CAMPAIGNS: Public Sector - WSW targets Lewisham for mayoral vote

Client: Lewisham council

PR Team: Lewisham council communications unit/Weber Shandwick

Worldwide's public affairs team

Campaign: Mayoral referendum communication campaign

Timescale: September - October

Budget: £100,000



The Lewisham mayoral referendum was one of six that took place across

Britain between 4 to 18 October. The others were in Hartlepool, Brighton

and Hove, North Tyneside, Middlesborough and Sedgefield.



Residents voted on whether or not they wanted a directly elected mayor.

Up until then it has been councillors who had formed the electorate.



This was the first time people were able to vote from the comfort of

their own homes in a post-only ballot.



Objectives



To inform voters what a mayoral referendum was and how they could

vote.



Strategy and Plan



The biggest challenge for the communications team was in getting the

interest of an apathetic electorate and persuading people to turn out to

vote.



Rather than bombarding voters with complicated information, the team

developed a highly visual campaign with one core message that was

central to the new voting process and easy to understand.



The campaign, which targeted media and the public, used the tag-line

'Home is where your vote is' as the foundation of all

communications.



Using eye-catching designs - a man in a bath captioned 'floating voter'

and a bright yellow sofa captioned 'polling booth' - the communications

team went for saturation.



Mail drops were posted reminding people to use their votes and posters

went up throughout the area.



Sites included bus stops, 48 sheet building posters, internal ads for

London Transport, all local train stations and 20-foot high voting flags

erected at Lewisham's busiest traffic roundabouts.



A special edition of Lewisham Life, a council-produced magazine was

delivered to all homes in the borough and was available at the checkouts

of Tesco, Sainsbury's, Somerfield and Kwik Save.



The council website, www. lewisham.gov.uk, was redesigned, and for the

launch council CEO Barry Quirk gave interviews from a yellow sofa

positioned in the middle of Lewisham town centre roundabout.



The campaign was endorsed by local government minister Nick

Raynsford.



Measurement and Evaluation



Compared with the other five councils that voted in October, Lewisham

had the lowest turnout with only 18.3 per cent of the total electorate

turning out.



However, the campaign was well received during the two-week voting

period when stories appeared in the FT, The Times, The Independent and

The Guardian as well as in regional publications.



Results



Lewisham's result was a 'yes' vote of 16,822, which means that in May

2002 the people of Lewisham will vote in a full election for the mayor

of their council.



Four of the other councils also voted yes (Sedgefield was the only other

no), and the system is likely to roll out elsewhere in the coming

months.



Despite the low turnout, the campaign caught the attention of other

London local authorities, which have since contacted Lewisham council

specifically about its electorate-rallying activities.



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