Case study: C-19 cycle-to-work campaign secured Government endorsement and doubled take-up

A public affairs campaign by WA Communications for the Cycle to Work Alliance during the COVID-19 lockdown resulted in several mentions of the Cycle to Work Scheme by senior Government figures, as well as doubling take-up by employers.

The public affairs campaign secured government endorsement for the Cycle To Work Scheme (pic credit: Getty)
The public affairs campaign secured government endorsement for the Cycle To Work Scheme (pic credit: Getty)

WA was asked by its client of 10 years, the Cycle to Work Alliance - comprising Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords - to improve public awareness of the scheme and promote it as part of the solution to getting people back to work during the pandemic.

The agency helped the Alliance position the scheme to ministers as a way to help employees commute safely to work while observing social distancing guidelines as the lockdown began to ease.

Objectives

The Alliance hoped to achieve two key objectives: to win stronger long-term support for the scheme and greater recognition of its value from the Government.

It also wanted ministers to signpost the scheme, leading to greater public take-up and an increased number of regular cyclists.

Targeting decision-makers

WA’s target audience for the month-long campaign, which ran from mid-April to mid-May, were ministers and senior officials at the Department for Transport (DfT), who were decision-makers on the Government’s approach to transport policy, as some people began to return to work.

Key messages

The campaign sought to convince them that cycling to work should be a component of the Government’s transport strategy for getting the public to return to work because it eased the burden on public transport, was possible while social distancing, and had wider environmental and health benefits.

It also presented the scheme as a cost-effective way for employees to buy a bike and highlighted that there had been increased interest - particularly among key workers - in signing up for it during the lockdown.

The campaign called on the Government to signpost the scheme to increase uptake as well as support its own objectives.

The approach

The agency secured a meeting with transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris to brief him on how the scheme supported the Government’s objective to ease lockdown as safely as possible. It also collected data from the Alliance to show the growth in interest during lockdown and how the Government could help increase it further.

WA built cross-party support among backbenchers and the Shadow front bench for the Government’s approach to promoting cycling as a safe way to commute, as well as for the scheme itself.

Finally, the agency targeted and briefed selected journalists about the scheme’s growing success and secured coverage from the BBC, Mail Online and trade titles concerned with HR and employee benefits

Outcomes

The campaign resulted in Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, repeatedly highlighting the success of the scheme and signposting it to employees during interviews, in press releases, and in the daily Downing Street press conference.

In one interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show at the start of May, Shapps said: “Active travel is a very important… Hundreds more people [are] using the existing scheme where you go to your employer and ask for a bike, which you pay back effectively through the scheme before you pay tax.”



The following week, while launching a £2bn package to support cycling and walking, the Government highlighted the scheme as an element of the package and Shapps used the daily press conference to say that the “popular” scheme had an important role to play in getting people to cycle more.

Boris Johnson also used media appearances, including a broadcast to the nation on 10 May, to say: “When you do go to work, if possible do so by car or even better by walking or bicycle.”

The Alliance said the number of employers signing up to offer the scheme has doubled compared to the same period in 2019.

And a Google trends analysis by the agency showed that the number of people searching for the scheme online had quadrupled since the Government began promoting it in early May, with individual spikes in searches corresponding with ministerial mentions.

Commenting on the campaign, Marc Woolfson, director at WA, said: “In the current environment government is taking decisions quickly, and to secure support it’s essential to have strong relationships, be agile and have a strong evidence base. These are the factors that have allowed us to help position the scheme as central to the Government’s transport strategy at this time.”

Adrian Warren, chair of the Alliance, added: “Together with WA we have been able to successfully work with the Government to demonstrate the important role the scheme can play in helping people commute safely to work.”



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