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Putting Ashford on the map

Zest were appointed by Ashford Borough Council to raise the profile of the town and the work of the council on a national platform, with the overall aim of positioning Ashford as the number one place to live, invest and work in the South East outside of London.

With over half a billion pounds being invested in Ashford in new housing, leisure and new commercial buildings and infrastructure improvements, the challenge for the PR and content team lay in prioritising the stories with wider interest to pitch out to national journalists amongst a wealth of rich content.

And with a busy internal press office producing local-focussed press releases on an almost daily basis, it was important that we delivered value to the client through high-profile and premium pieces of coverage that provided a complete overview of the town’s ongoing transformation, while promoting these stories over the news of the other 326 local councils in the country.

So much to shout about

Ashford is a town with ambitious plans for the future. The Council adopts a business-led approach, and its commercial property portfolio and ltd company invest in both retail and business property, with the aim of being self-sufficient by 2020 following the withdrawal of the local government funding.

With so much to shout about, the Zest team quickly identified that the key to promoting Ashford lay in ‘packaging-up’ the projects into a compelling 360-degree story of a council taking a dramatically different approach.

We built our activation plan on the four key workstreams aligned to Ashford’s vision – to promote the town as a place to work, live, invest and visit. Content themes and feature ideas were assigned to each workstream against agreed timescales, and while the plan evolves to respond to reactive national opportunities, this ensures we are still consistently delivering against client objectives.

We have also developed relationships and opened up regular communication channels with the stakeholders of Ashford’s ‘Big 8’ projects, to enable the team to keep up-to-date with all the latest developments and scope out editorial opportunities as soon as they arise.

As the relationship progressed we realised that the best way to capture the progressive spirit of Ashford was to invite journalists to visit, and we worked closely with the Council to create an itinerary that incorporated a tour of the key projects as well as meet-and-greets with key stakeholders, including the Councils charismatic Leader – Gerry Clarkson. The tour culminated in a birds-eye view of the town’s changing landscape from the top of the Connect 38 building.

The word starts to spread

Zest has secured over 39 pieces of coverage in a five-month period, across publications as varied as Housebuilder & Developer, Retail Weekly, The Metro and The Guardian. Coverage achieved has a reach of 323,885,000 and has received over 328,200 views.

After a proactive pitch we hosted The Guardian’s high street correspondent on a visit to Ashford to allow her to see first-hand the steps that have been taken to re-establish shopping in the town centre. The resulting coverage was an overwhelmingly positive appraisal of the Council and Leader’s innovative and forward-thinking approach, which was received positively by internal stakeholders and viewed an estimated 255,000 times.

As a result of coverage in The Guardian, we have been approached by other national publications eager to cover Ashford’s transformation from council to progressive business model, including The Economist who identified Ashford as content for a feature on progressive councils, the Daily Express and The Evening Standard.

  • Coverage secured in The Guardian, The Economist, The Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard
  • 39 pieces of coverage secured in five months
  • Coverage achieved has a reach of 323,885,000 and has received over 328,200 views