Campaign: Regeneration firm aims to revitalise Walsall

New Criterion magazine once labelled Walsall as ‘the ugliest town in the world’, describing it as ‘like Ceausescu’s Romania with fast food outlets’. To fight back and attract more than £600m of investment over the next ten to 15 years, Walsall Council, Advantage West Midlands and English Partnerships set up the Walsall Regeneration Company (WRC).

Campaign Promoting Walsall – A Town for Enterprise
Client Walsall Regeneration Company
PR team Seal Communications
Timescale July 2005-ongoing
Budget £25,000 (to March)

This public/private partnership appointed Seal Communications to build awareness of the eight major projects to revitalise Walsall town centre and the neighbouring canalside areas.

To promote the activities and achievements of WRC to the widest possible audience and generate interest in property and investment opportunities; to shift long-held negative perceptions and position Walsall as ‘a town for enterprise’.

Strategy and Plan
While PR is still ongoing, Seal focused on three milestone events, including the launch of regeneration plan ‘Walsall, A Town for Enterprise’ last September. Journalists and VIPs were given a helicopter flight over the eight key sites, while local residents received an eight-page supplement delivered to their homes via the Walsall Advertiser.

The second event on 17 January, unveiled WRC’s ‘Prospectus for Growth’, which announced the go-ahead of its first major project – a £100m Business and Learning Campus. A press launch was organised, targeting the same press that had already covered the first launch.

Two weeks later, Seal took the broader campaign to promote Walsall to the Institute of Directors HQ in Pall Mall, London, where VIPs, bussed in from the Midlands, were joined by MPs and representatives from City-based institutions, to promote the town to national journalists.

Measurement and Evaluation
Media attending the Walsall events included regional TV programmes such as BBC Midlands’ Today and ITV Central News, and regional radio stations, including BRMB and Beacon FM. Local and regional newspapers such as The Walsall Chronicle and The Birmingham Post also covered the story.

National coverage was more limited, although BBC Radio 5 Live reported on the Pall Mall event, while regeneration trade titles such as Estates Gazette and Planning magazine carried various coverage too.

VIPs attending the three events ranged from potential investors and developers such as Urban Splash, as well as leading architects and local MPs Bruce George and David Winnick, plus a representative from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

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