Posts Tagged ‘Wythenshawe’

Rebranding a postcode’s chequered past

Thursday, November 11th, 2010 by Jon Clements

master_wythenshawe_community_pat.jpg 

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 ''

Wyth a little bit of luck, and PR

Friday, November 7th, 2008 by Jon Clements

For anyone growing up in south Manchester who wasn’t a resident of the Garden City of Wythenshawe, the place has always come with some considerable baggage.

The local website for Wythenshawe – a place once dubbed the biggest housing estate in Europe – even devotes a special section to its colourful past. This includes tales of “wanton damage by vandals and hooligans” dating back to the 1930s, a demand from neighbouring residents of “posh” suburb Gatley for a Cold War style “barrier” to keep the hordes out, along with endless reports of arson, vandalism and deprivation; leading a local churchman in the late 80s to call the place “the opposite of a community”.

If there was ever a challenge on this planet, redrawing the image of Wythenshawe is it.

And so a modestly-(by marketing standards) budgeted project called “Real Lives Wythenshawe” has begun to do just that. But, as noted by the typically wry north west media news site, How-Do, you can’t call the initiative a “re-brand”; it’s an image campaign.

What comes across from the campaign so far is the great pride the area’s people have for the place and the long overdue need for it to be released from its positioning as neighbourhood pariah. For many people who’ve moved to Wythenshawe from elsewhere – without the pre-conceptions shared by nearby communities – the question seems to be “what’s the big deal?”

But not everyone is impressed with “outsiders” getting involved in Wythenshawe’s business. Forum comments on the local Wythit website suggest “shooting all the fancy consultants”, which doesn’t do much for the stereotype the suburb is trying to shift.

Other local commentators seem to welcome the revamp of Wythenshawe’s image as a good thing, though one adds, ironically, “a few extra police might help!”

As a 10-year-old playing on a park near to Wythenshawe, I got duffed up and had my new leather gloves nicked by some local hardnuts. Maybe, as part of the image refresh, I’ll get my gloves back.

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 ''