CAMPAIGNS: Hackney carries itself upmarket - Local Government

At the start of 1996, the London Borough of Hackney was suffering from low morale. As well as budget cuts it had suffered a series of negative media stories. Recognising the need to improve the Council’s image and service provision, chief executive Tony Elliston appointed Lorraine Langham as assistant chief executive in June 1996.

At the start of 1996, the London Borough of Hackney was suffering

from low morale. As well as budget cuts it had suffered a series of

negative media stories. Recognising the need to improve the Council’s

image and service provision, chief executive Tony Elliston appointed

Lorraine Langham as assistant chief executive in June 1996.



Objectives



To raise awareness and involvement of staff, 50 per cent of whom live in

the borough. Change the culture of the council and dramatically improve

services.



Tactics



An internal communications campaign was launched in June 1996 with the

message ’Transforming Hackney - be part of it’, branded in purple over

the old green on notice boards and a hotline was set up for staff to

call to get a badge and further information.



A director’s strategy team steered the campaign by devising bi-monthly

targets and core messages. In addition, the Transforming Hackney

Communications group was set up. Composed of two representatives from

each council directorate, they meet every month to discuss ideas and

evaluate progress. With a culturally diverse work force of over 10,500,

from road sweepers to civil engineers, a key problem was meeting

employees different information needs.



The solution was to ’cascade’ information through the organisation by

e-mail, notice boards and pay slip messages for further discussion in

team meetings. This is backed up by regular features in the monthly

staff magazine Inside Track.



In addition, a series of staff events were held over the summer to

tackle practical communications skills, such as handling enquiries.



After nine months the campaign was launched externally. In February 1997

every Hackney household received residents’ magazine Hackney Today which

set out updated council information and service standards. The council

also took advantage of April’s council tax notifications to communicate

its message. At the same time as announcing that the tax was reduced by

pounds 60, it promised ’Better services, better value’.



Results



Within the Council, staff suggestion schemes are now up and running and

the purple branding is prominently displayed. Initially, ten per cent of

staff called the hotline and all senior staff, not just those in the

frontline, now wear Transforming Hackney badges.



Coverage of the external campaign launch ranged from the Hackney Gazette

to the Municipal Journal with interviews with Elliston on GLR and in the

Financial Times.



Verdict



The internal campaign received an IPR Sword of Excellence Certificate of

Excellence and results of an in-house staff survey will be released this

month. According to Elliston, there is evidence that services such as

processing housing benefit have improved, but there will not be a full

external evaluation until April 1998.



With such a low budget, he believes the key to the campaign is ’using

every opportunity you have to communicate your message’. The true

measure of success will be when Hackney can lift itself off the bottom

of local government performance league tables.



Client: London Borough of Hackney

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Transforming Hackney

Timescale: Ongoing from June 1996

Cost: pounds 20,000 over two years



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