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End of an era!

After over six years of activity, the current Redcar and Cleveland place marketing initiative and ambassador programme is coming to an end. Here, Place Marketing Manager, Richard Baker talks about what’s happened over the last six years, and looks to the future, as a new organisation takes over the reins on Redcar and Cleveland’s place promotion:

‘The programme began in autumn 2017 when Redcar and Cleveland stakeholders, led by the Council, decided to embark on work to change the fortunes and perceptions of the place following some big negative impacts, such as the closure of the SSI steelworks at Redcar.

Place marketing experts, ‘Thinking Place’ worked with stakeholders to develop a new positive shared vision and story, and things rolled out from there.

I began my role of Place Marketing Manager in January 2018, and we launched our place story and marketing initiative at an event at PD Ports in spring 2018. Hot on the heels of that we launched the Ambassador programme, the following month, on a beautiful summer’s day at Redcar Racecourse.

Since then, we’ve worked hard to achieve the programme’s strategic brief, of ‘raising the profile and changing perceptions of Redcar and Cleveland’, as a great place to live, enjoy and do business.

And here’s what we did:

Ambassador programme – over 750 ambassadors joined the scheme, doing their bit in a team effort of talking-up our place, amplifying positive stories about Redcar and Cleveland amongst their networks.

Ambassador events – Held 25 events, attended by close to 1,500 people; including three Ambassador Showcase events. These events provided excellent cross-sector networking for local businesspeople, residents and those who run community groups. We estimate that on average, at each of the events, around 600 valuable connections were made, creating new leads and new business opportunities between ambassador organisations.

At these events, we’ve had around 110 speakers provide key and positive information to our ambassadors, which they could then amplify to their network.

Digital marketing

Social media:

  • Over 9,000 followers across our social media channels
  • An estimated 20,000 positive posts about Redcar and Cleveland
  • Around 300 weekly Friday Five good news round-ups; promoting 1,500 pieces of positive news!

Place website:

  • 30 sections, covering Live, Enjoy, Business, Ambassadors and News
  • Over 1.5 million page views
  • Great Google rankings on key search terms

Video:

  • Close to 50,000 views of our recent place lifestyle video

Printed marketing – place storybook; advertising; banners and signage; investment brochure; lapel badges

Event attendance – we attended around 20 events per year on average – locally, regionally and nationally; taking our marketing materials, to shout up for Redcar and Cleveland, and get our place on people’s radar. We’ve been cited as an example of best practice at national place marketing events.

Engagement – aside from event activity, we’ve met, presented to, and engaged with hundreds of people and organisations over the years, including schools, colleges, residents, community groups and businesses – getting their input and views about our place and its future.

In terms of structure, I and previous project colleagues, Mark Malik, Jack Roberts and Dan Behrens, who supported our work brilliantly, have been based with Redcar & Cleveland Council, and the Council have been very supportive of the place work, both at officer and member level. It has been beneficial, and enjoyable, working amongst colleagues in the Business, Culture & Tourism, Communications and Place Development & Investment teams – all really passionate about our place and working collaboratively to achieve so many great things.

We’ve also had support and a great relationship with local politicians from all political parties – Councillors and MPs; yet we’ve strived to keep politics out of the place work, sticking to a ‘place not politics’ principle since day one.

Running in parallel, it’s been great to have had the strategic support and direction of our Place Board, who have given their time for the project since day one. I’d like to put on record my thanks to all Board members, past and present for their invaluable contributions. I’d particularly like to thank our Board Chairs, who have steered the group so brilliantly:

Frans Calje, PD Ports / Darren Winter, Duco Digital / Angela Brockbank, (then of) Thirteen; and current Chair, Dale Smith, Host & Stay; with a special mention also to long-standing Vice Chair, Andrew Fulton, previously of ICL Boulby.

And so, to where we are now and in the future. There’s so much happening in Redcar and Cleveland, of which everyone can be excited about. There’s billions of pounds of investment happening or lined up for the place, which can provide hope, confidence and employment opportunities for future generations. Redcar and Cleveland will be at the heart of the UK’s clean energy revolution – making a huge contribution to the country’s carbon reduction efforts and seeing the creation of thousands of jobs for local residents.

Big investment projects – Teesworks: SeAH Wind, South Bank Quay, British Steel, Net Zero Teesside, BP, MGT, Circular Fuels, Green Lithium, PMAC Energy; as well as big investments happening at Wilton International.

Place projects – exciting projects recently completed or happening right across Redcar and Cleveland – in Redcar: Kirkleatham Walled Garden, The Regent cinema, Town Deal funding for, amongst other things, Coatham adventure golf & play area, Redcar Beach Base and plans / work progressing on a new culture and leisure attraction between the Esplanade and High Street. And, hot off the press, work begins today on an exciting project to regenerate Redcar Central Station building into a vibrant, welcoming environment for train travellers. In Guisborough: £15M ‘Levelling Up’ funding for town centre regeneration; in Eston: £20M Levelling Up funding for town centre and leisure regeneration; and in Loftus: £11M funding on projects transforming Loftus High Street.

We have been at the heart of the promotion of these investments and opportunities, wanting to ensure that people were aware of what amazing stuff was going on in Redcar and Cleveland, and our new place confidence. Since day one we have unashamedly just shared positive news about Redcar and Cleveland. People don’t invest in, or visit, or choose to move to, negative places. Yes, the place has challenges to deal with, just like every place does, but we have just been about the positive aspects of our place – and there are so many:

Incredible landscapes of our coast and countryside; fantastic businesses and big investments; great events and visitor attractions, and finally, our amazing people and community – groups, residents and businesses – people who are so proud of their place and who work hard and help each other out.

And it’s on this community note that, finally, I’d like to thank our wonderful ambassadors for their support, interest and time over the last six years. We’ve gathered a network, a team, of close to 800 people – probably the biggest signed-up network in the region; who have joined the Ambassador programme because they want to be part of a positive movement to help get a brighter future for Redcar and Cleveland; and I’m sure we’ve achieved that. I think everyone, including our young people, can look forward with hope and confidence about our future – around a developing and wonderful lifestyle offer, and as a prominent UK centre for clean energy, and the benefits that that can provide. It really is an exciting prospect.

And so, it’s a new dawn for the Ambassador programme, as we hand over the reins to a new organisation, led by Dale Smith, Ryan McKnight and the Place Board. I wish them the best of luck; and urge ambassadors to embrace the new approach. I’m sure the programme and the place promotion activity will go from strength to strength under Dale and Ryan’s leadership. After a launch event on Tuesday at Wilton Centre, there will be a new look for the ambassador programme and its marketing output, and the social media channels will be managed by the new organisation.

I’ve been proud to do this wonderful, positive role for over six years, and I wish Redcar and Cleveland, and everyone connected to the place the very best for the future!

Richard Baker

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