Kingston First bids to improve town centre

Campaign BID status for Kingston Client Kingston First PR team Upward Curve PR Timescale 4 October-19 November 2004 Budget Under £20,000

To counter falling visitor numbers to Kingston-upon-Thames, public-

private partnership Kingston First established a business improvement district (BID) in the town centre.

Under the BID scheme, business rate payers would pay a tax supplement to fund local improvements for marketing and training initiatives and to tackle issues such as graffiti, crime, and access and transport problems.

In October last year, Upward Curve PR devised and implemented a consultation and communications strategy to garner support and encourage businesses to vote in favour of the BID.

Objectives

To raise awareness of a postal ballot and 28-day voting period. To promote the benefits of the BID to Kingston’s business rate payers and establish the first BID in the UK.

Strategy and Plan

To engage potential audiences and ensure the ballot process was seen to be fair, Upward Curve set about providing business rate payers, the media, local trade associations and politicians with as much information as possible.

This included the development and distribution of a press pack CD, news releases, fact sheets, images, the official BID business plan, a newsletter and presentation.

Other tactics included a breakfast briefing to announce the ballot to the press, and ongoing media relations to maximise positive publicity around a ‘yes’ vote. The activities were backed by a poster campaign and local advertising. Upward Curve also engaged business rate payers directly with door-to-door visits and gained endorsement for the proposed scheme from local Liberal Democrat MP Edward Davey and Bentalls department stores deputy chairman Adam Fenwick.

Measurement and Evaluation

The campaign achieved high-profile national coverage, including on the BBC’s Radio Four Today programme, Breakfast News, Working Lunch,

Radio Five Live, News 24, and BBC News Online, as well as in the Financial Times and The Independent.

Blanket local coverage, from titles including the Surrey Comet, stimulated debate about BID benefits.

Results

The ballot achieved a 37 per cent turnout with 66 per cent of respondents voting for the BID, which launched in December.

Rod Bradbury, editor of local radio station Radio Jackie, says: ‘Because more than 600 businesses were balloted and Kingston was set to [have] the first BID, it was quite a big story for us. ‘We interviewed the people behind the initiative, trade associations, the town centre manager and local MP.’

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