Sunderland Football Club wanted to demonstrate full engagement and support to underpin their financial and planning situation.

The move away from their existing site had become controversial, but to secure their future the Club needed available funding and land to draw down for development. They importantly they needed political support and they needed to demonstrate support.

Its slightly intimidating to ask your customer base if they want to put their Club into debt for a new stadium, at a time when results are particularly poor on the pitch
Thus when we were instructed by Sunderland FC to engage with all their fans including hostile lobbying groups we suspected that it would test the established principles of EUX

Sunderland wanted to move from Roker Park their home for 99 years to a new all seat purpose built stadium.

The old stadium was deemed unsafe and as a consequence capacity was being reduced each year. At one time Roker held 75,000, but that had dwindled to 22,000 – many supporters felt it mirrored the Clubs decline. A new stadium would halt this –but not everybody agreed.

We used our established principles of engagement UX EUX to break down the components and manage the problems out. Sunderland’s data was primitive and we had to deal with this situation.

We used the club membership, gold card membership, ticketing data and basic location and profile information We also identified all the hotspots which would cause us problems, and who might involve themselves in this space. This strategy demand you engage completely and is over whelming if you don’t do it regularly.

We agreed with the Board that the visibility of Engagement would be their greatest Public Relations asset and we should have direction over this. We didn’t want the work-stream to be channelled into fans forum platforms and other lower shelf items.

The £24million stadium of Light is the 8th largest stadium in the UK with a capacity just shot of 50,000. Since opening it has always had the ability to be increased to 63,000. The Light Franchise has expanded around Sunderland encompassing training, charitable and commercial development.

To find out how we managed this process contact Gary Cartmell Director of Engagement and outreach.

The relationship between Europe’s largest Designer Outlet and their local authority was becoming strained, due to traffic congestion affecting local roads and a motorway.

Difficult questions over retail impact on local major centres, and targeted by certain stakeholders as a possible reason why the councils own £200 million regeneration plans were being held up. There seemed little chance that a major expansion would be possible

Furthermore Outlet management had been openly criticised for lack of car park management, and traffic issues around the site led Cheshire Constabulary to write to the site to put on record an objection to any further expansion on site.

It couldn’t get much worse – but it did on one of the gridlock days the Cheshire West Council head of Highways was actually stuck in the car park for 3 hours. One of the senior politicians then said no way are we discussing any further growth at Cheshire Oaks.

We were instructed by McArthur Glen to try and assist using EUX principles led by Director of Engagement and outreach Gary Cartmell, Claire Schofield and their outreach team spent 6 months working with all the channels, so important to EUX

The result was unanimous agreement by the Council to support our plans even with the impact on NG

The Committee said, “ I wish other applicants were here to listen to this and the way in which MAG has gone beyond engagement “

If you have similar challenges email Gary Cartmell at gary.c@preciseadvice.co.uk

Whether you like it or not you cant increase your sales without engagement. Just think about it – engagement is the essence that retains interest that grows into loyalty.

Remember if you do the same things expect the same answers.

We love engagement and have been working in engagement for 20 years. Over that time we have developed the principles of developed engagement EUX which has helped our clients get consistent positive results.

That is why we love to help brands, companies, projects and even individuals engage.

As customers we want to believe that the brand, company or organisation, which is intervening in our lives is fully engaged and understands our aspirations, our feelings, our purpose.

As a stakeholder, we want engagement to reassure us that a company is fully immersed in our problems, our challenges and our vision.

As a local business you want to be engaged with your local community, to be consistently on their minds, for all the right reasons.

Engagement is not about repetitive posting on social media or multiple emails landing on someone’s desk. If misaligned these interventions actually work in the opposite way to the desired effect.

Every social media manager who sends out legions of posts and comments needs to remember this.

We all know a company who comments about everything and anything and we feel cool about them, again we remember the organisation who communicates something so perfectly we sit up and take note and want to share their values, their choices and their goals.

It generally accepted it takes seven or eight touch points to make a sale or potentially change a view. Not seventy-eight touch points. More does not make better – it is the quality of what you communicate that matters.

When we review marketing strategies for our clients. It is the proliferation of marketing in digital media, which is turning people off in their droves. By churning out more – your situation is being weakened, not strengthened.

You have to engage through 8 touch points and this funnel or channel, what ever you wish to call it, needs to be shaped by intelligence, deep insights and differentiation.

You have to take people in eight touches from No to Yes, and remember there is a maybe in between.

If you want to know more give Gary Cartmell our Director of Engagement and outreach a call

We work with people who are passionate about making towns and cities better places to live and work.

Making a real difference is crucial to us – not just creating another report to underline the problems, or producing a “we love your love town”, marketing campaign. We are most definitely change agents, but in order to create change you must generate support, goodwill, and involvement. …But definitely not obstruction or objection.

This is where EUX has proved so powerful –no one wants advisers who parachute in and make generalised recommendations, and then leave.

It’s about passion, backed up by knowledge and supported by hard earned experience

If one of the goals is making communities wealthier, happier and more resilient then it’s crucial not to make assumptions and generalisations in an effort to shortcut the process.

Before any strategy is developed it needs concentrated focus and data rich insights as well as meaningful feedback –the kind EUX gives us.

It is dangerous to look at issues such as differentiation, identity and opportunity without solid understanding and true pressure checking with stakeholders and communities.

From these insights we can develop a number of real life changes that don’t occur in theory but change the way assets are used in reality which in turn leads to real financial and sociological benefits.

So much in terms of Place has now been made politically and financially competitive. Future investment policies will mean locations around the UK will be winners and ultimately some could be losers, if they don’t take steps now to affect change.

A history of poorly considered schemes, lack of joined up thinking, no consensus, a newly imposed UNESCO WHS inscription and sky rocketing costs.

ING had stepped in to prevent further losses at Hayle Harbour in Cornwall and to try and salvage some kind of development value.

The situation had been further complicated by a world heritage inscription that effectively sterilised any chance of larger development.

Worse still emerging reports prompted three competing food store plans, which would have diverted any future development away from ING site and effectively ended the chance of regeneration.

The only way forward was to somehow get agreement from politicians, stakeholders, commercial interests, consultees and communities that the ING scheme was the only scheme.

We were not helped that management of the harbour was historically very weak. The site had been basically being stripped of assets. In short the harbour had become a liability, which ING wanted rid of, but they needed some form of return at disposal, but the sale would be extremely restricted. Action needed to be taken to stop losses, reduce costs and rebuild exceptional value

By breaking down all the elements of what was required to achieve support into smaller parts -what we call engagement ux [EUX] we developed working channels in each specific area and then set about working closely with each channel. At one stage 15 channels were in operation. Then by carefully working through issues offline we were able to start to create a route map to how to achieve consensus.

Once the route map was developed we could then look to achieve support in each area and reduce the impact of negative voices by managing solutions which the groups felt would progress matters and be beneficial for the town.

The final and most important stage was to cement the support generated into a cohesive enough rebuttal to counterpoint Historic England, ICOMOS and UNESCO who were opposed to the plans. Cornwall had to believe in the plan but so to did Government Ministers

This relied on the work we had undertaken being robust enough to win over senior politicians and officials in Westminster.

UNESCO clearly felt they had not been heard and subsequently issued some dire threats to ourselves and Cornwall. A lot of changes in WHS management were made at Cornwall as a result of this case study and we adopted new approaches ourselves. But the EUX principles of transparency, visibility and involvement are still at the core of what we do.

Radically different designs, potential policy issues, traffic congestion, car parking problems and impact on local residents- one objection would have resulted in the timeline being missed.

 

Having a commercially minded team is crucial when you have limited time. McArthur Glen the Designer Outlet Operators were really clear in their brief.

Bearing in mind the potential problems – it could be viewed as outside policy, breaking the design code for the site, losing car parking spaces and impacting on traffic congestion, as well as upsetting all the nearby residential neighbours as staff car parking had to be created in front of their houses, with security lighting.

All this and the timetable unfortunately ran through July and August. The further complication was that the Local Planning Authority has a policy that if one single complaint was received it would be taken to Planning Committee and furthermore at any stage a councillor can ask for it to be referred to committee.

We used our established principles of engagement UX EUX to break down the components and manage the problems out. MAG had little available data but we knew that employees did live in the nearby residential areas. We also identified all the hotspots which would cause us problems and who might involve themselves in this space. This strategy demands you engage completely and is overwhelming if you don’t do it regularly. It’s very different to Community engagement activities and should not be confused with this area

The Polo Ralph Lauren new style store passed planning in the time frame that McArthur Glen wanted and was trading the following year.

A once considered toxic asset to a valuable development – a Cornish Tale

A history of poorly considered schemes, lack of joined up thinking, no consensus, a newly imposed UNESCO WHS inscription and sky rocketing costs.

ING had stepped in to prevent further losses at Hayle Harbour in Cornwall and to try and salvage some kind of development value.

The situation had been further complicated by a world heritage inscription that effectively sterilized any chance of larger development.

Worse still emerging reports prompted three competing food store plans, which would have diverted any future development away from ING site and effectively ended the chance of regeneration.

The only way forward was to somehow get agreement from politicians, stakeholders, commercial interests, consultees and communities that the ING scheme was the only scheme.

We were not helped that management of the harbour was historically very weak. The site had been basically being stripped of assets. In short the harbour had become a liability, which ING wanted rid of, but they needed some form of return at disposal, but the sale would be extremely restricted. Action needed to be taken to stop losses, reduce costs and rebuild exceptional value

By breaking down all the elements of what was required to achieve support into smaller parts -what we call engagement ux [EUX] we developed working channels in each specific area and then set about working closely with each channel. At one stage 15 channels were in operation. Then by carefully working through issues offline we were able to start to create a route map to how to achieve consensus.

Once the route map was developed we could then look to achieve support in each area and reduce the impact of negative voices by managing solutions which the groups felt would progress matters and be beneficial for the town.

The final and most important stage was to cement the support generated into a cohesive enough rebuttal to counterpoint Historic England, ICOMOS and UNESCO who were opposed to the plans. Cornwall had to believe in the plan but so to did Government Ministers

This relied on the work we had undertaken being robust enough to win over senior politicians and officials in Westminster.

UNESCO clearly felt they had not been heard and subsequently issued some dire threats to ourselves and Cornwall. A lot of changes in WHS management were made at Cornwall as a result of this case study and we adopted new approaches ourselves. But the EUX principles of transparency, visibility and involvement are still at the core of what we do

Few would doubt the important role the media play in shaping the debate around planning applications and significant infrastructure projects.

However this year’s biggest news story – Fake News and the debate over news content, has shone a spotlight on the way news can be constructed rather than reported.

It’s long been believed by certain sectors of the media that readers will only engage fully, if the stories are interesting enough.

In days gone by it was the job of the news editor to spike the story, if it was deemed to be too dull to be included in that morning’s edition, not to be shaped into something more interesting

With the arrival of social media even the most dull and dreary story can be spun to create something newsworthy and momentous. For example a wet Monday polling in a by-election in Barnsley, suddenly became tremendously more newsworthy with a scuffle outside the polling station – except it just didn’t happen.

thThis is the difference between spin and fake. Social media sees no harm in spin and continuously wants to create more extreme news.

These social media ”news stories” have always been seen as something to be very carefully considered before sharing.

The phenomenon of fake news goes beyond social media, and suggests that journalists are embellishing or creating facts to deliver more impactful new stories.

Public relations practitioners have always referred to the concept of context i.e. if 20 people are positive, and one person is negative, the hope has been that the journalist would report that the overall tone of the meeting was positive, with the exception of one individual.

As many of us know, unfortunately this has not been the case in previous years many times the twenty positive voices are lost and the one negative voice is splashed across the news pages.

There has long been an uneasy relationship with factual accuracy in certain sectors of the media. Anyone who has ever tried to extract an apology or retraction from the media knows how difficult it is to achieve.

In property and planning circles the issue is most noticeable when it backed up with little knowledge of the planning system.

It’s also worth mentioning just how difficult it has been to change or alter facts once they’ve appeared in the press.

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The fallback is lawyers and this is rarely an uplifting experience. Hence we constantly try and persuade clients not to use litigators in planning matters relating to the media with groups or individuals. It rarely produces a satisfactory outcome.

You can’t expect journalists to have an in-depth knowledge of Planning law and planning guidance at a local level, and therefore the key ingredient is communication.

Someone has to spend time to brief the journalist before they trip themselves up. We have adopted this role many hundreds of times and to date it has always worked.

One question we always get asked is how often you should update the content on your website, social media etc. It’s a very valid question and goes beyond the obvious answer, which is how contemporary and fresh do you want your digital output to appear?

As most people know Google and other search engines do not like website which do not refresh their content regularly. The way they manage this is to assume the website is dormant and ignore it – so you wont find it on page 1 of a search index, actually you may not find it at all.

Google want fast loading, constantly refreshed content and before you think that’s easy: just cut and paste everything you can into your site – their algorithms check to see if you are plagiarising stopping you cutting and pasting as you had hoped you could.

Annoying but true – Google want fresh content, written without silly Meta tags and they want it updated regularly.

Well how regularly, the answer to this is as often as possible, but we would always advise changing content in say a blog or a Magazine format on a monthly basis.

If you think of it as a news magazine, as we do we change fortnightly – and the good news is that you can populate social media with your new content. This not only increases sharing, but also starts to help with your authority and popularity, which again is music to Googles ears, and should boost your search ranking.

So it’s all good news except it takes time – and that where enhanced content management comes in and the creation of a content framework that delivers what you need.

The framework should also include images, obviously new images are better, as not only can Google tell if you are plagiarizing your copy, but it can also tell how often your images are being used. Yes Big Brother is here, but it’s easier to go along than kick up a fuss. Your social media channels will love the new images and fresh content.

But the warning on the bottom of the page is don’t get persuaded by any so called experts, to take chances and try some techniques which Google frown upon such as trying false links – these are Google no –no s and will get you blacklisted, as being a black hat SEO troublemaker, which sends you to the back of the class and straight to naughty step. There is no need to take chances the key is great content and a fast changing shop front for your digital shop window.

Being a good neighbour can be a profitable pastime. It might not be obvious but if you are promoting development plans having minor disputes with your local community possibly isn’t the best way to reduce objections going forward.

At Precise Advise we have spent two decades intervening in disputes, and arguments over issues that don’t necessarily relate to the core development proposals. http://www.weareprecise.com/engagement/

It’s amazing how many times we have been instructed to promote a new scheme coming forward, only to find out that there are a number of vexatious issues that need resolving as quickly as possible.

The trouble is that when you’ve unveiled development plans and you find yourself retrospectively trying to find solutions for other problems it can be a costly time consuming exercise.

One example of this was the work we undertook on a distribution centre in Yorkshire, which impacted on the local householders Victorian manor house. By the time we were instructed the householder had an anti website, a local action group and was trying to ransom the developer in any way he could.

We had to literally unpick all the mythology that had been created around the Manor house and surrounding lands, and relocate a nature reserve, and unfortunately explain that many of the ideas put forward were more about stopping development than creating real community gain.

The downside that this style of engagement is that it takes more time than initially expected, you have to build relationships in a short period of time, build trust and deliver on what you promise.

Many times we have seen our fellow professionals, planning consultants and architects enter a room to make a presentation at a public meeting, only to fall flat, because the professional team has no empathy or relationship with that community.

We’ve been asked many times how long it takes to try and understand the workings of the community, and it’s a difficult question to answer. But it is not a couple of weeks just prior to submission, whilst the pre-application agreement is running, it takes longer than that.

But in terms of return on investment for the limited amount of budget required the return can be significant.

Probably one of the most exciting developments in marketing is Growth Hacking. A phrase that prompts peoples interest straight away. How on earth do you hack growth?

OK you wont be arrested for growth hacking by the CIA, but you might generate some impressive growth and profit.

It feels a bit like a members club for the seriously ambitious, but its not -there is no entry fee, but if you run a SME or even a larger organisation the only requirement is a lot of energy, ambition and shoulders wide enough to accept not everything is going to work.

If you are not willing to invest the time into the project, you might want to have a consultant to act as a guide. We have helped a number of companies and individuals commence growth hacking.

Don’t be confused the phrase growth hacking itself has been around since 2010 and there is the usual argument over who came up with the phrase in the first place.

Actually it’s not really rocket science, and if you have played around with viral marketing and disruptive campaigns pre the digital explosion you probably know the basics and how to leverage the marketing budget already.

The media have loved what has been achieved by SMEs and entrepreneurs, doing amazing things on a small budget. It’s been the talk of social media for over a year.

In the land of reality we are all probably not living in a Silicon Valley world of espresso machines and soft furnishings and growth hacking when distilled into a real world existence needs ownership either by a dedicated member of staff or an engagement consultant

The basis of Growth hacking is engagement and the interplay between the real world and the digital world, a sort of twilight zone of believe and make believe

So think of it in this way and this is where I have to pay respect to Sean Ellis the father of Growth Hacking. As Sean came up with the disruptive mantra “Act now apologise later”

It doesn’t mean upset people; it means make things happen by being innovative, creative and maybe a little unusual.

The key is the ability to try and sometimes fail. The culture of many businesses does not allow for the latter. But it needs to be considered.

A famous and really successful growth hacking strategy was utilised by Air BnB

When the vacation rental giant was in its infancy, employees took to Craigslist to contact people that had properties for rent. The AirBnB staff then enticed them to instead list their flats and houses on the site instead, which was a win/win situation for all parties. AirBnB is now a massive international phenomenon, all thanks to this innovative start.

One of the most important tools that you can use for growth hacking is your own imagination and creativity. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and to use whatever tools, both digital and analog, to achieve growth. Your own fearlessness, drive and cheek will help you get a lot further than you ever thought possible with traditional marketing.

For more information on growth hacking email – weloveyouback @weareprecise.com

It’s a pretty basic question, but one that probably is not discussed enough. The most obvious reason is that they bring skills that are required in short bursts and to employ an experienced professional on a full time basis would impact significantly on the HR budget.

But there is more to it than that. The old phrase is you are only as good as your last job rings true with most consultants. They have to keep up to date with all new emerging guidelines and technologies. You tend to find the ambitious ones succeed and prosper, and those are the individuals you want on your team.

Today it’s easy to believe you can short circuit the system by using technology. As we all know there is an IPhone app or Google page for everything, but does anyone really believe that if you can use a Google teeth-whitening app on your photographs, you can call yourself a photo editor?

Its very simple yes the architect can put in the planning application forms and yes the Planning Consultant can brief local politicians. But what happens when it goes wrong?

Case in point when a well-known planning consultancy from the south-east was briefing a strategic planning committee and announced to all concerned that they had the support of the local community for their plans. To say the meeting fell flat is an understatement. Politicians were quick to point out that after limited consultation the statement was ridiculous.

Furthermore politicians in front of officers then recounted all the issues and problems connected to the scheme which could have been discussed privately, but were now thrown into the spotlight for all to discuss. No self-respecting engagement professional would have made such a sweeping statement.

The application was put back six months for further consultation and engagement, which cost additional fees and hugely extended the budget required.

Most organisations look to bring in a consultant where there is an issue of sufficient complexity to require a person specifically to handle that issue.

The most obvious case are lawyers and accountants who are instructed and retained for specific legal and financial reasons

Putting aside the warranty and personal indemnity issues the most significant reason to use a consultant with specific skills is to engage and manage a situation.

If you chose to try it yourself first in a DIY Form and if the results are not positive to then introduce a professional advisor is fraught with danger and cost.

Mistakes will have already been made and the paths chosen which will be difficult to change. The skill of any entrepreneur or manger is to identify the potential professional team that is required and bring them together as early as possible. Identifying the budget available and managing the work as it undertaken, ensuring that the milestones are achieved. Too many times the Internet gives the appearance that everything can be executed from a laptop. This is simply not the case the work becomes overwhelming and goals are missed and opportunities lost.