Breathing life into a project through inclusive bi-lingual communications

Challenge

Cardiff Hendre Lakes is a proposed new business district at the heart of the Cardiff Capital Region. Served by Cardiff Parkway railway station, the development has the potential to support around 6,000 jobs and become a transport hub opening up access to employment opportunities across the region. Alongside leading communications, engagement and consultation for the project to support it through planning, we were asked to create a brand that captures a strong sense of place and bring the whole project to life.

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Insight

The project’s goal is to become a catalyst for growth, contributing to the regeneration of East Cardiff and the wider Cardiff Capital Region by attracting high-quality businesses and investment. The development, which is located to the south of St Mellons Business Park, aims to deliver jobs and investment to the local area while helping people to connect with a unique landscape. All communications needed to be available in Welsh and English.

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Strategy

As the site is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the historically significant Gwent Levels, it was vital to address stakeholder concerns. Our aim was to build a relationship with the local community before the official consultation period to explain the project’s potential benefits and incorporate local knowledge and feedback. This would lay strong foundations for the subsequent pre-application consultation. The design and branding of communications needed to be welcoming and reassuring, as well as flexible enough to work in a bilingual context.

Amplify

We ran a series of branding discovery workshops with stakeholders to create a brand and logo in a colour palette of tonal blues and greens inspired by the natural landscape. To ensure accessibility and inclusion, we chose a simple sans serif font that would work well for Welsh and English printed materials such as a series of booklets, newsletters and feedback forms to support the consultation process. A multi-language website allowed people to access this information in a digital format. Exhibition banners, posters and signage all supported face-to-face consultation events.

Outcome

In the first phase of engagement, more than 190 people provided feedback. In the second phase, more than 400 people filled in the online feedback form. Members of the public complimented the accessibility of materials during events surrounding the consultation.

The project has also now achieved the Governance for Railway Investment Projects 3 (GRIP 3) certificate from Network Rail, a process that ensures projects go through rigorous quality control.

Challenge

The West Midlands Interchange (WMI) is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) located at Four Ashes in South Staffordshire. The new Strategic Rail Freight Interchange will sit adjacent to the West Coast Mainline and span 300 hectares. Copper was tasked with delivering consultation and engagement services to support the Development Consent Order (DCO). 

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Insight

In 2004 it was established that a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange in the area was essential to address the shortage of logistics capacity in the West Midlands. However, with the development planned on Green Belt land, there were significant concerns about its impact on wildlife, the landscape and daily lives. As a result, it faced fierce opposition. Misinformation around the scheme compounded the problem.

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Strategy

Our strategy was to develop a national and regional advocacy programme and proactive media campaign to manage misinformation and build understanding around the need and benefits of the project to minimise risk of objection. The approach centred on telling the story of WMI in ways that related to local residents and stakeholders, bringing its benefits to life for the area.

Amplify

By creating a business story emphasising the need and benefits of new rail freight capacity in the West Midlands, we helped the public and stakeholders understand the major economic benefit to the area. The scheme is set to create more than 8,500 jobs and attract significant industry as well as reduce traffic across the region’s roads and introduce new parkland in the vicinity, all of which was little understood.

We also established and delivered a contact centre to ensure the public felt heard and could get answers to their questions quickly. Not only did it manage concerns that otherwise might have escalated into issues, but it also helped strengthen the project’s reputation and pave the way for acceptance.

Re-enforcing the positive impact across the region also supported the project funder’s reputation, positioning it as playing a key role in levelling up in the UK by investing in infrastructure in the Midlands.

Outcome

By developing and delivering a transparent two-stage consultation process, including compliant statutory consultation, we helped ensure WMI was accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate. Local authorities complimented the consultation delivery, and the consultation report was well appraised during the examination period.

WMI was granted development consent in May 2020.

Challenge

The West of England’s mass transit project aims to transform the way people move around the region, dramatically improving congestion and air quality while reducing carbon emissions.

It represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionise travel in the region by providing a high-capacity public transport network with fast, frequent and reliable services that will be developed and delivered over several years.

Copper was brought on board to support WECA with early stakeholder engagement to better understand the needs of local people, providing evidence of a strong Strategic Outline Business Case.

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Insight

A history of false starts for major infrastructure in the region meant some stakeholders were sceptical about the likely success of new projects, creating immediate mistrust of this project. This was compounded by the project being in extremely early stages, with the concept of mass transit ill-defined. The principle of the offer felt intangible to stakeholders, risking the project appearing opaque and in turn, alienating audiences.

There was an added layer of complexity with the project spanning several constituency councils all with distinctive demographics, geography, and politics. Especially since the region needed to ‘speak with one voice’ in its support for the project given the competitive nature of central government funding. The diverse range of needs, priorities and views among internal stakeholders made this work critical and challenging.

To add further challenge, Covid-19 restrictions ruled out face-to-face events meaning all engagement activity had to take place online, with the risk that some community stakeholders might be excluded.

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Strategy

Our approach hinged around early, transparent engagement on the objectives of the mass transport project to establish its purpose and solidify the concept in the minds of stakeholders. In doing so, we aimed to build understanding and engender trust around the project’s success.

Amplify

We began engaging stakeholder groups early while scheme options were still in development to understand their priorities for a mass transit system.

With plans in place, the first stage saw us run a series of internal workshops with partner unitary authorities to explore the vision and values of mass transit. From those workshops, we crafted a clear, compelling narrative that all partner organisations could sign up to and use in their communications, enabling us to establish a single voice and alignment around views.

To galvanise views across the community, we supported live briefings and three webinars with a wide range of stakeholders from MPs to grass-root community groups. In addition, we were careful to select interactive engagement tools to bring new voices into the conversation and enable input and feedback representative of the locality.

Outcome

By consulting early, we laid strong foundations for future engagement based on mutual trust and respect. Starting a dialogue with stakeholders warmed them up for consultation. It helped us secure meaningful, representative, qualitative and quantitative feedback that reflected the needs of communities and stakeholders and influenced the development of a Strategic Outline Business Case. As a result, we turned support into advocacy, bringing meaning and credibility to our communications outputs in the next stage.

Challenge

Viking Link is a planned 1400-MW interconnector between the UK and Denmark. It comprises over 760km of underground subsea cables between converter stations at Bicker Fen in the UK and Revsing in Denmark. The onshore cables run 68km from the Lincolnshire coast to the inland converter station.

Alongside National Grid and a multidisciplinary project team, Copper was brought on board to lead the communications and consultation activity across three consultation phases for this sensitive project.

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Insight

This project was not only politically sensitive but also politically charged, spanning multiple local authorities and Westminster constituency boundaries. As a result, communications would need meticulous handling to avoid additional conflict and secure political acceptance if not buy-in.

Linked to this was public opposition to EU-backed projects resulting from the timing of the pre-application phase, which coincided with the Brexit referendum, and a high proportion of Leave voters in Lincolnshire.

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Strategy

Given the project sensitivities, it called for an engagement and community-led approach. Central to this was developing a compelling need and benefits narrative to help stakeholders and the public understand what the project means for their community.

The geographical spread of the development also required a wide-reaching consultation strategy to ensure all corners of the communities along the route could share their views. Alongside this, we focussed on bringing political stakeholders into the conversation through a robust political engagement strategy.

Such a large, linear utility project spanning five local authority areas necessitated a collaborative project team approach to consultation and engagement.

Amplify

Alongside crafting an audience-focused narrative to bring the project to life in a meaningful way for local people, we created a straightforward narrative to articulate the complex route and siting process ahead of the route options consultation. Together they built project understanding and emphasised its positive contribution to the local community in a way that was accessible to a broad audience.

With equal emphasis on engaging political stakeholders, in conjunction with the project team and National Grid, we developed and delivered a political engagement campaign that kept MPs and councillors fully briefed on the project, focusing on the scheme’s advantages for the local area.

We also delivered a communications and stakeholder ‘drumbeat’ outside of key consultation milestones, which was vital to maintaining momentum and building acceptance and advocacy for the project. This included regular and varied political briefings spanning site visits and presentations at full council meetings and hosting our own events.

Outcome

The multi-pronged, collaborative approach resulted in high levels of participation from residents, landowners, parish councils, elected members and community and stakeholder groups. More than 1000 local residents and stakeholders participated in the consultation, providing 600 pieces of meaningful feedback to help shape and guide the project.

Viking Link is currently under construction and expected to be operational in 2023.

Challenge

The Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farm is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) which, along with its sister project – Norfolk Vanguard – will have an installed capacity of 3.6GW, representing 10% of UK household demand.

The 725km2 wind farm site is located 72km off the North Norfolk coast and will consist of between 90 and 180 wind turbines with rated capacities of between 10MW and 20MW.

Copper was brought in to deliver compliant consultation and stakeholder engagement, fast.

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Insight

Projects of this size and scale bring a level of interest and concern amongst local residents and businesses. However, Vattenfall’s flagship UK projects faced increased scrutiny. Developments of this kind are becoming ubiquitous along the whole Norfolk coast, and Vattenfall’s projects are just two of several proposals. As a result, there was vocal opposition to associated onshore, above-ground infrastructure. With the potential to adversely impact communities along the cable route too, a compelling narrative and engaging consultation were imperative.

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Strategy

Given the level of scepticism and misgivings about such infrastructure, our priority was to build trust and earn respect from stakeholders and local communities.

Amplify

With a requirement to deliver ‘gold standard’ consultation at pace, the first step was to understand the key audiences – who they were, their likely perceptions and potential concerns, to be as targeted and proactive as possible. Using stakeholder mapping, we identified and gathered insight into key stakeholders, community groups and general public audiences. Armed with intelligent data, we delivered audience-focused workshops and events and held meetings to discover and address concerns, proactively resolving issues.

Throughout the consultation period, we delivered 31 community consultation events and workshops and organised more than 200 meetings with the local parish councils, groups and representatives. In addition, we supported seven events people and proactively engaged with 100% of landowners along the cable corridor.

Our creative team supported the audience-centric, proactive approach with a full suite of statutory consultation material in an easy-to-understand format. The materials were designed to articulate the project, its benefits and encourage input from stakeholders and the community. Assets included a consultation summary booklet, information banners, response form and bespoke information leaflets.

Outcome

We secured a high volume of meaningful feedback during the consultation, which formed the basis for a comprehensive consultation report, and the project received consent in December 2021.

Challenge

Transport East is the sub-national transport body for the East of England. The partnership was developing its first transport strategy, and Copper was appointed to support early stakeholder engagement. Our role was to ensure the Transport East team effectively engaged with stakeholders and the public to create a strategy representative of the needs and ambitions of communities in the region.

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Insight

A sub-national transport body in the area had been mooted for many years, yet it had never materialised. As a result, aligning political and wider stakeholders with opposing views on infrastructure investment and decarbonisation had the potential to be challenging.

In addition, while adult residents were an important target group, the Transport Strategy spans 30 years meaning young people in the area will feel its impact most. Their needs and views were vital to the project’s success.

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Strategy

Our approach was to create multiple accessible opportunities for engagement for every stakeholder group. However, COVID-19 restrictions necessitated a purely digital engagement strategy. To meet the different communication needs of each audience and ensure input from groups representative of the area, we adapted traditional engagement techniques to the digital environment.

Amplify

Digital accessibility was a priority. By selecting user-friendly, interactive engagement tools, we brought new voices into the conversation, even those hard to reach.

We also ran a series of online workshops designed to allow as many people as possible to help shape the strategy to meet the needs of the masses, facilitating online meetings with 100+ stakeholders.

With an equal focus on securing input from future users of the region’s transport network, we designed and delivered a targeted campaign for young people aged 11-13 in preparation for future engagement during consultation.

Ensuring the Transport East partnership stayed updated and supportive of plans, we delivered briefings with partner authorities, the Transport East Senior Officer Group and Transport East’s annual Transport Summit.

Outcome

Utilising our knowledge of the region and large-scale projects, the Transport East team secured meaningful, representative, qualitative and quantitative feedback to influence the transport strategy and set the foundations for successful consultation.

We helped introduce Transport East to a wider group stakeholders in the region, providing a platform for its campaign in front of key figures in the industry and building brand reputation.

We laid strong foundations, setting the standard for future stakeholder engagement in the region, while earning public trust that the Transport Strategy will come to fruition.

Challenge

The London Resort is a proposed world-class, sustainable, next-generation entertainment resort on the banks of the River Thames. As the first of its kind, the project called for best practice, innovative consultation and engagement. Copper was brought on board to deliver a comprehensive communications campaign capable of building support for this unique project, while delivering compliant consultation to support the planning process.

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Insight

There was a commitment to investors to submit the project planning application by the end of 2020, which necessitated consultation and engagement activities being delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic at a time where traditional consultation techniques were not possible. We therefore needed to innovate to ensure a compliant consultation and generate advocacy for the project. However, digital-only statutory consultation was unchartered territory.

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Strategy

We adopted a digital-first approach, primarily driven by disruption caused by the pandemic yet with benefits beyond overcoming national COVID-19 restrictions. It was the first time a digital-only approach was applied in a UK Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) and required a highly specialised programme.

Central to the approach was making the consultation user-focused to reach a diverse audience, including those who prefer to access information digitally and those who would normally have chosen to attend public events and in-person meetings. The campaign was designed to ensure it was an inclusive, engaging experience for stakeholders using innovative tools and techniques.

Amplify

We maximised the use of state-of-the-art tools and online platforms, including a project website, social media channels, dedicated consultation webinars and a virtual consultation room.

The virtual consultation room was made interactive. Using digital banners, visitors were able to look around the room from a computer or mobile device, with the project proposals explained in a way that was easy to understand. The proposals were also made available in audio format.

To avoid the risk of digital exclusion we supplemented digital innovation with traditional consultation methods, including:

  • community information leaflets delivered to households in nearby areas
  • telephone surgeries for representatives from seldom heard groups
  • hard copies of consultation materials produced ensuring all stakeholders’ needs could be met

We also utilised press, paid-for print and digital advertising, plus partnership promotion to extend the campaign’s reach as far as possible.

Outcome

Our digital-first approach delivered a legally compliant consultation that successfully supported the planning process. As a result, it was accepted for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate. The strategy also enabled the client to meet the investor commitment to submit plans in 2020.

By incorporating a user-focused approach, we maximised the effectiveness of the publicity and advocacy campaign which was integral to the project’s successful Development Consent Order (DCO) application, making London Resort the first business or commercial project to reach such a milestone.

Delivering state-of-the-art digital consultation enabled us to widen the reach of the consultation. Combined with the unique nature of the theme park, the digital strategy created a dedicated following for the project, with 65% of people agreeing it will benefit the local area. Support was sufficiently strong we were able to utilise the advocacy to leverage our efforts towards gaining DCO acceptance.

Challenge

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is part of the Government’s strategy to keep the lights on in the UK. National Grid is building a high-voltage grid connection for the project, between Bridgwater and Seabank near Avonmouth. In 2009, we were tasked to develop and deliver a consultation strategy to support the Development Consent Order application. We have been retained ever since, taking this major project from planning through to construction. The project is in construction, and we continue to support National Grid and its contractors. Our team also works to protect and enhance National Grid’s reputation to leave a positive legacy for the project.

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Insight

Hinkley Point C is a nationally significant infrastructure project and a major investment in the region’s electricity network. However there was significant local opposition to the proposals throughout the planning and development stages. This posed a risk to the project if it were to continue into the construction stage. We needed to switch the communications approach from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’ and reposition the narrative to concentrate on the project’s benefits.

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Strategy

We worked closely with National Grid’s team to identify and promote positive stories about the project. We used this as the foundation to develop and implement a sustainable programme of project communications to meet the formal requirements of the Development Consent Order.

To minimise the risks of project delays, opposition and criticism we provide clear and timely information to stakeholders about the work in their area too, and quickly respond to any concerns. We devised procedures to inform and update local communities and other stakeholders about construction work and the steps National Grid and its contractors take to reduce local impact. We also put processes in place to monitor the mood of local communities, allowing us to identify and respond rapidly to any emerging issues.

Amplify

Since construction started, we have communicated with more than 10,000 households. We also maintain and regular update a project website, making it the ‘go to’ place for stakeholders to learn the latest information. We have established positive relationships with local community groups and parish councils and use these links to help spread information as widely as possible. Should there be any concerns amongst the public, a responsive 24-hour contact centre service enables the local community to get a swift response.

Outcome

Despite the highly disruptive nature of the work, there is widespread public acceptance of the project. A minimal number of complaints have been received and no issues have been escalated by local residents or community stakeholders to the media or their elected members. These successes have given National Grid the confidence to reposition the project narrative going forward. In the future, communications and engagement will place an even greater emphasis on the positive impact and benefits National Grid will bring to the area over the next five years and beyond.

Overview

HyNet North West is an innovative carbon capture and hydrogen project to unlock a low carbon economy for the North West and North Wales. It will put the region at the forefront of the UK’s drive to net zero. By creating the UK’s first low-carbon hydrogen cluster, the project seeks to provide clean hydrogen energy for the future, de-carbonise the region’s heavy industry, protect existing jobs and create thousands of new ones.  

As the project moved towards a more public-facing stage, we were engaged to evolve the HyNet North West brand and tasked to create a communications campaign to support the launch of the public consultation for the first stage of the project.

Activity

Website
We developed the UI designs and redeveloped the HyNet webite, simplifying the navigation and streamlining information. We created a series of graphics and assets that could be utilised across multiple channels, as well as on the website.

Consultation hub
Sitting alongside the website, we developed a consultation microsite to support the first consultation on the HyNet North West project. The look and feel reflected the overarching HyNet brand.

Social
We develop social graphics to support HyNet’s key messages, encourage engagement and explain complex concepts to stakeholders and the public We develop social graphics to support HyNet’s key messages, encourage engagement and explain complex concepts to stakeholders and the public.

Animation
HyNet North West is made up of several different projects, the first of which is a carbon capture pipeline. We designed and delivered an animation to help explain key elements of the project in an accessible way, enabling people to easily respond to the project’s public consultation.

Outcome

The public responded very favourably to the campaign. There were more than 8,000 visits to the consultation hub website during the non-statutory consultation period, driven by promotional materials and social media.

We saw a marked increase in social media engagement across multiple channels, with Twitter seeing a 279% increase in impressions, LinkedIn experiencing a 303% increase in new followers and HyNet North West’s Facebook account having more than an 8,433% increase in engagement.

The campaign built a positive platform for future stages of consultation and engagement needed for HyNet North West to succeed.