Nottingham City Council – Nottingham – Let’s Keep It Clean campaign – public sector communications excellence awards – gold winner

With local people identifying littering, fly-tipping and dog fouling as the biggest anti-social behaviour issues for communities in Nottingham the council decided to take action. Head of marketing and communications Ruby Bhattal and Jennifer Lowis, corporate marketing manager at Nottingham City Council explain what they did to help keep Nottingham clean.

Communications support

The challenge

Nottingham has a proud history of being Britain’s cleanest city and it’s a reputation we work hard to maintain. However, when residents told us that littering, fly-tipping and dog fouling were the biggest anti-social behaviour issues affecting communities we wanted to increase our activity even further and create a campaign that addressed these issues head on. To make sure any campaign activity delivered real results, we set ourselves the ambitious target of reducing incidents of dog fouling by five per cent, decrease fly tipping by five per cent and recruiting local people to join our Clean Champions volunteer litter pick scheme.

The solution

Although our council-wide ‘respect’ survey had highlighted these specific themes, we commissioned further research to delve into the issues in more detail. We conducted a quantitative survey with local people to gauge their perceptions and levels of awareness with regard to cleanliness of the city and enviro-crimes, attracting more than 1000 responses. We also analysed the data from people fined for enviro-crimes over the past three years to help us identify our target audiences. This research revealed that offenders were of all ages, from all ethnic backgrounds and were fairly evenly split between men and women. This helped us to create a campaign that targeted all of Nottingham’s residents, with some additional, targeted messaging for landlords, students, local business owners, dog owners, and the residents of each neighbourhood in Nottingham. 

We ran a series of focus groups with local residents to help us develop our key messages. They identified the need for messaging to focus on the fines that people could incur from littering, fly tipping or dog fouling as they overwhelmingly agreed that these would be the most effective messages for changing behaviour. We shared initial artwork and visual designs with our focus groups, responding to their suggestions before finally deciding on the Keep It Clean campaign, which included hard-hitting messages about the fines that people would incur. Following direct feedback from our focus groups we also included examples of where the council had enforced those fines as part of our campaign materials, demonstrating that this was not an empty threat.

We ran the campaign for three months between April 2017 and June 2017. We used outdoor advertising, extensive paid-for and organic social media activity across Facebook and Twitter and proactive PR and media opportunities to spread our message. We also featured the campaign in our digital waste and recycling newsletter (which goes to 5,000 subscribers), in our neighbourhood newsletters and our council magazine. We also ran radio advertising for five weeks of the campaign.

Although our key messages initially focused on hard-hitting messages about fines and the consequences of littering, fly-tipping and dog fouling, we changed direction half way through the campaign in order to support our objective of recruiting more people as Clean Campions. We reframed our focus to emphasise the positive work that the majority of Nottingham’s citizens already do to keep our city clean, thanking residents for supporting our efforts and providing clear calls to action about how they could volunteer for the Clean Champions scheme.

The impact

The campaign achieved impressive results. Incidents of dog fouling reduced by 11 per cent compared with the same period in 2016, exceeding our 5 per cent target. We also saw a four per cent reduction in fly tipping which, although slightly less than our 5 per cent target, was particularly positive in light of the national rise in fly tipping. Hits to our bulky waste web page increased by 45 per cent compared with the previous year, showing that more people were requesting the service online and 150 local people signed up to be Clean Champions.

We also recorded positive results in our campaign awareness survey. We found that 66 per cent of respondents had seen the campaign, and 17 per cent of people strongly agreed that the council does a good job of keeping the city clean (an increase of 6 per cent). Awareness of on the spot fines for dog fouling increased from 53 per cent to 64 per cent and the number of people who strongly agreed the council takes firm action against people who drop litter, dump rubbish or don’t pick up after their dog increased from 2 per cent to 15 per cent.

Why it worked / how we’re sustaining it

Although this specific campaign has concluded, we will be continuing to promote the availability of the Clean Champions scheme and will reiterate the key messages throughout the year. We will also be using the data alongside our next council-wide respect survey to see if there is a reduction in perceptions of littering, fly tipping and dog fouling as causes of anti-social behaviour.

Investing in research was an important part of this campaign’s success, particularly in respect of running focus groups with residents. Their insight helped us to create key messages that resonated with local people while interrogating the data we already held about offenders demonstrated that the issue was one affecting the community at large.

Lessons learned

Simple clear messages make an effective campaign. In future, we will reduce the number of campaign messages further still, focusing on a maximum of three key messages.

Want to know more?

For more information please contact Ruby Bhattal, Head of Communications and Marketing or Jennifer Lowis, Corporate Marketing Manager at Nottingham City Council.