I was thrilled to be invited by the leader of Trafford Council to share some thoughts, informally, with some industry colleagues about a future PR strategy for Altrincham.
We met up at the excellent Francs in Goose Green and I was pleased to meet several agency bosses from successful local PR companies including Tony Tighe of Mere PR, Jean-Philippe Glaskie of Peppermint PR, Jane Smith of Smith and Smith PR and Gareth Clements of Rumpus Communications.
Everybody agreed that something needs to be done to improve the image of Altrincham. All agreed Altrincham has to improve first.
Here are my ten initial thoughts:
1) Altrincham lacks a consistent, coherent visual language and identity. If the vision can be expressed visually and illustrated through the use of typographic, photography, tone-of-voice and digital/printed/PR communications – a brand is powerfully delivered. Chester is a good example.
2) Altrincham needs to re-establish trust and pride with its own residents. Lots of research has already been done in Altrincham– feedback from residents/businesses. This intelligence needs collating, packaged and sharing with PR agencies in Altrincham.
3) Altrincham business owners need to feel that Trafford is fighting on their behalf re: rates/regeneration/planning. It’s great to see that Trafford is actively discussing business rates with David Cameron’s team – but the council should tell people that they are – and seed that news across Trafford.
4) The Stamford Quarter needs a marketing and PR overhaul. (I cited the example of outdoor advertising promoting a 50p parking rate on a Sunday…the gruesome stock images promoting the ‘brands’ coming to the town…the lack of communication…far better to sell the sizzle…) By the way, does anyone know if this is the longest, noisiest town centre retail development in the UK? (It’s 15 feet wide and about three bus lengths long FFS…)
5) Throwing a PR executive for “a day a month” might not work for Altrincham or an agency. Getting PR folk from opposing agencies to agree on doing stuff sounds like a tricky task. However, perhaps each agency could have a different ‘scope’ to cover? Business, leisure, transport, tourism, education, green spaces etc. I’m keeping an open-mind on this.
6) Retail is obviously important. I feel we should also highlight areas where Altrincham is already winning – education, green spaces, housing. These are core ingredients in the Altrincham brand.
7) No PR/marketing agency will understand the political issues and the scope of what can actually be achieved better than the council itself. It is not for the PR/marketing agency to drive practical steps (initiatives to clean up broken glass etc) but to focus on the bigger picture stuff. The strategic backbone (starting with content) has to come from people within the regeneration
8) The PR of Altrincham needs to be handled by a loving team and not seen as a job-list in the Trafford in-house PR team.
9) There is no doubt that a more proactive PR strategy with local press will pay dividends. ‘Professionalising’ the efforts of the PR for Altrincham Forward – will engender a sense of ‘we’re all in it together…’ I’d like to change the narrative from ‘angry militants with furrowed brows and folded arms’ to ‘successful entrepreneurs are claiming back the town with positive initiatives’.
10) A lasting brand isn’t built on the strength of a PR campaign alone – and in terms of destination marketing – it takes years to change opinion – not weeks and months. Altrincham has to be in it for the long haul. We should all consider this when debating what is best for Altrincham.
I’m looking forward to exploring the issues further with Trafford and the talented bunch of PR agencies that exist in Altrincham and Hale. Special thanks to Matthew Colledge who clearly has the passion, foresight and vision to drive Altrincham forward.