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Greater Manchester Combined Authority

A narrative with clarity, coherence and conviction  

The context

Greater Manchester is home to more than 2.8 million people and with an economy bigger than that of Wales or Northern Ireland. Greater Manchester Combined Authority(GMCA) comprises the ten Greater Manchester councils and Mayor, who work together on issues that affect everyone in the region like transport, regeneration, and attracting investment.

Having developed the positioning and brand strategy to help 'sell' the city-region nationally and internationally, building profile and supporting growth, we were tasked with developing a complementary shared narrative to ‘tell’ the story of each of the city-region’s priority policy areas in a coherent manner.  This narrative would help inform and complement the new Greater Manchester Strategy.

This would create for the first time a consistent, compelling and joined-up ‘citizen narrative’ for all residents and stakeholders, specific to each of the city-region’s key policy areas, aligned with the overall city-region story; to enable a wide range of GMCA staff and external stakeholders and partners to advocate confidently and communicate consistently on behalf of the region. 

The approach

Comprehensive desk research and analysis for each of 12 policy areas > distillation of initial insights to create start-points for headlines and key messages for each  > discussion with policy leads and ‘owners’ and refinement of initial insights and star-points > for each policy area; co-creation workshop with a cross-section of diverse stakeholders and partners, from across the different Local Authorities development of specific headline proposition, elevator pitch and key message family for each policy area > presentation and approval with policy leads > creation of overall city-region narrative 

The strategic shift

A story of spirit and aspiration - of and for the people 

Telling the story of GM’s commitment and priorities in each specific policy area, from transport to ageing, is an opportunity to tell and reinforce a story about the values and spirit of the city-region as much as one of the details of that policy. Ensuring that the ‘why’ behind both individual policies and the overall ambition for quality of life in GM is understood and appreciated is essential to helping gain support for the detail. And the ‘why’ for Greater Manchester is a compelling story of commitment to inclusive benefit; born of our people and place and reflective of past, present and future ambition.

The strategic shift

Demonstrate equal commitment both growth and inclusion

We created a narrative and a framework structure that directly complemented the one we had created to help ‘sell’ the city-region’s story to external markets and stakeholders. By doing so, we could demonstrate to all those involved in marketing and communications for the city-region the equal importance and the equal commitment to both social good and the wellbeing of our residents as well as to enhancing our profile and supporting growth. 


Provide consistent structure, key themes and headlines; not 'rules' and handcuffs 

There is clearly a massive breadth and range  of different communications requirements across the city-region for each of our policy areas. One of the key benefits of this project was to provide a consistent framework for every area; confirming the headline proposition and promise and providing a family of key messages and elevators. With these, all and any comms could be built on consistent foundations and could contribute to the development of a coherent story across every touchpoint and for every audience.

Collaborate well, to guarantee both buy-in and authenticity

The range of stakeholders and partners engaged in the design and delivery of each of GMCA’s policy areas, across its ten local authorities, is huge. We determined that it would be vital to ensure the most useful and representative voices from across the region were listened to at key points in our consultative and collaborative process. But what was required from them, in order to be as efficient and effective as possible in our approach and through the resulting outputs, was for them to respond to, develop and enhance start-points of our making, based on our interrogation of all available contextual information, existing detail and future plans and policies. In this way, the right perspectives and input was applied at the right time, to help develop the most compelling story for each policy area.

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