Sweeney Communications

Challenging strategy

Staying relevant to members and the motoring public is a big challenge for the body representing the UK parking profession.

This is especially true as the sector prepares for upheaval from automated and electric vehicles, data protection and tightening regulation.

The BPA's many-headed strategy, designed collaboratively to trigger change, was in danger of becoming undeliverable given tight budgets and headcount.

Its Head of Public Affairs Dave Smith shared his concerns with Jo Ann Sweeney, asking how they could turn the blueprint into activities that demonstrated they were taking action on the issues members were concerned about.

Challenging Strategy becomes Practical Workstreams

The British Parking Association (BPA) is very aware of the need to model leadership. Its most recent five-year strategy, published in 2017, encourages members to ensure parking is a positive experience for all the UK’s road users.

Developed with representatives from the BPA’s 700 member organisations, the strategy, titled A Blueprint for Parking, is comprehensive. It aims to change levels of knowledge, attitudes to parking and behaviours in multiple audiences – local authorities, national government, private parking operators, businesses, residents and lobbyists.

Eight overarching objectives in the blueprint set out how the BPA will achieve these aims; each has multiple messages/ calls to action for audiences. Both the objectives and messages are aspirational – big, hairy, audacious goals – which became obvious when the BPA began implementing them.

Taming a many-headed strategy

The BPA has a small communications team who are fully absorbed managing public affairs, PR and media relations activities. Head of Public Affairs Dave Smith realised he didn’t have the internal resources to translate the blueprint into practical programmes that could be rolled out over the five years 2017-2021.

In August 2017, he shared his concerns with consultant Jo Ann Sweeney, asking for her thoughts on how the BPA could turn the blueprint into activities demonstrating the association is taking action on the issues members are concerned about.

“I was struck by how ambitious the blueprint was. To get my head around its complexity I noted down the key messages and listed 30, each distinct from the others,” said Jo Ann.

“In their desire to include the full range of members’ views; the BPA had not spotted its blueprint was growing into a many-headed beast until the thing was in the public domain.”

Having worked with the BPA for several years, Jo Ann knew Dave’s team didn’t have time or budgets to manage the time-consuming and complex programmes needed to deliver the blueprint.

She recommended dividing the messages/ calls to action between five annual workstreams, or packages of work, with delivery by external creative suppliers and funding from industry sponsors.

Confident to implement

Her proposal contained four elements: a tendering framework for appointing creative suppliers, sponsorship framework for funding workstreams, project management framework for delivering the workstreams, and facilitated workshop to allocate the 30 key messages across five workstreams.

These were presented firstly to the Public Affairs Board and then the governing Board, both member representatives, who accepted the proposal.

Dave commented, “Jo Ann understands the parking industry and how the BPA works. She listens, asks questions and then suggests solutions we and our leaders feel confident of implementing.”

The workshop, in London, attracted people from a cross-section of the BPA membership who gave half a day to share their views and debate workstreams content with each other. Interactive activities culminated in a prioritised list of messages and presentations on how to implement them.

Messages were grouped into pairs to create between three and four projects per workstream; some will be multi-year, others completable within a year. Involving members ensures they are supportive and will support workstream projects as they launch.

Additionally, Jo Ann developed the guidance documents. The creative supplier tendering framework provides consistency for identifying potential suppliers, structuring project briefs, organising competitive pitches, maintaining relationships and terminating a contract.

The sponsorship framework builds on existing successful sponsorship deals and ensures consistency in relationships, accountability and resolving issues. The project management framework documents day-to-day accountability and oversight during delivery of each project.

Executives and members in tune

The BPA now has a process for taking its Blueprint for Parking from a strategic document to practical activities that can be implemented over time. Dave Smith is relieved he and his team will be able to deliver the expectations of their boards.

“Just putting a framework around the process has been very useful and it is very clear. We have much better clarity and detail on how to deliver a challenging set of objectives.

“Jo Ann’s support in setting out the purpose for the blueprint was incredibly important. We had involved BPA members when we were creating the blueprint. Once it was published we needed to make sure they understood its purpose and how we would achieve the many objectives it contains.”

Dave added that it was clear to him, as the members workshop progressed, that not everyone did understand how to deliver their wants and needs in the blueprint and there were varying views on what was most important.

“Jo Ann helped us surface these differences and collectively prioritise the objectives then present them to both the Public Affairs Board and BPA Board, so our leaders are in tune with members’ thinking”

Future direction clear

“This is important because the boards had given us a directive – to demonstrate how we would deliver the many blueprint objectives. We were able to demonstrate to them that we had given a great deal of thought to this and had a practical plan.”

BPA board members now better understand the overall challenges and scale of what they have asked the communications team to deliver. The BPA has a logical process and executives are clear about what happens next and how the organisation can achieve its five year strategy.

“Board members are currently absorbing the options Jo Ann has presented and will soon give us their thoughts on what to do next. Regardless of their decision on how we take things forward, Jo Ann has taken us through a really important process to understand the size of the challenge.

“She became almost a part of the executive team, grasping what we were trying to achieve and was able to demonstrate this understanding to the boards. She kept us on track and stimulated lots of conversations about our future direction.”

About the BPA

The British Parking Association represents the UK parking and traffic management profession. Its 750+ corporate members includes local government, commercial providers and parking system operators, as well as consultants and academics. In addition, it represents over 500 individuals and has a separate membership structure to support their professional development. 

The BPA is a not-for-profit organisation working with members and stakeholders to support their communities, improve compliance by those managing and using parking facilities, and encourage fairness to achieve excellence in parking for all.


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