Best External Publication
The judges were highly impressed by the relationship built with the publication’s core audience. This wasn’t a one way broadcast; the publishers clearly demonstrated how Byker News was used to engage, inform and involve its readers. They presented how the magazine had evolved since its inception four years ago – an evolution which was led by its readers. Byker News demonstrates that an effective publication is more than a glossy production and met its objectives on a low budget with high engagement with the community.
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- University of Derby
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Brief and objectives:
Byker Community Trust (BCT) owns and manages 1,800 homes on the iconic Grade II* listed Byker Estate in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Byker News is a quarterly tenants’ newsletter which is distributed to all tenants and key stakeholders. The purpose of the newsletter is:
- To communicate key messages and promote and raise awareness of projects, services and community events that BCT is delivering on the Estate
- To highlight the work tenants and community groups are delivering on the Estate
- To engage tenants and community groups not already engaged with BCT
- To encourage wider community engagement and participation
- To deliver a communications channel that not only encourages and improves communication between tenants and the organisation but also provides value for money.
2,200 copies of each issue are printed and delivered to tenants’ homes, key stakeholders and copies are displayed in communal areas such as the community centre, church and in the housing office.
Rationale behind publication, including research and planning:
The newsletter is one of the main direct communication platforms for BCT to keep all tenants informed and regularly up to date with information, which tenants welcome.
BCT has established a Tenant Communications Group who are fundamental in reading and approving content, deciding how the newsletter looks and feels, approving the use of photos and deciding if the articles are what tenants want to read.
We truly believe that there is no point in producing a newsletter if no-one will read it – this is a newsletter by tenants for tenants. Byker has low educational attainment and is ranked in the bottom 2% nationally, so planning content for each issue is important and it is about getting the right balance of ‘corporate’ information and softer ‘community-based’ information. By engaging tenants during the production of each issue, ensures we achieve our objectives.
A production schedule is prepared for each issue and carefully planned to coincide with key school term dates and events. Staff, partners and community groups are contacted in advance of each issue inviting them to submit articles for their service.
Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:
Byker News is informative and user friendly and tenants have commented that they rely on the newsletter to inform them of events and activities on the Estate.
We involve tenants in the production of each issue to make them feel valued and engaged. We listen to their feedback, views and ideas and try and incorporate these into each issue. The newsletter constantly evolves and improves.
BCT works in partnership with many different partners and organisations so the publication is used to promote and raise awareness of their events and activities that may be of interest to tenants.
The newsletter is clearly branded and instantly recognisable to tenants. Copywriting is the responsibility of Up North Communications and text is kept to a minimum, clear, understandable and meets plain English guidelines. Photographs are carefully selected and wherever possible, we include photographs of tenants and residents from the Byker Estate.
Byker is home to a diverse range of people so the newsletter is available in alternative formats and languages. Translations include (but not limited to) Arabic, Czech, French, Polish, Portuguese and Russian reflecting the tenant profile within Byker. Past and current issues are available to view on the BCT website and also through social media.
Implementation of tactics:
Up North Communications co-ordinates and facilitates the full production of each issue from planning through to design, print and distribution. A detailed production schedule is produced so everybody knows exactly when they are expected to be involved.
Below is the timetable and tactics for the latest issue (Winter 2016):
- Deadline for articles: Mon 14 Nov – BCT and Tenant Communications Group
- Copy written by: Mon 21 Nov – Up North Communications
- First draft to Comms Group: Fri 25 Nov – Tenant Communications Group
- Signed off for print: Wed 30 Nov – Tenant Communications Group and BCT
- Issued to tenants: Mon 12 Dec – Royal Mail second class business post.
Issues are distributed by season:
- March (Easter)
- July (Summer holidays)
- October (half term, Halloween and production of BCT Annual Report)
- December (Christmas).
Measurement and evaluation, including engagement of target readers:
It is unique that eight Tenant Communications Group members are actively involved in the production of each issue.
Feedback, comments and suggestions are encouraged and incorporated into every issue so we are constantly striving to improve the quality of the publication. Simple but effective suggestions can make a big difference to the reader, for example, tenants suggested including a map of the Estate on the back page to show where they can access different services. Tenants also suggested using photos of real people from the community and not stock images, add lots of colour, easy to understand text, not in ‘corporate speak’.
Other improvements include a ‘what’s on’ in your community page, useful contact numbers making it easier for tenants to refer to, information about paying rent and updates about how to get involved in helping to improve services. Tenants also suggested including a wordsearch competition which attracts in excess of 50 entries each issue.
Byker News is now established as a highly-regarded publication within the community. In a recent Survey of Tenants and Residents (STAR survey May 2016), the newsletter was the second most preferred method of communication behind traditional letters, an increase of 4% since the previous survey in 2014.
Tenant member, Carol Oxborough of Michaelgate, Byker said: “The newsletter tells me what is going on and is full of useful information. For me each edition gets better and better. It’s topical, easy to read and engages all age groups. I think it’s good that BCT allows tenants like myself to get involved, through the Communications Group, in the production of the newsletter and to influence the content and layout so they understand from a tenants’ perspective.”
Budget and cost effectiveness:
Typical cost based on 2,200 20pp newsletters – £4,487 Ex VAT (£2.04 per issue).
Up North Communications (planning, co-ordination, copywriting and full production) £1,350.
Print, fulfilment and postage: £2,370.
In 2016, Up North Communications achieved cost savings by reviewing paper stocks without reducing the quality of the publication.