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Broadband Champion Toolkit

This guide has been created to provide other local authorities with information on how to set up a network of programme ambassadors.


Introduction

Who we are

Superfast Essex is the broadband improvement programme at Essex County Council, which launched in 2012 to improve digital connectivity across Essex.

We target addresses not included in commercial rollouts, with state-aid funding. To date, we've rolled out superfast broadband (speeds of at least 30Mbps), and more recently gigabit-capable broadband, to more than 140,000 addresses across Essex, making our county one of the best connected in the UK.

Our Broadband Champion network

Our network came about in 2016, when we recognised it as a way to increase engagement with local communities and help raise awareness of, and interest in, the Superfast Essex programme. Today, we are proud to say that we have more than 300 active Broadband Champions representing 250 parishes and wards across Essex.

How to set up your own programme ambassador network

Think about the purpose of your network

Do you want your Champion network to reach local residents, businesses, or both?

What is the age range of the people you want to reach? And where do they go to access information?

What can you see working best - Champions putting notices up in their local shops, talking to neighbours on the street, attending local council meetings, sharing posts on social media, or a combination?

Figuring out the answers to these questions first will give you a better idea of how to engage with your Champions from the get-go.

What would make people want to sign up?

Think about what would make your Champion network appealing to volunteers. Some selling points to our Broadband Champions included:

  • Access to information on the rollout before the general public.
  • Opportunity to engage directly with the network operators we partner with, for example at specific Broadband Champion events.
  • Enquiries sent to our team via a Broadband Champion are given priority over the general public.
  • Being a voice for their local community, representing their views and making sure these are heard.
  • Opportunity to help people in their community access digital services - this is especially important for elderly and vulnerable people.

Recruit your volunteers

  • Create a dedicated page on your website.
  • Advertise for volunteers in your newsletter, social media accounts and your website.
  • Create a press release to distribute to local media.
  • Contact your stakeholders to let them know about your network - for example, your local Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), parish and town councils, and community groups. You could create a short toolkit with easy-to-share assets for social media and newsletters.

Make your network visible

  • We list the name of each Broadband Champion on our website, along with the area they represent and their contact details.
  • Broadband Champions also show up when people search for their address using our interactive map.
  • We showcase our Champions on social media and in newsletters.

How to nurture your network

Ways to regularly engage with your programme ambassadors…

Create dedicated content

We regularly engage with our network of Broadband Champions, providing them with content created specifically for them:

  • Quarterly Broadband Champion Network newsletter - featuring stories specifically for them.
  • A toolkit, featuring social media assets which promote our programme and campaigns, as well as email templates they can use to respond to enquiries they receive from their local community.
  • Direct emails with information on the rollout and updates, such as delays - ahead of the general public.

Be visible to your network

The Superfast Essex team holds virtual twice-yearly events, which Broadband Champions are invited to, along with parish and town councils.

These events include presentations by Superfast Essex, Openreach and Gigaclear. We also run a Q&A session chaired by Essex County Council's cabinet member for Economic Renewal, Infrastructure and Planning, Cllr Lesley Wagland.

Our parish events also coincide with key milestones happening, such as delays to the programme of work, as this provides an open forum for questions.

We also attend events in the community, where people can visit us to find out information about the programme and check the broadband status at their home. We advertise these events on social media as well as our website.

Collect feedback

Holding annual surveys can be a useful way to collect feedback from your Champions on their experience of being in your network, as well as gain insight into any changes or improvements you can make. We received 39 responses to our 2021 survey, which is the equivalent of 13 per cent of our Broadband Champions at the time of conducting the survey. Findings include:

General

  • 62 per cent of respondents have been Broadband Champions for more than two years.
  • Just over half (54 per cent) use the Superfast Essex website every month.
  • 90 per cent prefer to be contacted by Superfast Essex via email.

Contact from their communities

  • 30 per cent of Broadband Champions have had contact from at least five people in their community in the last six months.
  • Of the enquiries received, the majority were asking when fibre broadband is arriving (41 per cent), followed by enquiries about delays with the rollout (22 per cent). Just under a fifth were about speed/reliability issues, and why people’s addresses weren’t in plans (18 per cent).
  • More than half (57 per cent) of the Broadband Champions who received enquiries said they could answer them; 19 per cent said they couldn't.

The Broadband Champion toolkit

  • The Q&A section scored highest, with 56 per cent of respondents stating that they were likely to use it.
  • Nearly half (47 per cent) said they would share the social media assets in the toolkit.
  • It was an equal split of Broadband Champions who said they were likely and unlikely to use the enquiry templates we created.
  • However, 75 per cent of respondents said they were either unlikely or very unlikely to distribute printed materials in their communities.

Meet our case studies

Paul Martin

A slow, unreliable internet connection made running a business from home a major headache for Paul. But his search for a better solution led him to the Superfast Essex programme and he signed up to be a Broadband Champion.

Soon after, Paul attended a meeting where he heard from Superfast Essex and their partners, Openreach and Gigaclear, about the rollout across Essex.

He learnt his home was 100 yards too far from the cabinet installed by Openreach and decided to engage with his neighbours, encouraging them to register their demand for superfast broadband. “I went to my neighbours and said, ‘The more of us who show an interest, the better’.”

Not long after, Openreach installed a cabinet at the bottom of Paul’s road. “Within a week from there, life got a lot better!” he says. “It’s transformed the way I can use the internet for business."

Tom Charman

PhD student Tom Charman was at a pivotal point in his studies when the first national lockdown forced him to work from home with what he describes as a “virtually non-existent” internet connection.

Tom was even considering moving, but then he discovered Gigaclear were laying fibre optic cables in his area as part of Superfast Essex’s full fibre rollout. Soon after, he came across the Superfast Essex website and signed up to be a Broadband Champion.

“I was already keeping track of the network build in our area, so I thought it made sense to also keep the community informed,” he says. 

Since the rollout, he’s helped several people in his community switch over to a full fibre broadband package. “It’s nice when people message you and say how good it is now and that they’re really happy,” he says.

Lessons learnt from our network

Keep it virtual

The pandemic has forced many of our previously face-to-face communications online, including our countywide parish events. We saw attendance increase and will continue to run our events virtually in future.

Our Broadband Champion Survey 2021 also showed that people prefer to share information about our programme online - with 75 per cent of respondents telling us they were either unlikely or very unlikely to distribute printed materials in their communities. This compares with almost half (47 per cent) telling us they were either likely or very likely to use the social media assets we created in our toolkit.

Don't underestimate the power of email

It's simple, yet effective. And 90 per cent of the Broadband Champions who took part in our survey told us this is their preferred way to be contacted by Superfast Essex.

Keep in regular contact

It can be challenging when you're a small team with limited time and resources, but a crucial lesson we've learnt about our Broadband Champion network is the importance of keeping in regular content and making this group feel valued. The majority of negative comments in our recent survey were around not being given enough information or feeling forgotten about. Even if you're unable to give positive news, keeping in touch can go a long way.

Further information

For more information about this toolkit, contact the Superfast Essex comms team at [email protected]

PDF version

Broadband Champion Toolkit

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