Northumberland is one of the most beautiful corners of Britain. But it suffers from being far away from population centres and a lack of exposure. Go there and you'll fall in love with the place. So, bright people who look after the promotion of tourism have got active during a TV show that showcases it.
by Ross Wigham
It’s not often that I’m nervously tuned into ITV right before Coronation Street, furtively waiting for a middle aged TV star and former hit-maker to wax lyrical about my patch.
I say not often, when of course I mean never. In fact, last Monday is probably the first time I ever pressed the ‘3’ button on my TV.
But working in local government comms has taken me to some strange places in recent years.
The role and in a way the whole Raison d'être for council comms is shifting in so many different ways. The focus on money (of the lack of it) is, of course, having a massive impact on the work of every authority but the focus on local economies, partnership working and what we would previously have called ‘place-shaping’ is also changing the nature of our jobs.
If you’d told me even 3 years ago that I would be involved in selling weddings, developing festivals or promoting TV shows I don’t think I would have believed it (you can see links at the bottom).
Changing our priorities and looking differently at what we do has been a pivotal, not just because of the reduction in funding but also because of the need to focus on communications with a real, tangible impact.
In the past two years both the county’s biggest employers have closed down and without a city in our patch we’ve had to think a bit more laterally about the ways of bringing money into Northumberland.
Tourism is worth about £650m to our local economy, supporting more than 13,000 jobs so it’s vital that we keep attracting more tourists and as council we have a big part to play in that.
That’s where TV comes in. We’d sampled a bit of this before when the ITV drama Vera came to town, so we were delighted (and more prepared) when approached about a travel show: Tales of Northumberland with Robson Green.
As a Council we were able to work closely with the production company and our partners to assist with the filming, suggest locations and ensure we could provide everything needed.
Our social media channels, which we’ve done so much to build up in the last few years, proved vital on the night. In the old days the natural reaction would probably have been to throw loads of money at advertising but sadly that’s no longer a reality so we focused on working with all the attractions and Northumberland Tourism to really promote the positive impact of the programme.
As well as doing all the usual stuff we also set up a Thunderclap – a system where people can support the cause and do a simultaneous tweet at 8pm just before the first show started.
Only time will tell how much this helps businesses and increases the number of visitors to Northumberland – I suppose we’ll find out next holiday season – but after the first show:
- Positive sentiment (basically people saying nice things about us) on social media was running at 93%.
- Our Thunderclap was joined by 132 people and reached 199,177 people.
- Our social accounts, which we used heavily to promote the show, had more than half a millionimpressions during two days.
- There were 1,500 tweets on the Northumberland hashtag during the show.
- We reached more than 710,000 twitter accounts with more than 2.4 million people exposed to the key messages about our county.
Tune in on Monday November 4 at 8pm (ITV1)
Tales from Northumberland via ITV: http://www.itv.com/presscentre/press-releases/tales-northumberland-robson-green-video#.Um-w-HBSiBI
Our weddings campaign: http://adaywithoutoj.com/2012/08/25/the-business-of-weddings-2/
Vera comes to Northumberland : http://adaywithoutoj.com/2012/04/26/screen-time-welcoming-vera-2-2/
Ross Wigham is service manager: communications at Northumberland County Council.
Pic: Northumberland County Council