Stick “Northern Powerhouse” into Google and the first page of results is negative. The Powerhouse – an amorphous idea that has equally confused and excited people – is the ultimate PR project.
At face value, the aim is to use the critical mass of the north’s key cities and package it as a world-class destination for foreign investors’ cash. Politics, prejudice and scepticism, rightly or wrongly, play their part in detracting from that aim.
The PR effort behind the Powerhouse may well be doing its job overseas, but at home the idea that it’s empty rhetoric is beginning to stick. Architects of the Powerhouse cannot afford for it to become derailed every time an employer sheds jobs, a business closes or investment goes elsewhere.
If the Powerhouse is a major exercise in PR, then getting its inhabitants back on side is fundamental to ensuring its success. Those who work in PR know that getting others to advocate on behalf of your subject is a powerful means of spreading your message. Personal interaction – from a coffee with a customer to a family event – is the ground on which the Northern Powerhouse PR aims will be won. After all, a conversation with a customer has more sticking power than an airport advertising hoarding or a politician’s TV interview.
Achieving this means working from the ground up; taking the needs and ambitions of the Powerhouse population to the top of the agenda. Getting people to share in a sense of opportunity and vision is not easy, but essential to supplanting the day-to-day diversions in the media, and making sure the Powerhouse steers its own agenda.
Making sure the public understands the long term scope and ambition of the Powerhouse project is the answer to overcoming the gripes stemming from infrastructure, devolution or civic pride issues – to name just a few. None of this will happen overnight. It’ll require joint creativity from those currently behind the reins to open up the strategy to normal people who are talking, emailing, tweeting about it and everything in between.
With bases in the North East and London, Cool Blue straddles the so called North South divide the Powerhouse project is trying to eradicate. We’ve watched the Powerhouse wash over our neighbours in the north and in the south east. By getting these people on board, and making sure they know how the Northern Powerhouse could benefit their living standards, the profitability of their businesses and their childrens’ prospects – it can succeed.