching back several generations?

That’s been the job faced by Manchester district, Wythenshawe, as it tries to replace stubborn perceptions of crime and social malaise brought to national attention more recently when Prime Minister, David Cameron – then in opposition – visited the area.

When the Wythenshawe “image campaign”, Real Lives, was launched two years ago, PR Media Blog covered some of the contrary views expressed about the virtues of applying a PR brush to the face of the estate.

But, two years on, the campaign claims to have made headway in breaking down what it calls the myths about the area.

This is helped in no small way by the investment from companies such as manufacturer PZ Cussons – of Imperial Leather and Original Source fame – relocating its offices to Wythenshawe, along with numerous examples of inward investment totalling £805m over the past 12 years.

PZ Cussons’ managing director, Elaine Birchall, panellist at a special Wythenshawe-themed event hosted by Insider Media pointed out how “progressive this community is” in taking “control of its own destiny” and “dispelling the myths”.

Fellow panellist, Andy Wilson, regeneration manager at Manchester City Council, while highlighting the good work done to attract investment and training to the area, was under no illusion about Wythenshawe’s image problem: “The brand needs to shift from industrial estates to what it is today.”

But before a convincing image of change can be portrayed, the people whose lives are most affected by the area – its residents – need to believe it. As Felicity Goodey, chairman of University Hospital South Manchester, said: “It takes time to change perceptions and the most important thing is to get people to acknowledge that there is change afoot. They are the most important ambassadors.”

But Anne Taylor of the Wythenshawe Regeneration Team, who has been involved in hosting “seeing is believing” tours of the area to persuade people that things have changed, is realistic about the image challenge: “The London-based media aren’t easily swayed and we still need to supplant images of Cameron and the ‘hoodie’ with positive stories. But it isn’t about gloss – everything we’re presenting is reality.”

As rebranding campaigns go, it rarely comes harder than showing the improvements in a living, breathing community where – unlike a corporate entity or a product – it’s impossible to keep everyone “on message”. And, as shown by TV presenter, Terry Christian’s recent comments about Manchester’s Moss Side, the good work done on building a fresh face for a postcode can melt away in a minute.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Govt Launches Trip Advisor-Style Websites For Health and Education

Monday, March 9th, 2009 by Mark Hanson


Three cheers to Liam Byrne, Cabinet Office Minister, and a guy credited with helping get Number Ten organised. He’s talking up an idea to empower the public and make our grand monolitic public services more accountable to the citizens they serve, using the web. A kind of Trip Advisor model where the public can talk up the good and raise issue with the bad. 

The issue of ensuring extra investment into public services isn’t just gobbled up into swathes of bureaucracy and instead produces better and more responsive services is as old as Beveridge. Various approaches have been tried by governments of all colours – swathes of targets, internal competition, constant cost-cutting. But the only way to gain a mandate from the public for more investment is to involve them.

The idea that we can have elections for health directors just wouldn’t take off. The beauty of the web, though, is that people can gather and have a collective voice if they have issue with how their services are organised, rather than feeling like they’re just a number. Interestingly, Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, is floating the idea of using the web to boost police engagement with the public on a day-to-day level – almost a virtual Dixon of Dock Green.

An active user base can drive change and innovation in services and more importantly make taxpayers feel as though they’re getting a voice in return for paying in.

I blogged about this exact topic a few months back and generated quite a reaction:)