Bradford to launch PR campaign to convince businesses to fund city-centre improvements

Bradford council is planning a PR campaign to promote a business-funded city improvement scheme and to make sure turnout for voting for the scheme is high.

Bradford Council's comms campaign will seek to educate businesses about BIDs and persuade them to vote for it
Bradford Council's comms campaign will seek to educate businesses about BIDs and persuade them to vote for it
The city is investigating the development of a business improvement district (BID) that could raise £500,000 to promote and improve the city centre.

A PR campaign ahead of a vote on whether to launch the BID for a five-year term is a critical part of ensuring a mandate to go ahead with the scheme, explained Jonathan Noble, city centre operations manager at Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

"PR is important for this project because it is about making people aware of the benefits of a business improvement district, but also letting people know the ballot process is actually happening so they get a vote," Noble told PRWeek.

"It is a bit like an election campaign in both getting the message out there [about the vote] and selling the benefits of the BID."

The comms campaign will run from January 2018 until a planned ballot of local businesses on their desire for the BID in September.

"The PR campaign is a huge task and it’s about making sure the messages that go out are right, timely, regular, and hit the right places," pointed out Noble.

If the vote for the BID is positive, officials say it could raise £500,000 a year from financial contributions made by local businesses, proportional to their rateable value.

The BID can only go ahead if more than 50 per cent of votes are in favour of the scheme.

If it is successful, it is proposed that the BID will revolve around four key pillars: Safer, Cleaner, Alive and Promoted.

Suggestions for spending the cash raised include better CCTV, graffiti removal, new community events and co-ordinated campaigns to market Bradford nationally.

The city is planning to use a mix of traditional media and social media in its PR campaign to raise the profile of the upcoming vote, and promote the benefits of having a BID in Bradford.

"Social media is a quick win as it’s about the here and now," added Noble.

"We are planning a sustained campaign so we are also looking at traditional media such as newspapers and possibly radio.

"We are also looking at talking to local media partners on ideas like a Back the BID campaign."  
A feasibility survey is currently under way asking businesses for their views, while a tender to appoint a PR agency to carry out next year’s comms campaign closed this week.

One of the key challenges, revealed Noble, will be improving voter turnout, which he said was currently around 35 per cent in Bradford.

In addition, persuading some businesses of the value of a BID could be a hurdle.

"I have had conversations with some who think of a BID as an additional tax," said Noble. "But the message is that it’s less than the price of a newspaper a day and there will be businesses that don’t pay a penny that will benefit from it."

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