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Supporting Leeds City Council and WSP to improve bus services in Leeds

Posted on Wed 12th Jun, 2019 in: Travel by Katie Wadsworth

The audience

In 2018, Leeds City Council launched its Connecting Leeds strategy, with a key focus on improving bus infrastructure. Funding was allocated to improve some of the key corridors in Leeds, as well city centre gateways, to reduce bus journey times, improve service reliability and decrease pollution.

Travel planning consultants, WSP, appointed Aberfield to deliver an integrated marketing and communications campaign centred on public engagement. Tactics and channels were adopted to ensure all audiences were targeted appropriately, while maintaining a quality public consultation process.



Based on audience research, it was clear that all communications needed to have a strong human element. Encouraging stakeholders to ‘buy in’ to the improved bus corridors and appreciate the benefits it will bring was key.

Insight from a survey that asked 8,000 people in Leeds what their thoughts were on transport informed what level of information the public expected to receive and identified areas / groups that would need a specialist approach.

Given the negative feedback that Leeds transport projects have experienced in the past, it was essential that everyone who needed to be engaged had the opportunity to be involved.

With seldom heard groups being a key audience set, Aberfield worked with Leeds Involving People (LIP) to create bespoke materials and to host dedicated events.


The campaign

To kick off the campaign, Aberfield began by communicating the Connecting Leeds narrative to help people located in the specific areas that would be affected by the changes understand why the routes had been selected and what the benefits were going to be.

This approach meant that audiences could be prioritised and that the appropriate channels could be used to bring members of the public on the journey. For the campaign to be a success, it was also essential that information was presented as visually possible so all stakeholders could easily relate to it and understand the changes.

The following tactics were implemented:

  • Video was created using interviews with regular bus users that could then be used at the consultation events, as well as on the Connecting Leeds website and shared on social media.
  • The creation and distribution of leaflets meant that key messages and consultation details could be communicated directly to stakeholders. They also provided direct engagement with those that are set to be directly impacted by the changes.
  • Commonplace, an online consultation portal, was used to capture and retain feedback publicly. Maps of each route were uploaded to the site, so people could feedback on specific areas. This feedback could then be shared via their personal social media channels.
  • A series of posters were created to promote the consultation events to current bus users. From a quality public consultation perspective, it was key that there was a presence in the local paper to ensure we were also communicating offline. Adverts were placed in the Yorkshire Post to help further promote the events and to drive people to Commonplace.
  • Outdoor advertising was also coordinated, including InLink Kiosks across the city centre and a billboard on Wellington Road.
  • A0 consultation boards for the events were created to include maps of the routes, as well as the current challenges and potential opportunities available. This approach allowed event attendees to browse and understand the plans at their own pace.
  • Working with LIP, residents and local businesses located on the routes, as well as influential businesses across to city, were engaged to set up dedicated briefing sessions with the project team. We organised private briefings for the most influential groups.
  • To ensure that all content being generated was accessible to all audiences, we worked with various specialists to ensure it was being presented and shared in an inclusive way.
  • Underpinning the engagement activity was an ongoing PR and social media campaign to promote the consultation events, as well as to encourage feedback on the concepts. Using press release announcements to gain coverage local media outlets generated engagement with the wider city region.
  • Proactively using social media was key to developing a following, but also engaging with wider Leeds audiences. It helped drive people to Commonplace to encourage them to share their feedback. A mix of both organic and promoted content were delivered, and a dedicated Twitter page was set up to represent all the transport projects taking place across the city.


The influence

Over the three-month campaign, more than 4,500 contributions were made via Commonplace, with over 7,000 people visiting the site. Facebook advertising reached 164,378 people and achieved 7,183 clicks through to Commonplace, to generate 502 comments, 166 shares and 48 reactions.

Five pieces of coverage were achieved, including in the Yorkshire Evening Post and BBC News Leeds.

Thirteen public consultation events were held, as well as a series of dedicated meetings with seldom heard groups. Over 450 people attended the public consultation events and approximately 50% of the contributions indicated they were either supportive of the proposals or felt neutral towards them.

The public consultation that was undertaken as part of communicating changes to other schemes across the city has received wide-spread positive feedback in terms of the materials that were presented, but also the manner in which the public were engaged.


If you would like to know more about our consultation experience, or talk to us about your own project, please get in touch

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