Culture and creativity Skills

Refreshing your communications

Two years ago, Marsh and Micklefield Big Local undertook a small piece of research about their website which led to a 12-month communications revamp. Now with a new ‘look’, a community websitenewspaperre-energised social media and monthly open breakfast events, development manager Lisa Meaney takes a look at how they got here.

Getting started 

In April 2018, concerned that our website was no longer fit for purpose, we challenged ourselves to ask 20 people about our ‘brand’ and the way the community viewed Big Local. We found out that: 

  • Residents had conflicting views on the communities of Marsh and Micklefield being expressed as one by Big Local  
  • People were confused about who we were, and what our purpose was 
  • Our ‘look’ needed uplifting, to reflect the area, and to have a more upbeat and welcoming tone 
  • We should be driving communications for everyone, for groups across the whole community – as well as getting our own message across 
  • We needed to create vehicles for local communication that could be sustainable in the long term 

We created a web and brand design brief based on the research and put it out to tender. We decided to scrap what had been an ‘ad hoc’ newsletter, and instead produce a new local newspaper (a much loved community newspaper had folded just before Big Local). We commissioned an agency, who were happy to work in consultation with residents, to do the web and brand work and cheekily asked them to throw in a newspaper template as part of the deal.  

In the autumn a partnership member offered to take on social media on a freelance basis, creating a more lively and responsive presence online, also running ‘Let’s Get Social’ events to cultivate more social media confidence amongst local groups.  

Generating ideas 

When the time came to write the detail on the website, the problem of who we are and what our purpose is reared its head. In response to this, and as part of a general development drive, we held two visioning days. Together, staff and partnership members decided that our purpose was to empower others in our area to succeed. We also wanted to make sure everyone could participate in our community and have a lot more fun! 

Once this ‘Empower-Include-Enjoy’ ethos was clear, a draft three-year communications plan was thrashed about in an open meeting. The new ‘look’, infant website and newspaper were shared, social media ambitions were talked through, and a relaunch event was proposed.  

We beavered away behind the scenes for a few more months, realigning all our email addresses with the website URL and social media tags, testing a Slack platform where groups could upload info about events. We took on a young volunteer who was interested in graphic design, and sent her to work with the agency for a couple of days, then employed her to lead on the layout of The Mayfly. We planned 6, monthly ‘First Saturday Breakfast’ events, for residents to meet up and share food and news.  

In May 2019 we launched the first issue of ‘The Mayfly’ newspaper, delivered to (almost) every door, and promoted on social media. In it, we promoted the breakfasts and our lovely new website marshandmicklefield.com which opens with the strapline ‘This belongs to everyone’. 

Looking back and moving forward

Turning our communications around has been a huge amount of work for a small community project, but everything is important: social media keeps the conversations going, The Mayfly tells the stories, the website keeps things clear, the breakfasts are for sharing news and company.  

Good visual design has helped us express how two communities can share one Big Local opportunity. We are yet to find a failsafe method of newspaper delivery, and still have to work hard to stay ‘on message’ and make sure this really is for everyone. The biggest challenge is yet to come: making all of this sustainable. 

Things do look promising, new people have come forward, particularly through The Mayfly, to be actively involved in community work. As anyone working on Big Local knows, this is like striking gold. Hopefully, it will continue. In the meantime, as a community, we now have a unique visual identity and a solid communications system that we are proud of, and this in itself feels empowering, inclusive and enjoyable.   

 


If you want to refresh the communications in your Big Local area, why not try a free half-day communications audit workshop with Media Trust.