Manchester's unique mayoral election requires a different approach to comms

The Greater Manchester region is one of six new combined authorities that will hold mayoral elections on 4 May. In the third part of this series, PRWeek looks at the local election campaigns and how comms and PR are being used to raise awareness and turnout.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority faces a unique mayoral election next month
Greater Manchester Combined Authority faces a unique mayoral election next month
For the first election of its kind in Greater Manchester, the region’s combined authority and the Combined Authority Returning Officer launched a joint comms strategy supported by the ten Greater Manchester local authorities: Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan. 

Also supported by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, Transport for Greater Manchester and health and social care services, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) said it recognised the unique nature of the election meant their strategy would not take a business as usual approach.

The GMCA spoke to those involved in mayoral elections in London and liaised with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in order to begin preparing its strategy. 
One of the key aims will be to make sure that people are on the electoral register at their current address and are therefore able to participate in the elections. 

The electoral registration deadline is 18 April, with an electorate in excess of two million.

In the region’s last election, for Police and Crime Commissioners in May 2016, turnout was just 13.9 per cent. 

However, turnout was better in the local elections in 2015, where local authorities saw the following percentage turnouts: Bolton 37.92, Bury 38.12, Manchester 30.61, Oldham 35.93, Rochdale 35.6, Salford 30.1, Stockport 38, Tameside 34.21, Trafford 43.2 and Wigan 30.83.

To monitor their performance, the comms team is tracking visits to the GM Elects website and studying the amount of time people spend on the site and where people are being referred from - such as from campaign materials.

This year’s metrics will provide the benchmark for future campaigns, the GMCA said. 

Standing for mayor are former Labour cabinet minister and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, the Conservative leader of Trafford Council Sean Anstee, and Lib Dem Trafford councillor Jane Brophy, as well as candidates from the Green Party, UKIP and the English Democrats.

Eamonn Boylan, combined authority returning officer for Greater Manchester, said: "We are determined to do all we can to raise awareness of these elections and ensure Greater Manchester electors have all the information they need to vote.

"The unique nature of these elections of course means there is a communications challenge involved in making sure that people understand not just how to vote but what they are voting for and that's something we have carefully set out to address."

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