Over the past six years, Wigan Council has slashed £100 million from its budget but, with another £60 million to save over the next four years, it has had to radically rethink the way it delivers services. With the Government grant set to disappear in 2020, making the council completely reliant on business rates and council taxes, Wigan is looking to attract new businesses and residents to stimulate local economic growth.
Its local magazine Borough Life was recently redesigned so that it could play a major role in explaining Wigan’s new corporate strategy, The Deal for the Future, and encourage residents to lead healthier lifestyles, thereby reducing demand on public services.
The team behind Borough Life, which is published three times a year, have taken their inspiration from consumer magazines. High impact visuals have replaced lines of text. The corporate message has been toned down. The paper quality has been improved. Articles that might not necessarily have been associated with a council publication, such as a tutorial on upcycling, now appear.
But each article also seeks to subtly relay the council's core messages. A new e-newsletter has also been launched, which includes an ‘added content’ icon to allow readers to find out more information from a range of multimedia content on the council’s website. Competitions have been introduced that support the council’s objectives. Behavioural psychology has been employed, to encourage residents to engage with the publication, such as competitions that use incentivisation techniques.
But the council has also been more strategic about the delivery of the magazine, and the content calendar. The Spring edition, for example, focused on health, including a competition to win gym membership, because research suggests this is when people are most likely to reconsider lifestyle choices. It was also distributed to local surgeries and hospitals. The Summer edition focused on selling the borough as a nice place to live and visit, promoting local leisure facilities. Copies were sent to estate agents and train stations, reaching those who lived outside the area.
The revamped publication is still in its early days, and the council is measuring success in the short-term in terms of competition entries and online subscribers. In the longer-term, it hopes to link more tangible results, in terms of a healthier and wealthier borough, to Borough Life.
‘There is a real link between this publication and corporate strategy,’ said the judges. ‘There is also a real focus on what makes articles engaging for the reader. This may not have any significant results, as yet, but it wins on creativity and strategy.’