Campaign: Police watchdog bids for approachability - Public Sector

Campaign: Launch of Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)

Client: IPCC

PR team: In-house

Timescale: October 2004-April 2005

Budget: £240,000

Last April, the Police Complaints Authority was replaced by the more powerful Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). It needed to let stakeholders know about the new system in the run-up to its launch. The in-house team developed a campaign for the IPCC's inauguration, aiming to reassure the public that they could complain about the police with confidence.

Objectives

To launch the IPCC. To achieve positive coverage of, and feedback for,IPCC activity in its first year. To decrease nuisance complaints.

Strategy and Plan

The comms team needed to create awareness of the service while avoiding confusion and making unrealistic promises.

Target audiences were the public, local and national media, community, campaigning and civil rights groups, and police forces.

Last January, the team created leaflets and set up a website, while liaising with target stakeholder groups, through local events around the country, to get early feedback on their views and concerns. A local media relations campaign pushed the profile of the 18 IPCC regional commissioners.

Rather than a fanfare launch, the team took a drip-feed approach, carrying out individual briefings. The launch campaign was developed around the IPCC's first major investigation into police firearm-related fatalities, in May 2004. Information on the organisation's background was included on press releases.

Last December the team questioned more than 5,000 people in England and Wales to track the IPCC's performance in its first six months, positioning the results as a news hook.

Measurement and Evaluation

Because of the media attention surrounding the Asian tsunami disaster, coverage was affected, including an Independent interview that was cancelled but published later.

However, interviews featured on Sunrise Radio and BBC London, while the research was covered in the Daily Mail and its website, as well as on Sky News. The story was picked up by The Guardian and appeared as 'news in briefs' in other broadsheets.

Analysis by Media Proof showed 700 mentions up to June 2004 were positive, with IPCC messages being communicated and 220 million opportunities to see.

Results

The number of complaints against police forces in England and Wales has doubled since the new watchdog was established - from 25,000 in the year before the IPCC was established to nearly 50,000 from April 2004 to April 2005.

Its research showed that 66 per cent of people had heard of the IPCC six months after its launch, 80 per cent of whom had heard about the organisation through the media.

The IPCC is using the research results to inform its communications strategy, and is planning to particularly focus on minority groups. It is also recruiting regional comms officers to boost communication with community groups, and plans to follow up the research next year.

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