As part of the ongoing debate surrounding recent negative publicity about Peterborough in the national press, Stewart Jackson MP and Rowen Squibb from Growborough talk to the BBC’s Andy Gall about what they feel needs to be done to improve the situation.
Broadcast at 08:08 on Monday 23rd August 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
AG: Opportunity Peterborough agree that the city does need a new marketing campaign. MP Stewart Jackson has criticised the authorities for not doing enough to counteract recent negative headlines. Neil Darwin Director of Economic development at Opportunity Peterborough says that we often don’t help ourselves. (TAPE)
ND: From an Opportunity Peterborough perspective I think Stewart’s right. We do need to market the city more effectively. And I agree with you Andy. I think we have taken a battering recently. I don’t think we always help ourselves. I think we are always the first to put ourselves down within the city, and a number of dignitaries do prefer to do that rather than talk ourselves up. But as Stewart rightly says we do need to combat that now and actually come out strongly and prove that we do have a decent offering here, albeit with certain issues that we do need to tackle. (LIVE)
AG: He added that marketing had moved on from television advertising and they were now targeting new investors. (TAPE)
ND: We feel we have to focus because of the level of funding we’ve got. We can’t, simply cannot, go out and produce a TV campaign as the Development Corporation did in the eighties. We just don’t have the cash ..(LIVE)
AG: So what are Opportunity Peterborough doing with their marketing budget of two hundred and seventy thousand pounds? (TAPE)
ND: We are beginning to take forward an environmental business campaign to attract more environmental businesses to the city. We know it’s a growing sector. We know it’s a sector we’re good at. It’s something we need to expand. So we’re targeting that particular area. Second campaign at the moment we’re taking forward is with the restaurant and bar industry, so that we can actually try and get around Cathedral Square off the back of the public realm work a different range of operators, to increase the quality of offer ..(LIVE)
AG: So we’re joined now by two new guests, Stewart Jackson who’s MP for Peterborough, and also Rowen Squibb from Growborough. Good morning.
BOTH: Good morning.
AG: So you’ve heard what Opportunity Peterborough had to say. We’ll start with Stewart. Can you explain what you mean by this PR campaign for Peterborough.
SJ: Well lots of people have complained about the negative publicity that the city’s received over immigration over the last few months. And first of all I’ve got to say I think that the councillors that identified that issue were absolutely right to do so in February because they felt that no-one was listening, and that the city’s image was being damaged anyway, and it was needed to be raised at the highest level. So I think .. aren’t going to criticise them because they were absolutely spot on. Having said that I was shocked last week, last couple of weeks, by the inaccurate level of reporting, some of the hype around the media, around how bad things were in Peterborough, which was completely untrue. So what I actually proposed in my column in the local paper last week is that we really need to focus on looking at the very positive aspects of the city, the river frontage, the good shopping, the good schools, the cheap housing, the proximity to London, the environment centre, all the positive things, award winning parks ..
AG: How would you market that then? have you got a concept as to how you are going to market it?
SJ: Well the concept is really to challenge the misconceptions about Peterborough head on, which is actually what the Peterborough Effect was about. The late great Roy Kinnear dressed as a centurion, a fantastic ad.
AG: Very much of its time. It wouldn’t work today, would it?
SJ: It would. Because I think what it did was ..
AG: It would?
SJ: Yes. Because I think the biggest perception or misperception that people have about Peterborough is that it’s miles and miles from London, and that you get off and it’s in Yorkshire or somewhere. People don’t realise it’s less than an hour on the train. It’s got good quality housing, and good quality of life. And we need to punch that message through, not pat each other on the back here in Peterborough, but actually tell the decision makers and the opinion formers in London and elsewhere that we’ve got a great city and we’ve got a lot to offer.
AG: OK Stewart. Let’s let Rowen Squibb have a word, because he’s from Growborough, an independent group trying to attract business to the city. What’s your initial reaction to what you’ve heard Stewart say?
RS: Of course we agree that the only way you’re going to have inward investment is by reaching outwards. The pieces in the paper that went out about the city last week and the week before obviously aren’t supporting the message that Growborough’s been trying to give out about the city. So we counteracted that last week.
AG: And what’s the message that you’re tring to get out then?
RS: Well for us actually you’ll see we ran some ads last week in central London and we also held an event in association with Foursquare. We just try and reinforce the fact that we have executive homes starting at two hundred and twenty thousand pounds, which if you are living in central London and you’re spending a quarter of a million pounds on a one bedroom apartment, it sounds quite tempting.
AG: Somebody listening to this at home and seeing some of the problems that have been reported in the media, and you say that in some ways the media may have elaborated on it, and that is obviously a knee-jerk in some aspects of the media, but a lot of local people are saying there are problems here.
SJ: Oh there are problems.
AG: Do we need to be going down to London and rattling a tin and saying come up to Peterborough, it’s lovely, or should we be focusing more locally?
SJ: It’s not a question of that Andy. There are problems. I’ve been battling for five or six years to get proper funding to deal with immigration, which was as a result of the failed policies of the last governments. So I don’t resile from that at all. There are major problems, and I’ve been pressing the City Council as well. However if Milton Keynes can sell a positive message about Milton Keynes. If Corby of all places can sell a positive message about coming to Corby, and other parts of the country, if we don’t get on the bandwagon then we’re going to lose out to the Norwich, Milton Keynes, the Cambridge, those sort of places. So we’ve got to be positive about the aspects of the city that are good and that people would be attracted to.
AG: So it’s like anything, isn’t it? It’s like if you reduce it down to just an individual you’ve got to market yourself. And in the same way you have to be savvy about marketing the city. But the question now is how can we be savvy about it? Because there’s different ideas that are coming to the fore. We hark back to the nineteen eighties with Roy Kinnear dressed up as a knight in shining armour. That probably nowadays just looks clunky and old-fashioned. What do we do in the twenty first century to get Peterborough on the map?
RS: Well last week Cambridge announced they’ve got fifty four billion pounds being added to the Cambridge economy through technical and digital. Microsost announced ..
AG: Different. much different micro-economy to this one.
RS: Well actually we’re not too far away from Cambridge. And actually we went to San Francisco as you know to bang on the drums for Peterborough, and we’ve been meeting with representatives from Silicon Valley Bank to say, look, we know you’re struggling because Cambridge is over capacity. We’re half an hour away. Come and try us. But we do need to work coherently, to go and say, look, we’re going to build technical parks. We need high value jobs. We want your business. Please come here. And that’s the only way we’re going to create economy. And what direction do we have for economy at the moment? It’s one thing focusing in on haulage businesses, but it doesn’t tie in with Neil Darwin’s for example environmental campaign. So we need to be intelligent and coherent and have a forward plan.
AG: You have to be intelligent as well from my understanding in the funding you’ve got to spend on this. You can’t be too glib about what you’re trying to get across, because money’s tight.
SJ: Well it is tight. But what I would say to Neil Darwin is .. and I like Neil Darwin. I’ve met him and I think he’ll do a good job in the advertising campaign .. is to be fair Opportunity Peterborough were incorporated in March two thousand and five. They’ve had over five years to have been putting forward a really compelling narrative about coming to Peterborough. And whatever the reason, they haven’t actually done that. And I’d also say to the Leader of the City Council, who was slightly negative about my column last week, oh well it’s all about money. Actually it isn’t about money. It’s about vision, it’s about leadership, it’s about having the right message and a compelling narrative to sell the attractive aspects of the city.
AG: So just briefly from both of you really, from Rowen, in the shell of a nut, what’s going to happen next, or what would you want to see happen next?
RS: We have to react quite quickly when we have things that counteract the message of positive growth for the city. And we do need to narrow down our direction and focus, and keep it clear, keep it focused, and bring people to the city.
SJ: We’ve got good transport links, our schools are improving, a fantastic offer in terms of the environment, three hundred companies and they’re living in the environment sector. We’ve got a very positive story to tell. But we’ve actually got to make sure that we’re talking to the right people, and we actually have to dispel some of those misconceptions about how far we are from London.
AG: And what about a slogan, something to hang this on? Has anyone got a slogan yet?
SJ: Well I personally like The Future is You. I think it’s quite pithy. We need to get it out in the open and we need to tell people about what’s good about Peterborough.
AG: I thought you were talking to me directly then for a moment. (LAUGHS) I’m stressed enough. What about you Rowen? Anything?
RS: I’m not so into the slogans. I think actions speak louder than words, and I think we just need to show what’s going on, and we just need to get in front of as many people as we can.
AG: If you try that attitude on the radio you won’t last very long. (LAUGHS) It’s seventeen minutes past eight. Thank you for talking to us.