Is it time Switch on to Swindon actually 'switched' on to Swindon?

By Jamie Hill - 15 June 2018

Opinion and FeaturesExpert Voices

I was at a Switch on to Swindon event last night. The wine and canapés were flowing, a live band were providing a jazzed up score to the evening and the great and the good of the town were there in all their finery. And after I left, it all just felt a bit 'meh'. The aims of the campaign are worthy but it's in danger of becoming a celebration of back-slapping for the owners and managers of the Swindon business community. Where was the real community? Where were the workers? The fuel of our town's economy. Not invited obviously. This was an 'Ambassadors' event to launch 'Phase Two' of Switch on to Swindon held at the newly opened Carriageworks. I'm an 'Ambassador'. My role is to sing the virtues of Swindon (which I do quite a lot anyway as part of my role as editor of both Swindon Link and The Ocelot) and there's quite a lot of us now. But it needs to be more inclusive. Don't get me wrong I'm not against the goals of what Switch on to Swindon is trying to achieve. The council and business led campaign wants to attract companies to invest in the town by extolling the virtues of what a nice place Swindon is to live for their workforce. Us Swindon residents already know what a great place it is. We know that it has a relatively low crime rate, cheap housing compared to Bristol, Reading or Oxford, has great transport links and has amazing parks and facilities. But as the evening proceeded it became clearer and clearer that they didn't want the real community of Swindon to be a part of it. A lot of marketing speak was spoken. Channels were discussed and at one point a triangle that reminded me of something from a pyramid scheme pitch was revealed. I used to work at a magazine called 'Marketing Week' so I'm used to this world of hot air, niceties and 'big' ideas that any 12-year-old doing a school media project could come up with. I'm probably a bit too cynical about it. What was revealed was fluff. Something that anybody with any common sense could have come up with in five minutes. The demographic that they want to attract is... wait for it... 'the aspiring homemaker'. That's great. Brilliant. Let's get the 'aspiring homemakers' to move into their 'aspirational homes' and live their 'aspirational lives'. They then revealed that they would be sitting down with a marketing agency next week to discuss the 'channels' that they would be using to promote this message of 'Swindon is the place to be' to 'aspirational homemakers' and they went through where they would like to get this message out there. And it was all national or regional newspapers, radio and television that were all out of Swindon. Fair enough really, they should be promoting this message to entities outside of Swindon's borders but they should also be promoting this message to the entities that already reside within the borough boundaries. Where was the Swindon Advertiser, Swindon 105.5, and dare I say it, Swindon Link? And this is where I believe the campaign has managed to add two and two together to make five. They said themselves that they believe that if these 'aspirational homemakers' - a demographic aged 28 to 35, moved to the town they would be the future business leaders of tomorrow starting up their own companies within Swindon and driving our economy. But what about the thousands of 'aspirational homemakers' that already live in the town, who moved here because of house prices and transport links? These are the people who use the town as a dormitory. They work elsewhere and hardly use the town at all for their shopping and socialising as for them it is just somewhere to sleep. Why can't someone from this existing pool of 'aspiring homemakers' be the future business leaders of Swindon driving our economy? Why is the campaign not aiming at these 'aspirational homemakers' who are already here? Why can't the campaign extol the virtues of the town to these people, who simply use it as a base but spend their leisure money and work elsewhere? These people need to be told about the great stuff on their own doorstep. And this is where I believe the campaign is missing a trick. It needs to involve and market to the people of Swindon themselves as well as the people outside of the town. Why can't it do both? It's all well and good spending lots of money on a campaign to up the image of Swindon as a lovely place to live but we can't forget the community and the people who already live here. Lots of money is being spent here and the last thing that should happen is that the town itself is forgotten in a marketing and networking fog. And it's not just business that should be promoted but all the other stuff. They need to champion all the good that is going on in Swindon. All the different groups and volunteers that make the town what it is from its culture to its voluntary organisations. All the parks and the fantastic facilities. The stuff that make the town what it is. The stuff we should be proud of. That would make these 'aspirational homemakers' take the town to their hearts. The stuff that would make them want to make Swindon their home. Switch on to Swindon really needs to do what it says on the tin and actually 'Switch on' to Swindon.

Your Comments

Wasn't there ... suppose Chair of The Civic Trust doesn't really figure? ... very thoughtful article, a great analysis and should be taken firmly on board by the SOTS great and good....

Posted: 15 June 2018, 10.32PM by: john

Picture the scene. You have a job interview in Swindon, you arrive by train and see empty office blocks, you walk through the subway and see people begging, you walk past an [CENSORED] Debenhams and then are faced with a barrage of empty shops. Would you accept the job? Switch on to Swindon need to invest to improve the town centre and railway station area rather than having fancy shindigs. People never get as far as seeing Coate, Lydiard, our bike paths, Old Town.......they get put off way before that.

Posted: 16 June 2018, 11.46AM by: Nicola

Well said Jamie having walked through the town centre yesterday I was saddened and disheartened yet again I counted 13 empty shops boarded and closed why? Why not involve communities to enliven these spaces even with static displays why not encourage more community activity in the town community rather than commercial led the only dynamic activity was the Pavement Poet and that was a hard thought battle yet people stepped to read and talk and interact with strangers marketing does not solve existing problems on the ground working with the community can and does the quality of Swindon should not rest on a marketing campaign

Posted: 20 June 2018, 11.43AM by: Dr Rosa Matheson

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