Case Study

Compassionate campaigns boost post lockdown support for town centre businesses and increase local consumer confidence

With the advent of Covid in 2020 across the UK, Councils needed to pivot fast to support the areas they represent. With an in-house communications team working at maximum capacity, and a continually changing Covid landscape, Huntingdonshire District Council called on Keystone during the year to orchestrate two key campaigns – each designed to connect in with local residents, stakeholders and businesses.

As lockdowns eased and retail reopened in June 2020, Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) supported businesses with a 3-month ‘Reopening Huntingdonshire’ campaign, to reassure local residents that market town shops and hospitality venues were safe and welcoming. A subsequent ‘Think Local’ campaign was designed as a follow-up campaign; highlighting the significant difference local residents can make by thinking and shopping locally within Huntingdonshire market towns.

Fast turnaround & authentic messaging

Lockdown 1 in spring 2020 effectively shut high streets overnight and led to a boom in internet shopping, placing local retailers under huge pressure. Faced with the enormous challenge of supporting local businesses and encouraging residents to go back to the High Streets and town centres once non-essential shops reopened , the Council wanted a campaign that welcomed visitors back to the market towns. Reiterating the message that businesses were safe to visit, the campaign needed to present a strong reminder of the part each resident played in supporting the sustainability of the independent businesses that are an integral part of each town centre across the district.

The Council had never before undertaken a campaign at the scale of the first campaign. Keystone acted fast to analyse the situation, creating a strategy and rollout plan (for our in house execution). We saw how essential it was to cultivate relationships with stakeholders, local media and the business community, and created online and offline content that encouraged residents to view their local market town high streets and town centres as a positive place to be. The engaging campaign – with a strong headline message and graphics – was cultivated by our team in association with Keystone partner GAS Brand Studio.

Stakeholder engagement was also key, with Keystone responsible for week to week online briefings with 20+ community focussed partners to share campaign messaging, as well as regular calls to strengthen each relationship. Additional opportunities presented by Keystone also included the development of a bespoke media partnership for advertising and editorial support, as well as the investment in regular social media advertising to reach new audiences.

The subsequent ‘Think Local’ campaign from October 2020 elevated the community engagement activity further, encouraging the support of local retail in the run up to Christmas. Keystone’s suggestion of increased social media activity in the first campaign demonstrated the further potential behind these channels; leading to the introduction of a dedicated digital agency, Sookio, to inject increased social media activity, capture bespoke photography and produce creative video content. The ‘Think Local’ campaign, built on the successes and learnings from ‘Reopening Huntingdonshire’ (and again with design support from GAS Brand Studio), forged deeper relationships between the Council and its community stakeholders, local media, independent businesses and residents across the District. An ever changing landscape led to swift messaging changes in light of November 2020’s lockdown too.

Speaking of its campaigns, Keystone’s Managing Director Hayley Williams said: “In both campaigns, our emphasis was on developing simple, memorable words and graphics. Clear messages, encapsulated in standout designs to showcase key campaign messages, driven to resonate with residents and stakeholders. A broad range of print and digital materials appeared across the district as posters, banners, as online and print advertisements, window stickers and on social media, all encouraging the local community to pull together to support market town centre businesses across Huntingdonshire.”

Strategic communications that built a lasting community

The ‘Reopening Huntingdonshire’ campaign helped establish a strong community spirit across the district that was further elevated by the ‘Think Local’ message. Campaigns that needed to be built and executed quickly, across a changing landscape. Campaigns that have created clear impact in terms of the goals we set, but also creating new best practice approaches for the Council more widely too.

Keystone’s initial cohesive strategy for engaging quickly and effectively with local residents, stakeholders and business owners helped Huntingdonshire District Council identify and visualise new opportunities. Our input delivered results that not only demonstrated success through these specific campaigns, but also paved the way for best practice campaign frameworks in the future.

Keystone was introduced to Huntingdonshire District Council by Agency Squared, the initiative that helps busy in-house marketing and communications teams find and appoint a marketing agency.

“The last eight months have been hugely challenging for many sectors of our business community, and it is vital that we supported them. Our campaign showcased the positive impact that we can all have by thinking locally, and how we can all help to support strong and vibrant high streets.”

Councillor Ryan Fuller, Executive Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, speaking in The Hunts Post – 21 October 2020

The Keystone impact

  • Two distinct, compelling and successful online and offline campaigns that we designed to create maximum community engagement
  • Clear brand and message for each campaign along with portable graphics that simply encapsulated each key theme and resonated with all stakeholders
  • Cohesive strategy for engaging with local residents, stakeholders and business owners collectively
  • Nurtured a new, proactive relationship between the Council and its stakeholders as well as the local media
  • Audited existing communication channels to recommend new approaches within each campaign itself and for the future

Keystone was the obvious partner of choice with their vast expertise of community engagement impact in the local area and their ability to hit the ground running utilising existing networks. Their specific expertise helped support the Council in delivering support during very challenging times for our communities – promoting our towns and businesses and the difference that can be made locally to support them.

Responsiveness was key. Keystone had a clear vision for both campaigns, brought an ability to execute messages and materials quickly, and introduced new ways of working with local media and stakeholders. Not only have we supported local businesses and reassured residents, we have new and better ways to engage with all our audiences into the future, as a direct result of Keystone’s work.

Neil Sloper, Head of Operations, Huntingdonshire District Council

Keystone can help you build an elevated sense of community with your audiences. We develop communications excellence that truly engages, builds loyalty and strengthens connections.