PRide Awards 2011
Category 6: Best Public Sector Campaign
Norfolk County Council
Back the Bid
Large parts of Norfolk are broadband ‘not spots’, where households and businesses
either have no broadband coverage at all or cannot receive a standard level of
service (2Mbs). This damages Norfolk’s reputation as a place in which to do business
and has significant social and educational disadvantages for residents living in these
not spots, including the county’s schoolchildren and younger people.
Based on the declared intentions of commercial internet service providers, 60 per
cent of Norfolk’s premises would still not have access to superfast broadband
(30Mbs+) by 2015, compared with a figure of 35 per cent across England.
The Government’s broadband delivery agency BDUK announced in March 2011 that
it would be accepting bids for a share in a £155m pot to make broadband
connectivity more widely available. Only a few bids would be successful in the first
round of funding, which would be announced at the end of May 2011.
Having made achieving better broadband a top strategic priority, Norfolk County
Council was determined to galvanise public support for its bid for funding from BDUK
and demonstrate that better broadband provision was crucial to the county’s
Strategy and tactics
The timescale for any campaign was very tight as the deadline for bids to be
submitted was Monday, 4 April. A small team led by the Media and Public Affairs
Manager decided that a targeted ‘call to arms’ campaign with the EDP – Britain’s
largest selling daily newspaper, as its media partner would be most successful in
generating positive coverage, raising awareness of the acute need for better
broadband in Norfolk and demonstrating to Ministers, BDUK and people in Norfolk
that the County Council was working tirelessly to produce a successful bid.
Norfolk MPs and business leaders were also engaged to support the campaign
through face to face meetings, regular briefing documents and electronic e-zines.
The resulting ‘Back the Bid’ campaign aimed to demonstrate how better broadband
access could impact on business success and profitability, but also stress to decison
makers in Westminster that Norfolk could not afford to be left in the internet ‘slow
lane’. It asked Norfolk business owners and employers to support the bid by adding
their name to the campaign and providing information on their business and how it
could benefit from better broadband access in Norfolk.
A powerful Back the Bid logo was agreed between Norfolk County Council and the
EDP which was prominently displayed throughout the campaign.
The campaign was featured prominently on Norfolk County Council’s website
which generates more than 3.4m hits a year.
Between March 29 and May 28, 38 positive newspaper stories on a Back the Bid
theme were printed in the EDP, Norwich Evening News, Great Yarmouth Mercury
and Dereham and Fakenham Times.
The EDP carried five separate front pages during the campaign with daily coverage
explaining how rural communities are losing out under current arrangements, how
the campaign was attracting support from district councils in Norfolk and how tourism
would benefit from improved connections. The newspaper ran the ‘Back the Bid’ form
for businesses during the campaign and made an emailable version of the form
available on its website www.edp24.co.uk under a ‘Back the Bid’ section that also
carried news articles and features.
Positive radio interviews were carried out on a further five commercial and BBC radio
Four press releases were produced and all releases were published via the County
Council website. The bid and campaign were tweeted about nine times via the
County Council’s Twitter account, @NorfolkCC, which has 3,000 followers .
MPs were kept informed with progress via the County Council’s electronic bulletin
Norfolk Business Matters http://norfolkpublications.org.uk/businessmatters
Liaison was carried out to ensure there was unanimous support for the bid from all of
Norfolk’s MPs and from key business leaders, including the newly formed Norfolk
and Suffolk LEP which spoke on behalf of firms employing more than 30,000 people.
In addition in the run-up to a final decision, Ed Vaizey, as the Minister responsible,
was lobbied directly by Norfolk MPs and the Leader of Norfolk County Council, to
explain Norfolk was ready and willing to back its case with substantial amounts of
In just over two weeks, more than 200 businesses and organisations responded to
the campaign by filling out testimonial forms and signing their names to letters of
support. This generated evidence that was used to strengthen the final bid document
which was carefully checked by the team to make it easy to read and as powerful as
Norfolk was one of three out of the 18 bids submitted from across the country to get
Government approval, with the County Council’s offering of £15m in funding backed
pound for pound by BDUK.
A representative from the media team was part of discussions with BDUK ahead of
the announcement on May 26 and was able to form clear lines of communication with
colleagues at the DCMS.
With a broadband provider (yet to be identified) expected to put in funding of £30m,
the total investment in broadband is expected to reach £60m by March 2015.
A ceremony to mark the bid’s submission took place at County Hall where the iconic
‘marble map’ of Norfolk, which occupies the wall outside the building’s Council
Chamber, was decorated with dozens of flags, each one representing the location of
a business or group ‘backing the bid’ and currently held back by poor broadband
access and slow speeds.
This low cost event was covered by two regional TV stations, radio and newspapers
and was attended by George Freeman MP, representatives of the business
community and the Editor of the EDP to maintain the ‘Norfolk United’ approach.
Resulting positive publicity saw the County Council’s logo prominently displayed in
newspapers and resulting TV interviews.
The council hopes to award a contract with a supplier by September 2012. Research
indicates better broadband will create more than 1300 jobs over the next 10 years
and give a £400m boost to the Norfolk economy.
Less than a £1000 was spent on marketing materials and branding.
For further information contact
Mark Langlands, Media and Public Affairs Manager
Norfolk County Council. firstname.lastname@example.org