With the publication of the ONS figures last week for the first quarter showing a 20% fall in GDP the climb back up the recovery mountain looks daunting. But councils have already set up base camp and have routes to a new summit mapped out.
Shop Local, play local, live local
We’ve helped clients get off the blocks quickly in widening pavements, introducing pop up cycle lanes, implementing social distancing measure in order to support the safe movement of people around areas whilst engaging communities that may be affected by the change.
As the country emerged from lockdown, Westco worked with Westminster City Council on their ambitious plan to help businesses get back on their feet as fast as possible.
The initiative began with a Shop Local campaign, to encourage shoppers to use their local stores once again, and to get people back on the streets safely. This was extended to the redrawing of pedestrian and cycle ways throughout the city, and helping businesses prepare for the reopening of the hospitality sector on 4 July.
"For such a complex operation, we created a brand that could be applied flexibly to an ever-evolving list of requirements."
This included a logo that embodied the word ‘local’ within a heart, as a way of bringing to life the overwhelming support shown towards Westminster’s communities and businesses during lockdown.
"The social media campaign used photography to bring images of Westminster businesses and their staff to the fore."
We produced video content telling inspiring stories about the commitment and resilience of businesses throughout lockdown, as they prepared to reopen.
Harry Morgan - St Johns Wood
We developed a comprehensive toolkit for businesses across the borough, providing them with the essential assets they needed to enable them to reopen safely and confidently. This included promotional posters, signage for hand sanitising stations, foot markers for social distancing and window stickers.
The identity has played a fundamental role in the success of the strategy so far and has received praise from other councils as well as senior cabinet members in Westminster.
We’re continuing to work on new materials as the strategy evolves, as well as integrating the identity into Westminster’s established brand architecture.
We are also helping to drive footfall safely to those businesses opening up through community engagement and marketing campaigns.
Supporting Local Businesses in Wandsworth
Like other boroughs, Wandsworth has rolled out a number of initiatives to support local businesses, pedestrianising areas has been especially successful.
Pedestrianisation in Balham
Traders in Balham’s Bedford Hill say business is booming as a result of its pedestrianisation, introduced as part of the council’s response to the easing of some coronavirus lockdown measures.
In 2020, more than 80 fines were issued in Tooting and more than 30 in your local area for littering and fly-tip offences.
Posters in hotspot areas, to deter offender
The effectiveness of these measures has been evaluated through observation, before and after photos.
Talk Richmond Podcast
Following an assessment of the Council’s communications over the past year it was found our most engaged residents tend to be aged 55 and over.
We need to find a way to engage young generations (millennials, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha) to increase their involvement with the community and Council and to do this we need to adapt to the way they communicate.
As part of these efforts we are proposing to trial a Council led podcast. A podcast is a series of spoken, audio episodes, often focused on a particular topic or theme.
Edison Research notes podcasting continues to grow with the number of monthly listeners increasing from 21 per cent to 24 per cent of the population over the last year. The audience tends to be younger (18-54). Their socio-economic profile matches those of this borough (69% of Facebook followers are university educated). Podcast listeners will listen to most of the episodes they download and most of each individual episode – so they are likely to hear content which is communicated.
Plans were already underway prior to the pandemic, however we decided to move forward swiftly with the work in order to communicate some of the big, current issues and messages in a more in-depth way. The podcast is hosted by a local ward councillor who is a professional actor. Each edition he meets with one or two people key to the specific theme. So far, the podcasts have included:
Coronavirus: Richmond’s response – a discussion with the Council Leader and representative from the local voluntary sector
Coronavirus: Avoiding a second peak – a discussion with the Director of Public Health
Muggings, Young People and the Police – a discussion with a local police officer, community group representative and young person.
Business recovery – a discussion with a local business and Town Centre manager
The podcast is recorded virtually and edited by the Communications Team. It is available on the Council website, but also to download from usual Podcast apps – including the Apple Store and Spotify.
To date we’ve had over 1.6K downloads and attracted listeners from all around the world including USA, Germany, Australia and Thailand.
Westminster City Council is investing one billion pounds in its regeneration and development programme over the next five years. To deliver this ambitious programme, the council runs dozens of planning consultations every year. These consultations are usually run out of community halls, churches or estate offices and focus on face-to-face engagement with the community. When Covid-19 hit and we were asked to stay at home to keep each other safe, Westco needed to help the council to find a new way to consult the community so they could continue to make progress delivering essential homes – without asking residents to put themselves at risk.
We needed to think differently. With three projects up for consultation, which together would deliver hundreds of new homes, we knew that it was essential to press ahead but we also wouldn’t settle for less than rigorous engagement which gave residents every opportunity to shape proposals in their neighbourhoods.
To bring Westminster’s engagement tools online, we worked with web developers to build bespoke consultation hubs on the council website, commissioned fly-through videos, and developed webinar presentations with architects.
On the more traditional side, we wrote detailed, image-led ‘look-books’ to drop through the doors of neighbouring properties, and we caught those who may fall through the technology gap by using that 90s staple, the telephone. Our team temporarily turned call centre, phoning the most affected households to talk them through the proposals, and, in some cases, offering a call with a translator to give those who don’t speak English a chance to have a technical discussion about daylight/sunlight reports or traffic management plans.
Across all three projects, this new consultation approach saw a significant increase in engagement. In one case, we spoke to more than ten times as many people as we had in the first round and received twice as much formal feedback. In every case, we spoke to hundreds of residents, where we might usually have reached just dozens.
Webinars proved to be more popular with a wider range of residents than a traditional in-person meeting. We reached people with whom we had never managed to engage before because, with our engagement online, people of working age were able to come to us at a time which suited them. The same was true of our websites – all three had over 650 unique page visits and our online feedback forms proved much more popular than the traditional written comment card.
We not only found that more people attended our online sessions but also that more of them asked questions and engaged actively, perhaps because digital meetings are less easily dominated by one or two individuals.
The phone proved an invaluable part of the engagement and we reached between 75% and 85% of our target audience using phone canvassing alone. We called nearly 450 residents in just four weeks. By offering translated calls, we also had meaningful conversations with residents in their own language, giving us valuable feedback that we would never have gotten otherwise.
Whatever the ‘new normal’ looks like, the way we engage our communities will not return to how it was but grow from the approach we built in these challenging times.