The Challenge

A few years ago, building on an established relationship with us, City of York Council (CYC) asked RED to breathe new life into Streets Ahead.

Streets Ahead is the magazine for 8,000 council house tenants. Engaging with tenants is indispensable when it comes to developing a sense of ownership in local decision making and service delivery, so one of our key objectives – and our biggest challenge to the council – was how to encourage greater tenant interest and involvement in the magazine.

Our first step was to review the existing magazine and ask tenants what they thought of it: the feedback was generally negative, with a common complaint that the content was too council biased and there wasn’t enough about the tenants.

Working closely with the Communities and Neighbourhood team, we took on board this feedback and refreshed the magazine with new ideas for engaging readers, and extending contributions to involve partnership organisations, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, to balance the council-centricity of the magazine.

We also shifted the magazine’s emphasis to put tenants at the heart of the stories, making Streets Ahead a magazine for the people, by the people, and using plain English throughout.

The Project

Tenants contribute ideas and suggestions during the planning stage of each magazine. As well as story ideas, they provide feedback which we’ve taken on board (such as printing the magazine in 14 point to make it widely accessible).

We also include CYC Residents’ Associations to seek their views on the direction and shaping of the stories. These relationships have opened valuable communication channels between the residents and the council.

The team at RED has forged a very strong, honest and trusting relationship with the CYC. Our Editorial Project Manager, Natalya Catton, is allowed to ‘roam free’ within the community to track down and research her stories. An ex-York Press newspaper journalist, Natalya visits community clubs, churches, cafés and parks to interview as many people as she can find – vox pop style – about the council’s schemes, plans, services and ideas.

What Natalya gets back is an honest response to what the council is doing, or planning to do in their neighbourhood. As well as accurately reflecting the views of tenants, this approach has created ownership and involvement with Streets Ahead and tenants tell us it’s become a welcomed and trusted communication.

The Result

Because we all live in York, the team at RED are passionate about Streets Ahead and making it a success, so that we can improve the city in which we’re all proud.

Streets Ahead is proving very successful. Feedback from both tenants and the council is extremely positive and the publication has won multiple industry awards from the Institute of Internal Communication, most recently scooping up the trophy for Best Public Sector Communication in the 2017 IoIC Central and Northern Region awards.

Kelly Conn from the Communities & Neighbourhoods team said: “We absolutely consider Red an extension of our team because they have a broad understanding of the audience, both within, and outside the council.

“They are organised, professional, friendly and willing to listen and adopt new ideas. Each production of Streets Ahead is a pleasure, especially now that more residents are getting involved and ideas are coming in from colleagues from all levels of the council.”

"Fast, accurate and responsive."

Megan, City of York Council

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