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.
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
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’.
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
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