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23rd May 2016

Hampshire’s Hierarchical High Jinks

Change could be afoot in the County - how do we learn about it?

Earlier this month it was reported in Hampshire’s media that conflicting plans were afoot in our corridors of power to, on one hand create a more unified County Council and on the other, to form Mayoral councils covering the Solent and the ‘Heart of Hampshire’.  As things stand, the hierarchy of councils in Hampshire is already complicated, devolving from the County Council into District Councils and then into Town Councils. So there can be confusion amongst inhabitants as to who is in charge of which aspect of local Hampshire living. 

We all need to know who to contact in our local councils, from recycling to education. A new unitary council to stand in place of both the County and District councils would remove a layer of administration and offer a single contact for many of the community’s needs. Conversely, would such a behemoth lose touch with the local population’s priorities, which vary from district to district? Adding a Mayoral level of Hants administration may seem bureaucratic, but could it have its advantages including allowing greater levels of devolution from Central Government?

The leader of Hampshire County Council has announced that there must be a ‘full and genuine public consultation’ on the matter. In this case, the important thing for the people of the county will be communication. Traditionally, local politics rely on the printed word, be it via local newspapers, direct mail letter drops or leaflet distribution in the street. In recent years, some focus has switched to social media but this carries a potential risk of alienating huge swathes of the population who may not engage with these streams. So to understand what’s going on in your area, or to clearly impart your message to all corners of your community, classic print on paper is key.  

So how should those messages be imparted to the masses? 

Say What?

This is crucial. Less information really can be more, and never was this more true than in the case of leaflet production. Think about how often you’ve received a piece of print which makes your mind spin with over-stimulation. The human brain rejects visual chaos, created by too many words squeezed into limited space.

Looking Good

All elements of a leaflet say something, so what do the elements of print that are NOT words say? Font style, font size, colour scheme, choice of image, text spacing: these are all portions of the final visual image that is created. How long do you spend looking at a leaflet before you decide whether to read the words? Maybe a couple of seconds? The image of a leaflet either encourages, or discourages a reader to engage in the information enclosed.

Touchy Feely

It’s not just what’s on the paper, but the paper itself. Budget will of course dictate many decisions on this, but consider that the way that a piece of paper feels in the hands of a reader will signpost how they consume the information presented. 

Sensible Speaking

Proofreading  should never be left solely to a computerised spell checker. It simply doesn’t understand the subtleties of the English language; you can peddle lies… or pedal a bicycle. A spell checker won’t necessarily pick up the difference. Unnecessary errors undermine the authority of a message and, by allocating time and a calm read, should be eradicated. 

However the future structure of Hampshire’s councils is destined to evolve, the local communities who need to have a say must be able to digest the information with relative ease. Let’s hope that the powers that be agree. You might even benefit from the same principles in your business. We hope so!