Our advice on how to deliver a community engagement campaign

Many of the lessons learnt in the business engagement campaign section can be applied to those focusing more on the consumer market. Our experience shows that selecting the right delivery method is important – do you focus on targeting schools, road users, specific communities etc.? It could be a combination of one, several or all of the stakeholder groups to achieve your specific aim.

Although the messages are very similar and the outcomes may be the same, specifically when promoting the use of more sustainable and active travel modes, it is often more difficult to engage with the general public. There is not the added support from employers or the focussed engagement opportunities of the workplace that business engagement activities offer. While many of the activities and events are very similar there is a far wider and more diverse community of people to engage with.

We’ve put together some of our top tips to help you build a strong strategy.

Oxford EV Summit 2019 Tom Hayes

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Take a look at what others have done, and the wealth of examples and resources that are out there for you to use as a reference point. Take a look at the Go Ultra Low campaign as well, as this is targeted specifically at consumers, and has a variety of tools and resources that can be used to help explain the benefits of ultra-low emission vehicles.

Be clear with your messaging

Try to be straight to the point with your messaging. The industry is full of acronyms and technical language that most everyday consumers won’t understand, so make it jargon-free. It is easy to forget that we often operate in an ‘EV Bubble’ where we talk about, and discuss, this industry all the time, but in reality most people have never even sat in an electric vehicle, let alone driven or considered buying one. Focus on the facts and figures around the environmental benefits and financial incentives in any promotional material.

Check your facts

Nothing will break the trust more with consumers than facts or figures that are unclear or have ambiguity. Also remember that there are a lot of experts out there who have spent their own time researching the pros and cons of privately owning an electric vehicle, or the ins and out of how green they really are. Do some research and ensure that you are using trusted sources. The main media organisations often have very negative press on electric vehicles, and this is not helping to give consumers confidence.

Focus on charging

One of the biggest barriers you will always hear is that there aren’t enough chargers for these vehicles, or that the ones available are not fit for purpose. In reality, those legacy chargers that were installed under the Plugged-In Places scheme that have not been maintained or replaced have not helped matters (despite how successful the programme was developing the first real chargepoint network across the UK). Research your local charging infrastructure, and give consumers confidence that there are public chargers that are well serviced, maintained and easy to use in the local area. It is also vital to appreciate that not everyone has the luxury of off-street parking, and these are the consumers that face the biggest problems with adopting vehicles, or those in rented accommodation where a landlord may not be willing to allow a chargepoint to be installed on the property.  

Include local measures

No doubt you are doing other activities in the authority to tackle air quality issues, so shout about them in any campaign to promote the uptake of low emission vehicles. There may also be other incentives in the local area that help make the case for a consumer to switch to an ultra-low emission vehicle. If you haven’t already, make sure that they are included in the Go Ultra Low local incentives tool, or take a look at the map to get some ideas on what other authorities are doing.

Use engaging social media

Consumers want to hear from other consumers, so find out if there are local social media groups, EV owners clubs or EV fan clubs in your local area (we can pretty much guarantee there will be one somewhere close to you; there always is) and use them to your advantage. In Nottingham, the City Council actively works with the ‘EV Champions’ group to promote the use of EVs in everyday life, and have even made a video to promote uptake. Watch it here.

Be prepared for tough questions

As we’ve mentioned, you’re going to face a lot of ‘experts’ out there, especially on social media. Be prepared to answer the tough questions and defend why you are promoting the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles. Many consumers forget that, ultimately, these vehicles are a way of tackling NOx and PM emissions in towns and cities to prevent premature deaths from poor air quality. Answer their concerns honestly and openly, and try and reference your answers where possible. It’s also useful to capture the barriers to make sure you can address them in future communications campaigns.

High Street Case Studies

Don’t forget about the power of the High Street! Below are two case studies of activities led by a Council that have engaged consumers whilst going about their normal shopping:

  • In Milton Keynes the EV Experience Centre is the UK’s first brand-neutral centre dedicated to electric vehicles with the aim of providing completely free education and advice about electric and plug-in vehicles. Based in centre:mk at the heart of Milton Keynes, the centre also offers visitors the chance to test drive a range of different electric and plug-in cars on the market. More information is available here.
  • Nottingham City Council agreed a partnership with the intu Victoria Centre, the largest shopping centre in Nottingham, to run a four-day display in the centre walkway showcasing different types of ultra-low emission vehicles, offering independent advice and support on electric vehicles and offering test drives in the centre car park.

More in the toolkit…