Client: Lewisham council
PR Team: Lewisham council communications unit/Weber Shandwick
Worldwide's public affairs team
Campaign: Mayoral referendum communication campaign
Timescale: September - October
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.
To inform voters what a mayoral referendum was and how they could
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.