Public Sector: Camden urges locals to utilise their vote

In the run-up to the May local elections, the chances of a high voter turnout in Camden were looking bleak. More than two thirds of its electorate chose not to vote in 2002, with negative articles in local newspapers encouraging voter apathy.

Campaign Use Your Vote and Register to Vote
Client Camden Council
PR team In-house
Timescale October 2005-May 2006
Budget £46,000

This year, the council attempted to motivate residents with a campaign that stressed the importance of voting and the difference it can make to local life.

To increase voter turnout and voter registration with an in-house budget of £46,000.

Strategy and Plan
The council split the campaign into two strands – ‘Register to Vote’, budgeted at £16,000; and ‘Use Your Vote’, for which £30,000 was earmarked.

Because the priority was to highlight the impact that voting could have on local people and areas, the council sought residents who had interesting stories about their voting experiences. Rather than ‘the council needs you to vote’, the message was ‘your fellow Londoners want your help’.

The first strand focused on a ‘Registration Week’ in February, where council officers congregated on the borough’s high streets and at shopping centres and train stations, talking to residents face-to-face about voting. Leaflets, posters and registration forms were also handed out.

The in-house PR team invited local press to witness Camden Council chief executive Moira Gibb ‘out and about’, garnering voter registrations in colleges and on the street. Images of local people in landmark Camden locations, such as Russell Square, were used for press advertising and outdoor posters, which appeared in parks, libraries and housing estates. Later, the week was used as a news hook for further publicity.

Use Your Vote kicked off in March, and was carefully structured so that the Labour-led council had a politically neutral face. High-visibility advertising, which included lamppost banners and lorry ads, provided a newshook for local TV and papers. The PR team re-emphasised that local people were used in the ads because ‘real people, real votes, real democracy’ were at the heart of the campaign. Journalists were also invited to speak to those pictured in the ads.

Measurement and Evaluation
Unlike previous years, coverage of the 4 May election was balanced. All local newspapers covered Camden’s campaign, including the Hampstead & Highgate Express, Camden New Journal and Camden Gazette.

More than 2,500 people were canvassed for their views on voting. Voter turnout in Camden rose by nine per cent on the previous local election to 37.5 per cent – slightly higher than the national figure of 36 per cent. Labour lost control of the authority, and now shares power in Camden with  the Liberal Democrats.

Hampstead & Highgate Express deputy editor John Dunne, who went on the walkabout with Gibb, says: ‘This was an excellent campaign. The PR team delivered an effective message for Camden, whose residents tend to be politically aware.’

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