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Our team is shortlisted for the Comms2Point0 UnAwards 2023 Best Comms Team

You have a say in whether our team is awarded best comms team in a highly competitive field. We are shortlisted with some of the best and brightest comms teams across the country. Our DorKing Coronation project was also shortlisted for the Association for Town and City Management (ATCM) Best Social and Community Event in 2023 this summer. Let's raise the profile of Dorking and vote for our team below.

View our submission below

Dorking BID/DigiKind Ltd

The Dorking Business Improvement District (BID) was successfully elected for its second term in December 2022 after year-long hiatus. The all-volunteer, business-led BID Board selected DigiKind in February 2023 to manage the BID. I was selected to serve as ‘BID Manager’ and I brought on board my small team to support the engagement part time: a community manager to address social media, a virtual assistant/copy writer, and a website developer. In addition to managing the digital, creative, public realm, finance, and business support aspects of the BID, we were asked to host a Coronation event for the town in May.

Many businesses and locals felt Dorking had ‘missed out’ on the Jubilee event the previous year due to the BID’s year-long hiatus. Dorking businesses and the town, like many in the UK, had suffered from the impacts of the pandemic, the closure of all nearly all banking services, rising food costs, parking fees, global conflicts, and inflation. From a reputation management perspective, BIDs also have a mixed response from businesses. We worked collaboratively with our BID Board to announce that DigiKind was supporting the BID and received a warm welcome from the community. I decided to meet one on one with businesses and our community partners — to listen, ask for advice and feedback, and to introduce myself.

Dorking, once heralded as the hidden gem of the Surrey Hills, is a town that requires much needed community pride, promotion and economic investment. Together with our community partners, we established the following three goals for the Coronation:

  1. Celebrate the best of Dorking’s ‘Heritage, Culture, and Spirit’ (this is the BID’s brand and tagline).
  2. Encourage use of the BID’s digital programme, LoyalFree through a Window Art campaign – encouraging visitors, businesses, local community, and partners to take a tour of Dorking – encouraging people to shop, eat, stay, play and celebrate.
  3. Celebrate ‘The Big Help Out’ aspect of the coronation; aligning with the King’s ethos of volunteerism, sustainability and local business support, focusing on and featuring what makes Dorking special – the community.

In late February, after I had met with most of my targeted stakeholders, I promoted and convened an open meeting with the community – with anyone interested in potentially getting involved in a town-wide event. We formed a committee (with a standing open invitation for anyone who wanted to join in) composed of BID Levy Payers, Board members, businesses, non-profits, residents, councillors, council employees, special interest groups, and school representatives. I presented the group with the ‘official’ government and Royal Coronation plans and a few ideas to focus their efforts to align the committee’s goals with the King’s ethos of volunteerism, sustainability and supporting local businesses.

The committee selected Monday, 8th May (The Big Help Out) as our event date, and brainstormed themes and programme ideas. We developed a programme of musical acts, entertainment, inclusivity, sustainability, quirkiness and fun.

We focused on building stronger community bonds, raising the profile of our businesses in the high street, how to volunteer in town, and showcasing Dorking’s heritage, culture and spirit. 20 volunteers supported us on the day, to include nearly all of our board members.

I created the ‘DorKing’ Coronation theme and added the official Royal seal to the iconography. I wanted to ensure we created brand ambassadors who would share our story for us, so I created a toolkit for every audience profile with messaging. I shared it on our google drive and Rosie (our comms/community manager, shared it on our socials).

We engaged local community partners and volunteer organisations to come together and out on the day, sharing their good work with others – with the intention of sustaining these efforts long after the Bank Holiday ended.

The team demonstrated action, impact and value with clear key performance indicators. We measured sentiment via surveys, conducted social media monitoring, media monitoring (earned media), and estimated footfall (as the BID had no longer paid for footfall counters). Hundreds of people nominated each other for awards; thousands of people voted in our competitions.

This is what we offered at our DorKing Coronation, as aligned to our campaign objectives:

We delivered the project on 8th May 2023 and are still executing on this work.

Date project delivered from: Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Date project delivered to: Monday, May 8, 2023

Dorking Coronation Images

Brief outline of strategy/plan

We aligned our strategy to our programme goals. We developed a comprehensive project plan for the duration of the event, which included an omni-channel communications approach, a ‘PESO’ PR and targeted media approach, researched best practices for the King’s Coronation and requirements around the Coronation Weekend, and Smart/KPIs to measure our impact. We conducted extensive research in Dorking and surveys to ensure we reflected our community’s interests and held weekly sprints with our coronation committee. We collaborated closely with our councils (Surrey and Mole Valley) and with the community. Key to our plan was encouraging community engagement from all of our target audiences. We created shareable decks and toolkits that we hosted on our website.

We worked in partnership with our entire stakeholder community, establishing our new BID team as a community partner, demonstrating how we operated as a BID: effective, collegial and collaborative.

We maintained open lines of communication and were transparent with everyone, sharing plans and checklists to ensure deadlines were met and our community felt included. This was their town, they had a voice, and they could be proud of it. We met (and meet) on a weekly basis to brief our BID Chairman and monthly with the Board to ensure transparency and to receive feedback and guidance on our plans.

Word of our event reached Ojay McDonald, CEO of the Association of Town and City Management and I was invited to present our plan to the wider ATCM group. We were shortlisted for Best Social and Community Contribution Award 2023. Our Coronation plan was shared as a best practice to the ATCM community.

We used the following approach to execute our work:

  1. Digital Transformation - we encouraged businesses to join our LoyalFree art trail to encourage self-propelled tourism and created a digital programme (there we listed all activities, featured participating organisations, sponsors for the event, nominees for our awards, and winners of the art competition).
  2. Place Making - we created an art competition, enabled public voting and created an art installation from winners). We hosted 5 musicians, entertainers, children’s activities, henna art, and 40 community organisations and a sustainable market to the town to increase town pride and celebrate the people of Dorking.
  3. Creative Campaigns - In addition to hosting the Window Art Trail and the Art Competition, we created the Community Spirit Awards: Sustainability, Volunteer and Best High Street Business, judged by three experienced and renowned individuals across Surrey: the head of BBC Surrey, the head of Visit Surrey (DMO) and a well-respected Surrey marketing business.
  4. Business Support - we provided bunting, floral displays, photography and assets to support business promotion. Generate earned media for businesses. All were welcome at our Monday ‘sprints’ and we provided weekly updates to our businesses and the public both on Mailchimp, and on our social media channels to encourage engagement. We collaborated with the Council Economic Development and Permitting teams early and often to ensure all paperwork was done on time and correctly.

We hosted an incredible DorKing Coronation event on 8th May 2023 that celebrated Dorking town's heritage, culture and spirit. It was attended by approximately 5,000 attendees. We delivered:

Here's how we measured our results:

Our widely read and downloaded programme

Ours was an inclusive event that featured the best of Dorking’s heritage, culture and spirit. High streets are changing and without community support, our businesses will not survive. We brought our town together to execute a meaningful Coronation event that featured the community of Dorking, its volunteers, its artists, musicians, schools, its businesses, and its independent spirit. We were under budget for this event, which is really important as we are a business-funded organisation.

1. Digital Transformation

For the LoyalFree App and art town trail: Waitrose donated two hampers and 675 people engaged with the app. LF requested our campaign as a best practice. We created a popular, vibrant and modern digital and print programme (Issuu booklet) that was downloaded 4,700 times in three weeks and had 125,000 link impressions. Four of the five artists are now selling their artwork in our high street shops. One artist has been featured on BBC Introductions through our recommendation. We are not only increasing positive media coverage; we are generating new opportunities and income for businesses through our work.

2. Place Making

Our community event included a public art exhibition composed of the winners of our art competition, composed of 29 local entries which were voted on by the public. Ten vibrant sails were printed, emblazoned with the artwork of the winning artists and adorn Dorking’s high street throughout the summer, welcoming visitors to town. The campaign generated 1,750 votes and positive social media activity.

The DorKing Coronation brought approximately 5,000 people to the high street on the 8th May. The town was jubilant and filled with music, entertainment, children’s activities, henna art, with over 40 community organisations and sustainable market vendors. The positive feedback was overwhelming with hundreds of positive comments. People wanted us to close the high street and we are doing so for our ‘Very Dorkensian Christmas Festival’ 3rd December 2023.

3. Creative Campaigns

In addition to hosting the Window Art Trail and the Art Competition, we also created a Community Spirit Award composed of three awards (Sustainability, Volunteer and Best High Street Business), judged by three experienced and renown individuals across Surrey: the head of BBC Surrey, the head of Visit Surrey and a well-respected Surrey marketing business. This inculcated community spirit and also helped us promote the town with community influencers who shared messages on our behalf. Each entry received over 85 applications/nominations. 3 winners were selected.

4. Business Support

Throughout the Coronation, we encouraged participation from all of our business partners and also from all of our community partners. Transparent communications was encouraged and all had access to project plans and checklists (sanitised for GDPR compliance), to include Council teams, who joined us every Monday and were instrumental in supporting our licensing and permitting. Our key messages were shared via ‘Parentmail’, on businesses’ and nonprofits social media accounts, on Visit Surrey and Council websites, email and socials. We generated seven pieces of print earned media and 12 media interviews.

I am exceedingly proud of what we have achieved and I think people believe we are on the right track in Dorking . We successfully hosted a free Coronation event that was heavily featured in the press and recognised by the Royal Family. It was designed to celebrate our community and generate civic pride and we achieved our goals. All aspects of the planning and execution was done collaboratively and in partnership with business, community, residents and families, council, non-profits, industry partners, tech partners, the artist community, local churches, and educational partners.

We ensured that we listened to our community partners and took on board their feedback. We did this in two months, under budget and we also did this all without compromising our purpose-driven approach to community consultation, omni-channel communications, research and data analysis, stakeholder segmentation and audience analysis, establishing KPIs and SMART metrics, and evaluating our results. An outcome of our approach is establishing trust in our team and the BID extending our contract for another year. We are now working with our council teams and community on A Very Dorkensian Christmas, bringing a banking hub to Dorking, and collaborating on establishing the master plan for the town. We established early that we are collaborative, creative and deliver results under budget and in consultation with community partners. All of this was achieved whilst I am full time and my team are part time on this engagement.

Our event created a legacy that would be the kick-off to something truly meaningful for everyone, whether that's committing to support local high street businesses, adopting a new sustainable practice, or volunteering in the community. Or maybe just meeting one's neighbours. We have since held a street clean up with nearly 30 volunteers in attendance and are hosting another in November.

We consistently received positive feedback on our social media channels and have since grown our audience across all channels with our website pushing 20K visits per month (where we had only 1.4K when we started).

We even received a letter from the Personal Private Secretary to the King congratulating Dorking on the event. BBC Surrey spent the entire day with us and covered the event. They are joining us again for our Christmas Festival and we have generated media coverage, to include tier ones, than they have in the past seven years combined.

Here are a few testimonials from a survey we sent out, post event:

Photos courtesy of Dorking Camera Club

The BID - who we are

Dorking Town Partnership
156 South Street
Dorking, RH4 2HF

T: 07377 0966892

© 2022 Dorking Town Partnership
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