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MENTOR - MEDIA MENTOR

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Macclesfield used the media to shake off its 'cultural desert' tag, says Alexa Prescott...
Macclesfield used the media to shake off its 'cultural desert' tag, says Alexa Prescott

Last November, Macclesfield BC faced one of its most challenging stories to date. According to State of the Nation 2005, a survey undertaken by socio-economic researcher Local Futures, Macclesfield was the least cultured place in Britain. Its conclusion was based on the density of cultural facilities in the borough, namely cinemas, theatres and libraries. Common sense dictates that a predominantly rural borough can hardly compete with London's West End.

As national and regional journalists put the area under scrutiny, the council fought back. A two-pronged attack challenged the research and highlighted aspects of the borough which make it such a desirable places to live.

The first call to the press office came from the Financial Times - would we like to comment on the survey? The council put together a dossier of facts and figures to prove its case. The resulting headline, 'Area noted for its lack of culture', and minuscule 50-word article wasn't what we had hoped for, but it raised the interest of other national journalists.

So when The Times called to say a reporter was on his way from London and could we help, we wasted no time in inviting him into the leader's office to hear our defence. His full-page feature, 'Is charming Macclesfield really such a cultural cul-de-sac?', appeared a few days later.

The culmination of our efforts came a few days later, with a call from The Richard & Judy Show. Passionate advocates of their native north-west, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan were riled by the attack.

Ms Finnegan announced: 'In a breathtaking display of snobbery and ignorance, a geography think-tank has labelled Macclesfield a cultural desert - what, posh Macclesfield? Set in beautiful Cheshire countryside, one of the 38 most prosperous boroughs in Britain, neighbour of 'footballer's wives' territory like Prestbury and Alderley Edge? Well, we don't believe it . . .'

Alexa Prescott, press officer, Macclesfield BC

If you have any examples of good practice in communicating with the media and marketing your council, e-mail

anne.gulland@emap.com

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