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Reflections from the Roretti team

Beyond Bills and Bins: Building a Brand that Empowers Residents

A row of black wheelie bins on a street in the UK

Imagine Emily, a single mum of two young children, facing a financial squeeze. Between childcare and rising grocery bills, disaster strikes – her boiler breaks down, leaving her home freezing. Desperate for help, Emily spends hours navigating a vast council website, searching for relevant support programs. Frustrated and overwhelmed by complex jargon, she gives up, resorting to space heaters and extra layers for warmth. This scenario, unfortunately, isn't uncommon. Many UK residents remain unaware of the extensive support their local council provides.

A Wealth of Services, Hampered by a Knowledge Gap

Local authorities offer a vital safety net, from waste collection and leisure centres to social care and financial assistance. Yet, a significant knowledge gap exists. Surveys show residents struggle to grasp available services and make sense of complex council jargon. A 2022 National Audit Office report highlighted that nearly a quarter of residents didn't know how to access essential services, while a third found council jargon confusing. Similarly, low uptake of council-funded energy efficiency grants points to a lack of public awareness campaigns.

This lack of awareness has a domino effect. Residents miss out on vital resources, financial aid, and leisure opportunities. Ultimately, it hinders the council's ability to serve the community effectively.

Bridging the Gap: The Power of Brand Strategy

While logos, colours and fonts are often some of the first things that come to mind when the word ‘branding’ enters the conversation; brand strategy goes beyond logos and colours. It encompasses the overall experience and perception people have of your organisation. Clear communication, the values you represent, and the emotions you evoke – all shape how residents connect with their council.

Building a strong brand is crucial, something often prioritised by commercial businesses. For businesses, it's about attracting customers and fostering loyalty. For local authorities, where residents are "consumers" by virtue of their postcode, brand awareness translates to positive association with offered services. A strong council brand acts as a bridge, connecting residents with the support they need.


The Benefits of Brand Awareness for Local Authorities

By raising awareness of their services, councils can bridge the knowledge gap between residents and the support available. This translates to several key benefits:

  • Empowered Residents: When residents are aware of their council's offerings, they feel empowered to access services that can improve their lives. This promotes a sense of community spirit.

  • Greater Service Uptake: A well-recognised brand leads to more residents utilising services, leading to better community outcomes.

  • Improved Public Perception: Trust and cooperation rise with a strong brand, making it easier for councils to implement initiatives.

  • Attracting Investment: A strong brand can attract investment and skilled professionals to the area, boosting the local economy.

Building Your Brand: A Multi-Pronged Approach

Building a strong brand for your local authority isn't a quick fix. It takes time and dedication to shift public perception, especially when residents may already have established (and potentially negative) ideas about your council.

However, the rewards are substantial. A well-crafted brand strategy goes beyond aesthetics. It involves a deep dive into your existing brand identity, alongside a thorough understanding of your target audience – their needs, behaviours, and aspirations. This ensures your brand resonates and connects with residents in a meaningful way.

Why invest the effort? Because a strong council brand isn't just about recognition. It's about building trust and empowering residents to access the vital services you offer.

To get you started, here are a few key areas to consider:

  • Clarity & Consistency: Jargon-free communication is key for website content, social media posts, and printed materials. Consistency in branding, including logos, colour schemes, and messaging, across all platforms is equally important.

  • Content is King: Create valuable content that resonates with residents' needs and concerns. Explain complex services in simple terms, using infographics or short explainer videos. Share success stories of residents who have benefitted from council support programs. Highlight local initiatives and community events.

  • Embrace Digital Platforms: A user-friendly council website with a clear and searchable service directory is crucial. Maintain an active social media presence with engaging content and regular updates. Consider utilising mobile apps for service access and notifications.

A Case Study in Effective Branding: Manchester City Council

A great example of a council leveraging brand awareness to empower residents is Manchester City Council. They've undergone a significant brand refresh, focusing on a "people-centered" approach. Their website is user-friendly and informative, with clear language and easy navigation. They also use social media effectively to connect with residents on a personal level, sharing stories and updates in a way that resonates with the community. Additionally, initiatives like "Manchester: It's Your City" promote community spirit and resident engagement. By prioritising clear communication, resident needs, and a sense of community, Manchester City Council is building a strong brand that empowers residents and fosters a positive perception of the council.

Measuring Success: Tracking Your Efforts

Brand awareness isn't simply a feel-good metric. It's crucial to track the impact of your branding efforts. Valuable insights can be gathered from metrics like website traffic, social media engagement, resident surveys, and service utilisation data. Analysing these metrics allows councils to refine and adapt their branding strategies for maximum impact.

For example, a rise in website traffic following a new social media campaign suggests residents are becoming more aware of council services. Similarly, an increase in applications for a specific grant programme after a targeted information campaign indicates residents are not only aware of the service but also understand how to access it. Conversely, low uptake of a particular service might highlight a need for clearer communication or a targeted outreach programme to specific resident groups.


Conclusion: Building Bridges, Not Walls

Local authorities play a vital role in residents' lives. By prioritising brand awareness through clear communication, engaging content, and community outreach, councils can bridge the gap and ensure residents have the knowledge and confidence to access the support they deserve. A strong council brand isn't just about recognition; it's about building a community where everyone feels empowered and supported.

Victoria Barton Rosenthal is the Marketing & Business Development Manager at Roretti.


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