Not sounding like a council, and user-generated content, were the hallmarks of this successful campaign. Louisa Dean, head of communications at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, explains how the council encouraged people to return to local high streets and attractions to support the post-pandemic economy.
When planning the campaign to help post-pandemic recovery, Louisa Dean was determined to talk to businesses and residents, develop creative messaging and user-generated content.
The council had a residents’ newsletter but there were limited opportunities to engage with businesses. Social media channels were well-established but, prior to this campaign, the council had used them mainly as broadcast tools. As a result, two-way engagement across the borough was quite low.
As well as the council’s corporate social media, there were also additional channels that targeted different audiences:
- @VisitWindsor (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) was aimed at national and international tourists. In effect, there was no audience during the pandemic but it did adapt its content to be more hyper-local).
- @MakeMaidenhead and @enjoyMaidenhead (both Facebook and Instagram) were for local promotion of events in the largest town in the borough.
After assessing the existing channels, the communications team worked closely with the town centre manager and the economic development team and the decision was made to create, from scratch, one channel to talk to everyone across the borough.
The plan was to create a new coherent voice.
We didn’t want to sound like a council on social media, so it was important that we didn’t use council branding as we wanted to promote the whole borough.
@MyRoyalBorough was created on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (which has become the most popular channel). A website myroyalborough.com was also developed.
With the new channels in place, the council’s communications and marketing team (which included the town centre managers and the visitor marketing team) wanted to fill them with user-generated content, so they organised events to help them do that.
In August 2020, the visitor marketing team and DigiKind (who we worked with on the campaign) ran an ‘instameet’ attended by 10 enthusiastic local photographers who were encouraged to take photos during a socially-distanced walk around the borough. The photos were then shared on the platforms and linked to a competition where people voted for their favourite photo.
This event was replicated in other areas of the borough and proved to be a great way to gather fantastic images, celebrate the talent of the photographers in the area, draw people to the new channels, and engage residents in a positive initiative that brought people together during a difficult time.
A key aim of the campaign was to support local businesses and bring them together. To do this, the council commissioned DigiKind to run ‘Lunch and learn’ events. These free, bite-sized sessions taught people about social media and digital marketing and encouraged businesses to share content on @MyRoyalBorough channels.
The council also ran a campaign to get people out and about which saw 200 businesses offering discounts to residents. Competitions ran with prizes provided by the borough’s businesses. Alongside the offers, the team was careful to include suggestions for free events, attractions, and days out. People were encouraged to share their photos and tag @MyRoyalBorough.
Mindful that not everyone would be engaging through social media, the team promoted the ‘Pledge to support local’ initiative, in line with the national ‘Small Business Saturday’ campaign, which ramped up in the build-up to Christmas 2020. Pledges to support the borough’s businesses, which were received through the website, were gathered by the team and shared through social media.
During December 2020, the channels were bright with pictures of Christmas lights submitted by residents and businesses across the borough.
We couldn’t run our usual Christmas lights switch-on events, so we asked people to send us pictures of their lights using #lightupmyRBWM
This generated some beautiful photos and provided some light-hearted relief through the uncertainty of a Christmas clouded by COVID-19.
In April 2021, as shops and businesses began to re-open, the council was keen to encourage people to venture out while adhering to COVID guidelines, to minimise the spread of the virus.
To encourage this, the team created the ‘Don’t let your guard down’ campaign, which included eye-catching images and life-sized cut-outs of Queen’s Guards wearing masks, which were placed along the borough’s high streets as a reminder to people to act responsibly.
Three days before the launch of this campaign, HRH Prince Philip died and, because of this sad news, the communications team decided not to go ahead with their launch plans. The images and cut-outs remained in place, but the full launch was postponed until after the funeral, as a mark of respect.
Outcomes and lessons learned
The new channels and campaigns have been well received by local people and businesses. As one testimonial from a store manager at Paperchase put it:
Would just like to say what a breath of fresh air MyRoyalBorough is. Fun, informative and engaging. Building a great supportive local community, not just for businesses but also for those who visit, live and work in the borough. First class
The statistics and results of the campaign are impressive:
- High streets are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels – beating national levels.
- The MyRoyalBorough Instagram account has gained more than 2,000 followers.
- More than 4,000 pieces of user-generated content have been received since the new channels launched.
- The communications campaign, which was funded by the Government’s Welcome Back Fund via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), was created in collaboration with the agency DigiKind and its director and co-founder Kathy Kyle. The work was nominated for the ‘Public Sector or Public Affairs’ award of The Drum Awards for PR 2021.
The success of the campaign, and engagement with businesses and residents, has allayed any worries there may have been about the decision to avoid council branding on the new channels.
By working closely with the council’s economic development team, the communications team was able to pool knowledge and contacts to make the campaign as effective as possible.
The town centre manager is running economic development for the borough now, so with the help of the communications team, she has @MyRoyalBorough channels in her toolkit as Windsor and Maidenhead plans for the future.