Getting your message across

How do you address the perennial issue of communicating with customers in a changing environment in a way that’s informative, educational and most importantly, relevant to what they want?

At Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES) we think we have found one answer in a series of animated infographics.

We’d been talking about customer needs and preferences for communication for a while. With our resident population as well as visitor numbers increasing yet with a finite amount of resource available to communicate key messages and handle queries, just how to do it was a question that was being asked more frequently and across a diverse range of services.

With the question resonating loudly in our heads, the business support unit for the council’s place directorate began to consider the options available.

The solution needed to work for B&NES now but also in the future when a new contemporary council internet site would be up and running. From research we also discovered that the solution needed to tap into the growing trend of how customers want to engage and access information:

  • 60% of internet access is via mobile devices
  • 66% of people given the choice will click on a video first rather than read text
  • 55% of people watch videos online daily
  • Over 80% of smartphone users watch video on their devices
  • By 2018 video will account for 79% of consumer internet traffic
  • 98% of users say they’ve watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service.

Our favoured option and the one we thought would work best took us back to a local community interest company, which we had successfully worked with previously to address school crossing patrol recruitment difficulties through the production of a short film. We approached them with the view of making further short films for some of our key services’ high demand areas however they suggested another option – infographics, moving, animated infographics!

We’d seen and even used the basic, static infographics used to convey statistics and data in a more engaging, easy to read and digest way but we’d never seen animated infographics, IGs. We were shown an example video IG and we were convinced that this was the solution we needed. Especially as research shows that one minute of video is equivalent to 1.8 million words!

We were even more convinced that IGs were the way to go when the first one rolled off the production line, after an initial scoping session and a few tweaks during production in only a matter of weeks and the feedback from officers across the council and wider services was, ‘when can we have one? It’s just what we need’.

Since the inaugural IG was produced for our parking services, we’ve produced six further IGs for parking. We’ve also produced a further eight IGs covering planning (x3), building control (x1), housing (x3), pest control (x1) and are considering production of an IG for licensing applications.

The IGs have proved to be a great way for us to communicate key, often complex messages, in a manageable and easy to understand way for our customers and the results speak for themselves – within the 12 months post publication there’s been an average of 2,000 views per IG, with one getting as many as 11,000 views.

Some IGs have had over a 50% view rate per internet page view and we are beginning to see more customers for things like our pest control service. And in these times of austerity, we like many councils, have to manage our available resources more effectively and the IGs help us with this. We see them as a way of ‘investing to save’ – the IGs contain the key information that the majority of our customers need, reducing the number of FAQ contacts and queries which allows us to meet more specific and tailored requests that only a small proportion of our customers may have.

And we aren’t the only ones to have seen a benefit in the use of IGs as an engaging tool to communicate with and inform our customers. A collective of councils in the south west of England approached us after seeing our building control IG. As B&NES had already scoped out and produced the IG they were able to buy a version personalised to their council at a lower cost than would have otherwise been possible and were in receipt of their IG in less time than producing one from scratch.

We are happy to share and have other IGs in the production pipeline as we really do think they are a fantastic way of communicating with our customers. If you’d like to find out more on IGs or would like to know about the specific ones we’ve produced at B&NES with a possible view to producing infographics tailored to your council then please get in touch: 01225 394910 or email jon_evans@bathnes.gov.uk

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Jon Evans

Jon Evans

Transport manager, Bath & North East Somerset Council

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