The Guelph Remastered communication campaign helped area residents, businesses and visitors understand why the City of Guelph crammed five years of construction into one: to take advantage of $48 million in Federal and Provincial government funding. The program helped people navigate around more than 20 road closures while promising that, at the end of a year-long headache, the benefits would be worth it.
What we did
Between September 2009 and March 2011 the City’s Corporate Communications team worked with DDB Canada to plan and execute a multi-faceted communication campaign designed to:
- Make sure people knew about plans for road construction in 2010
- Prepare residents, businesses and visitors for traffic disruptions in many parts of the city, and help them understand why it was all happening at once
- Help residents understand the importance and the benefits of all this road work
- Encourage people to be loyal to their favourite stores and services during construction
Rather than talking about 25 separate construction projects taking place in 2010, we told everybody about one big project called Guelph Remastered. The multi-media campaign captured people’s attention got people talking before any work started on the roads.
We never apologised. We sympathized. We stressed the importance of the work being done, and asked Guelph to plan ahead and “put on your happy pants” before heading out on the roads. We maintained this casual tone and humour in much of our writing to compliment the City’s standard messages about detours and road closures. We continued using frank and funny captions to keep people talking throughout the 44-week campaign.
Listen to one of the radio ads featuring the Guelph Remastered Orchestra. The Orchestra used construction sounds to enhance their compositions in the hopes of entertaining listeners who might have been stuck in traffic.
Guelph residents were invited to submit 200-word stories where they could vent their frustrations or share a laugh for a chance to win one of 10 GPS systems.
The interactive detour map helped people find their way through the city, allowed users to comment on projects happening in their neighbourhoods and “report a problem” directly to the City’s Engineering staff. The website also allowed users to subscribe to updates on traffic or transit detours. Tale of a Detour contest submissions were posted, and winning entries were highlighted each month during the campaign.
Why we did it
Guelph’s need for a proactive communication plan to address the City’s plans for road construction in 2010 was identified through a combination of quantitative, qualitative and anecdotal research:
- The 2008 Citizen Satisfaction survey conducted by Ipsos Reid found that residents’ satisfaction levels with road maintenance were lower than the norm. Findings also stated that improved communications about road maintenance would improve residents’ level of satisfaction.
- Frequent feedback from key stakeholders including residents and Guelph’s Downtown Business Association indicated that Guelph needed to do a better job of informing the community about construction disruptions.
The City’s Corporate Communications team worked with DDB Canada to develop a comprehensive communications plan to help residents and businesses in Guelph prepare for and cope with a year of unprecedented road construction, traffic and transit disruptions.
What we learned
The campaign succeeded in increasing people’s awareness of Guelph’s plans for construction and of the need to complete the work in a short period of time. What’s more, Guelph Remastered appears to have had positive effects on public perceptions of construction upgrades in general. According to research performed as part of the program, the 44-week campaign—which ended on March 31, 2011—was successful in reaching the following goals:
- The majority of residents became aware of the City’s plans for construction in 2010
- Residents came to understand that Guelph was completing about five years worth of work in just 12 months to meet the Federal and Provincial funding deadline
- The campaign had positive effects on people’s perceptions of construction upgrades in general – more than 90 per cent of those polled consider it important for the City to undertake construction projects
- Awareness that shops and services would be open for business during construction increased from 73 per cent to 81 per cent during the campaign
After the campaign
New communications protocols and online tools implemented as part of this communications plan continue to be used to inform the community about construction-related disruptions to both traffic and transit in Guelph.
Guelph Remastered garnered attention and praise from surrounding municipalities, and was ranked among the top presentations given during the 2011 American Public Works Association Congress in Denver, Colorado and the 2011 Municipal Communications Conference in Toronto, Ontario.