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.
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:
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.