From engagement to strategic comms: my first few months
Before starting at Copper back in May, I wasn’t aware of how much my background in engagement would support my growth into strategic communications. Throughout my first weeks at Copper, I was granted the opportunity to learn first-hand the ins and outs of strategic communications. Quickly learning how essential it is to the success of many projects.
A good strategic communications plan will allow you to tactically inform and influence your audience to achieve their objectives. In this piece, I’ll take you through the OASIS framework – objectives, audience, strategy, implementations, and scoring/evaluation – which is a surefire process to ensure all angles are considered when planning your strategic communications. I will also use this framework to highlight my key takeaways from my first few months at Copper.
My first key takeaway is that defining your objectives is the most important aspect of strategic communications. They will guide the development of your strategy and ensure targets are met. However, defining objectives is not as simple as you may think. You must navigate the complex web of the wider business objectives alongside your own. In our work for Shell, we are working across three separate projects. This involves supporting their energy, automotive, and aviation sub-streams. However, each piece of work needs to be undertaken with consideration of Shell’s wider objectives – one of which is to become (and therefore perceived as) more sustainable.
After defining your objectives you’ll then need to define your audience. This is because your audience’s needs, values and priorities are key to informing the strategy and content which follow. Your audience includes two key groups: influencers (public figures who can become advocates or opponents of your project, campaign) and ‘end users’ (your ultimate target audience).
Before beginning any communications plan, Copper completes a stakeholder mapping exercise, which allows us to define and determine who we will be targeting. It is important to truly understanding your audience as people, and what works for them, instead of simply seeing them as a target to influence. This provides you with a better understanding of how to manage and communicate with the audience empathetically and effectively.
Strategy and implementation
From agreeing your audience and objectives, the next point to consider is your strategy. You should be able to capture your strategy in a line or two, which can be unpacked into more detailed workstreams below. This then informs your tactics which is the implementation of your project, including the content, channels, and activity that accompany your strategy. Which is usually the longest, part of the process which requires a high level of detail. Providing the shape of the full programme of activity, or at least the next phase.
A crucial aspect of your strategy is your messaging – clear and concise messaging is essential if you are to influence and inform your audience. A detailed and nuanced understanding of your audience will enable you to create a targeted and defined message that supports the narrative of the overall strategy. Developing a concise strategy and plan for your chosen messaging is much more likely to allow you to achieve the set objectives.
Top tip: remember that your messaging needs to be active, and not passive.
Here at Copper, when it comes to scoring and evaluations we take into account the deliverables following the three O’s: outputs, outtakes and outcomes. Utilising various tools and metrics to ensure return on investment for our clients.
My first couple of months at Copper has allowed me to deep dive into the world of strategic communications, learning so much from the range of projects that Copper work on. You can read more about the work that Copper’s strategic communications team does here:
Copper Consultancy has launched its revitalised change management offer. In this blog, we take a look at what change management is and how it has been successfully implemented outside the built environment industry.
Organisations are constantly changing. Whether you’re adapting ways of working to address modern challenges, such as climate change and digitalisation, or improving stakeholder engagement methods to become more efficient.
The principles of change management are widely accepted within the practice, however each change programme is unique. Therefore, the implementation is a constant evolution.
To maximise benefits of change initiatives, it is crucial to always learn from change theory and industry best practice. That’s why, nearly one year on from the original launch, we have refreshed our change management offer.
In our renewed offer, we consider:
- change theory from the likes of John Kotter and Prosci
- our own experiences in undertaking change projects
- even Domino’s Pizza
These learnings have all been fed into our renewed C:change offer. So, our offer is built on the key principle that, to create lasting change, you must build with people, not for them.
Regardless of sector, change management is largely about using techniques to teach and alter behaviours and practices. For example, transitioning an organisation to a new IT system requires employees to buy into the benefits of the new system. So, to successfully implement a new stakeholder engagement process requires senior management to prove their genuine advocacy of the scheme – often through their behaviour.
What is change management?
Firstly, what are we talking about when we say “change management”?
To Copper, change management is the process of planning for and rolling out an initiative or programme. This could include developing something that you already have in place, such as improving stakeholder engagement processes or introducing something entirely new to your team or business.
Ultimately, this initiative or programme will cause employees and those affected by the change to do something differently. This could range from changing behaviour to operational job changes.
In fact, to prove how universal change is, we have explored a fascinating change campaign that took place in the food and drink industry.
Case study: Domino’s Pizza
Back in 2008, Domino’s was struggling to stay relevant and maintain its brand reputation. By implementing a successful change management programme, the company started to turn around.
Uncovering the change
Having the foresight to address change in customer behaviour differentiates businesses from their competitors. Therefore, identifying a change that is happening in the industry then adapting to benefit from it, is arguably the most important step in the process.
Through market research and analysis, Domino’s identified that more orders were being completed online. Not only were management convinced to focus business development on enhancing the online-ordering experience. But, this change in direction was due to market research and being in-tune with changes happening in the wider industry, taking into account trends.
Proving the power of senior buy-in
Meanwhile, the enthusiasm and support for digitalising their ordering system was filtering from the top down through the entire business. Once momentum was built and excitement spread through the business, Domino’s was able to implement new technology. This helped to support the shift to online ordering.
Indeed, this demonstrates the importance of gaining backing from senior teams in driving change forward. Of course, senior buy-in encourages advocates from across the business to collaborate, champion and grow the new initiative. This helps in creating a snowball effect of positive support. In fact it even inspires innovation and lets stakeholders feel like change is being done with them, not to them.
Using data to drive change
Finally, the company leveraged customer data collected through their ordering system which helped them develop customer loyalty programs that continued to increase sales.
Utilising data to your advantage increases the chances of a successful change initiative. Copper’s bespoke data tool Communify Insight enables us to use real-time insight in order to identify key issues, questions and challenges to develop highly targeted narratives and communication channels for stakeholders who are impacted by the change.
Change and beyond
Notably, Domino’s is still embracing change to this day; it has recently tested drone and robot delivery and is partnering with Ford on self-driving delivery options.
Keeping your brand and business offer aligned with changing customer needs and priorities is a common challenge that many businesses face. Copper’s work as a part of the Towns Fund Delivery Partner taught towns how to leverage branding to create a lasting legacy through the changes that the project lifecycle brings and beyond.
In conclusion, some of the key considerations for implementing successful change are:
- Identifying and taking advantage of any changes happening within your organisation or wider industry
- Gaining buy-in from senior teams and advocates across the business
- Using data to enhance your change initiative
In fact, perhaps the built environment needs to take a slice of knowledge from Domino’s pizza. Ultimately, in every industry, successful organisations constantly evolve and redefine business models. But change requires careful communication and management.
If you have a change happening at your business, contact Ronan Cloud, Director of Economic Development at Copper to discuss how we can help you.
Click here to find out more about Copper’s change management offer, C:change.
By-election bonanza: what we learnt ahead of the general election
With the results from the three by-elections now in, Luca Ingrassia takes a look at what we can learn ahead of an upcoming general election.
As much as the Government will look in the coming days to portray retaining Uxbridge and South Ruislip as a sign of hope for the next general election, any hope is likely to be tempered when set amongst the overall swing away from the Conservative Party. Nevertheless, retaining Uxbridge, even in localised circumstances, will provide a modicum of dignity for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Unlike his predecessor-but-one Boris Johnson, who faced a similarly precarious set of by-elections last summer amidst Partygate, Sunak can still be confident of the support of the majority of his MPs. Furthermore, his approval ratings are significantly higher than those of his party, and he has no obvious challenger. So as poor as the Conservatives’ electoral performance is, he may remain the best hope of preventing even worse.
The Party may look to Uxbridge and South Ruislip as a blueprint. Labour’s failure to take the seat has largely been attributed to widespread local opposition to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s proposed expansion of the ULEZ program. The Conservative campaign was able to successfully mobilise this by portraying the by-election as a local referendum on ULEZ, and portraying Labour in turn as the party of ULEZ. The Party will also be hoping that floating voters are yet to be fully won over by Keir Starmer’s Labour. A lot can happen once national campaigning begins, when issues such as the economy and NHS take centre stage.
Losing Selby and Ainsty and Somerton and Frome in two formerly safe seats does however demonstrate the Party’s unpopularity. It will also reinforce predictions of electoral doom, with less than 100 Conservatives holding majorities larger than that overturned in Selby. As a result, we may see a further swathe of Conservative MPs announcing they will stand down at the next election rather than face imminent defeat.
For Labour, the result in Selby and Ainsty is nothing short of outstanding. It is their largest ever majority overturned, with a swing just under 24% putting them on track for majority Government. Not only have they won back Red Wall voters, but are now pushing beyond it to supposedly safe Conservative seats.
But Labour cannot afford to be complacent. Their delight at Selby and Ainsty will be offset by disappointment in Uxbridge, where they couldn’t quite get over the line. They also struggled to push back against the Conservative campaign’s successful mobilising of ULEZ as a local wedge issue.
Finally, the Party is still very mindful of how it is perceived. Its number one priority at present seems to be to position itself as being fiscally disciplined. Policies that are popular with Labour membership have been dropped and/or watered down as a result. Critics of the Labour leadership suggest this approach is insufficient to attract new voters and capitalise on the Government’s unpopularity. However, strategists on the ground in Selby and Ainsty found a number of lifelong Conservative voters switching to Labour for the first time. This suggests widespread openness if not enthusiasm for Labour to be given a chance to govern. However, the failure to take Uxbridge and South Ruislip will mean there will continue to be nagging doubts over the leadership and political instincts of Sir Keir Starmer, as the pressure cooker environment of a general election approaches.
As their revival gathers momentum, Somerton and Frome is the fourth seat they have gained from the Conservatives this Parliament. This will fuel their hopes of picking up potentially dozens of Conservative seats across the South. Their hopes of doing so will be boosted by the widespread use of tactical voting which was evident across all three by-elections, suggesting prominent anti-Conservative sentiment and electoral savviness in the electorate. And should the Conservatives be able to blunt Labour gains and force a hung parliament, the Liberal Democrats may well find themselves with an opportunity not just to expand their political footprint, but to head back into power.
As Westminster slowly ramps up for the next general election, national politics continues to prove as volatile as ever. Copper will continue to provide intelligence and insight to support clients in navigating this turbulent landscape and adapting to change.
Copper Consultancy has appointed Luca Ingrassia to strengthen its economic development offer and provide additional support for the firm’s growing work in decarbonisation projects across the country.
Joining from Connect Public Affairs, Luca brings significant experience in advancing campaigns for a number of prominent organisations in the net zero space. This includes Toyota, Vaillant and UNISON. Luca also acted as Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hydrogen.
As Copper looks to sustain its recent growth in net zero, Luca will provide advantages for clients across the economic development sector in his role as account manager.
Director of Economic Development at Copper, Ronan Cloud, said: “I am delighted to welcome Luca to Copper. His experience in renewable energy and the wider net zero landscape will add significant value to Copper’s offer. His appointment will bolster our growing team and provide additional support as we service a growing client base”.
Luca’s experience covers a range of policy areas, including energy, skills, technology and transport. At Copper, he will be supporting on the strategic direction of major client accounts and provide political insight.
Commenting on his appointment, Luca said: “I am incredibly excited to be joining Copper at such an important time for the firm, with RSK Group’s backing fuelling ambitious plans for growth to meet the pressing demands of the net zero transition.
“I look forward to providing insight, expertise and advantage as the company helps clients navigate today’s challenging political landscape”.
To find out more about Copper Consultancy’s strategic communications offer, visit the website.
Simran Sarai, senior account executive at Copper, discusses her experience at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ (DLUHC) Towns Conference in Manchester.
More than 230 people descended on the Hilton in Manchester to attend the Towns Conference. A unique gathering of local authorities, partners, Town Deal and Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) places. The event provided the opportunity to reflect and build on the brilliant work that has taken place within the Towns Fund programme so far.
The hosts of the event were DLUHC, Arup and the Towns Fund Delivery Partner (TFDP) consortium. In fact, the conference, the first of its kind for a major Levelling Up funding programme.
As an integral member of the TFDP’s strategic leadership group, I had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop. With a focus on communicating, engaging and branding during project delivery at the Towns Conference.
Providing the opportunity for Towns to share best practice on stakeholder communications. Everything from engagement methods to top branding tips.
Some key topics at the session:
- Place branding and building a town legacy
- How to maintain momentum whilst delivering projects
- Tailoring messaging to different audiences
Copper’s expertise in effective community and stakeholder engagement, market positioning, brand development and use of social and other media helps towns in developing their Town Investment Plans and early-stage Business Case development.
Working as a part of the Towns Fund Delivery Partner for over two years, it was a pleasure to facilitate best practice conversations between town representatives. Meeting them in person and advising on how best to engage with their communities on their Towns Fund projects.
We look forward to exploring the next step in the UK’s Levelling Up agenda.
Across England on Thursday 4 May, many residents will be going to the polls to have their say on who should represent them in local government for the next four years. With the national picture as uncertain as ever, it’s likely to be an eventful day.
In the run-up to the elections, however, for council communications teams and their projects, it can be a quieter time than usual. In one sense at least.
That’s because for six weeks prior to the election they enter a period of pre-election restrictions – previously known as purdah.
These restrictions relate to how councils publicise their policies and work. During this time the onus is on council officers to take special care in how they communicate, to ensure no bias or undue influence over the election by the incumbent administration.
While there is good guidance available from the Local Government Association (LGA), this can often be a confusing time for officers and can involve regular conversations with the returning or monitoring officer over the publicity that sits in the grey area.
Proactive media, events or photography relating to or involving parties and their candidates are clearly prohibited. But in other areas, lines are more blurred. The official guidance states that councils should ‘not publish any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party’. However, much of the business-as-usual communications can and should continue.
Often this makes for difficult decisions in communications teams with some choosing the overtly cautious approach of saying as little as possible until after the elections, with others much more prepared to carefully navigate the landscape.
This can be challenging when councils are working together (particularly given that some may not have any elections in a particular round), but also internally with communication teams and other services needing to work in partnership to balance publicity plans with the restriction sensitivities.
For existing campaigns or engagement relating to, for example, transport, waste or infrastructure projects, officers are recommended to think carefully about any impact on the upcoming elections. That said it’s important that there is not simply a void in communications. Residents and stakeholders still need to hear important information and, as council colleagues across the country are experiencing now, still need to fight misinformation or defend their reputation appropriately.
At a time when the use of public money has never been more closely scrutinised, and in the age of fast-moving, social media generated news, this is getting to be an ever more difficult landscape to navigate.
The Government has made its most significant intervention to-date on the direction of housebuilding in the UK, with Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove signalling that the 300,000 homes per year manifesto target is now an advisory goal.
Among the other key proposals, we will see the consideration for resident views playing a more influential role in the determining of planning applications.
The gravity of this change in direction should not be underappreciated. Three years since the publication of the Planning White Paper which aimed to radically improve the delivery of new homes, the Conservatives now promote policy designed to ‘give local authorities the power to stop new development’.
And what of the announcement?
The crux of this sees housing targets move from mandatory to advisory. Critically, local housing need will not need to be adhered to if the local authorities demonstrate reasonable constraints for achieving this.
The concerns of existing residents have been prioritised, with their views now determining how many homes are agreed to be built in their local authority. Equally so for aesthetic tastes of future homes, the introduction of local design codes and Street Votes will be guided by the opinions of existing residents. The latter allowing for ‘gentle densification’ through airspace development and upward extensions on properties. This policy attempts to weave together the need to increase domiciles, while avoiding the unproven criticism that more homes will lower existing homeowners property value.
In a bid to ensure local homes go to ‘local people’, council tax will be increased on empty homes. Gove has also signalled his intention to table an amendment at the Report Stage of the Bill for a registration scheme on short lets in England.
Local and Neighbourhood Plans
Local Plan amendments are the most positive element of Gove’s letter. The announcements are designed to reimbue local authorities with the energy to restart their Local Plan process without any penalty.
The most significant changes are the removal of presumption in favour of development and the consideration for areas that have overdelivered their historic targets. This is intended to ensure up to date local planning guidance, without the implication that unmanageable development will occur. The beneficial elements for local authorities include the removal of the rolling-five year land supply and 20 per cent buffer for those local authorities that have already delivered a sound Local Plan.
The localist drive is further evident in ending the ‘duty-to-cooperate’, potentially making housing policies of neighbouring authorities becoming even more indifferent to the realities of the local demographic geography.
Gove has offered a two year grace period for Local Plans to be revised to incorporate these amendments. To safeguard against ‘speculative development’ during this time, the period of available land being promoted will decrease from five to four years.
Neighbourhood Plans too will have their powers enhanced to include new protections, such as the doubling of the time period against developer appeals, increasing from two to five years.
Gove is unapologetic from his criticism of developers in the letter, who he perceives need to be held to further account. Additional measures targeting developers are populist in nature, with an added a financial penalty for slow build out and an increased fee for retrospective planning applications that breach planning law.
The most worrying element is the intention to allow local authorities to refuse planning, if they feel the developers character is poor. This arbitrary power potentially traps developers in a cycle where poor performance cannot be redeemed.
Encouraging developers to prioritise brownfield build out is a key component of the proposals. Local authorities will be allowed powers to set preferential Infrastructure Levy rates for brownfield over greenfield development. New protections against development will also be given to agricultural land used for food production.
What does this mean for the sector?
With residents now poised to have an even greater say in deciding the level of development in their communities, those in development sector will need to reach a much broader audience than previously. Far from relegating it, the need to foster grassroots advocacy has never been more crucial.
As witnessed as recently as during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector has displayed a readiness and effectiveness at meeting new requirements to engagement. Now, faced with this more permanent challenge, community consultation will need to adapt and to innovate to meet it.
Close to 75% of businesses expect to expand the types of major change initiatives they will undertake from 2020-2023, but 50% of change initiatives fail. Ronan Cloud, Director of Economic Development at Copper, explains why.
Now, more than ever, we’re living through a period of change. It’s happening in every industry. From adopting digital-first approaches to implementing policies that support the race to net zero, organisations are restructuring the way they do things.
Building resilience to change itself is also becoming more prevalent, with many businesses taking a data-led approach to stimulate, predict and facilitate internal change.
However, half of all change initiatives fail.
- Nearly half of failed initiatives report culture as the biggest barrier to success.
Many change initiatives are imposed upon employees, reducing their longevity as they are not tailored to and embedded within company ethos. Employee sentiment plays a pivotal role in change initiatives, so engaging them in the journey is key.
- Change generally isn’t communicated effectively to employees and the benefits aren’t demonstrated convincingly.
A dedicated communication strategy for rolling out change is often overlooked in favour of advancing operational models, which often leaves communication by the wayside.
- Change management efforts fail to be tracked, evaluated and adapted.
The success of a change programme is largely based on employee reception and an organisation’s ability to adapt accordingly. This step can be the difference between ignored and accepted.
- There is a lack of executive sponsorship or leadership.
A top-down approach is often not considered, resulting in a lack of senior buy-in and advocacy. Change is about vision and inspiration, which needs to be driven from the top.
Building change to last
While operational change is the key to changing business models, the real shift in people comes from behaviour change. That’s why we recently launched our change management solution – C:change.
C:change enables organisations to build momentum for their change programme by engaging stakeholders and bringing them on a journey. The five-step model takes a co-creation approach, working with your audience to develop and deploy change management programmes, ensuring we build advocacy at every step.
Capture the imagination
Communication remains avital aspect of articulating and demonstrating the benefits that businesses are making. But, more importantly, it’s the platform for companies to explain why the change matters and to showcase their vision for the future – capturing the imagination. After all, people are far more likely to come on the journey if they know the destination.
Striking the right balance
Change management programmes must strike the right balance between driving advocacy and empowering change. This stems from having a rich understanding of employee behaviours and attitudes, which can help futureproof change strategies. Essentially, taking more of a psychologist’s view will ensure change lasts.
For change to be successful, a behavioural shift is required – both in how you operate and communicate.
Find out more. Contact Ronan Cloud, Director of Economic Development at Copper.
Learn more about C:change.
The logistics sector is the backbone of the UK economy. It accounts for £55bn of the UK GDP, 1.7m jobs, and underpins how we function day-to-day, both in business and our everyday lives. But what does the public think about the sector and how do communities respond to large-scale logistics hubs?
Changes in shopping patterns alone have accelerated the growth of the logistics industry. COVID-19 shifted the onus onto online shopping, with more and more people abandoning district centre shopping in favour of ordering from their laptop or smartphone.
The likes of Amazon and other online retailers were the main beneficiaries, whilst supermarkets also adapted. In total, online sales grew by over 20% during the period of lockdowns between 2020 and 2021.
53 football pitches
To accommodate the growth in demand, more and more land is required for warehousing and logistics hubs. In fact, the equivalent of 53 football pitches is required across Europe to fulfil demand in the next few years.
However, it’s clear that our planning legislation has been slow to catch up. Local Plans are still very residential focused, with employment (or commercial) land sometimes counted as an after-thought when local authorities draw up their development frameworks. As well as this, public attitudes towards logistics development does not always align with the growth in demand.
Economic gains drive support
To help understand the challenges facing the sector and also to provide insight on how best to work with communities in developing logistics proposals, Copper commissioned detailed research into how the logistics development is perceived by people across the UK.
Our findings have uncovered some interesting considerations and with it helped us in providing some key recommendations:
- There is broad degree of understanding that the development of employment land is necessary:
- 67% would support the development of logistics centres because of the employment opportunities they would bring
- 61% cited economic growth as a reason for support
- There is a degree of misunderstanding about how the logistics sector functioned, meaning educating communities on what logistics is and how it functions is required.
To assist with tackling these issues, we have developed four key recommendations for the sector based on the research we commissioned:
- More collaboration with local authorities is required to develop shared goals and objectives
- People are largely supportive of the economic importance of the logistics sector and therefore should be front and centre of any proposals
- There is a degree of misunderstanding about the sector, therefore an education programme on its importance and way it works is required
- Early engagement is key. Working with communities in developing proposals and schemes will minimise challenge and problems.
Now, these steps are not a magic bullet for all logistics development. However, we are introducing these thoughts as part of a conversation to build stronger collaboration between the sector, communities and local authorities. It’s clear that demand for logistics development is growing, but without the necessary land or planning approvals the sector will stall.
It’s clear that there is a huge amount of opportunity for the logistics sector to work with communities and local authorities to meet the growing demand for logistics development. However, engagement and positioning is key to ensure proposals are welcomed.
To find out more about our research and findings visit Logistics-Report.pdf (copperconsultancy.com)