THE WRIGHT-ANGLE: The power of positive storytelling 

Here at Knowsley Chamber we have long been aware of the value of communication, particularly when it comes to maximising the potential of media channels.

It has been almost 12 months since we launched the Knowsley Insight online magazine which sought to provide a new platform for our members and take a deeper dive into their businesses and how they operate.

We wanted to highlight the work they do in helping to drive forward the Liverpool city region economy, to ensure we elevate and promote all the positive work they are doing in terms of business growth, innovation, investment in new technology and sustainability, as well as creating training and employment opportunities for local people.

And the feedback we have had has been extremely positive. Those businesses that have featured on the platform have recognised that value and that opportunity to reach a wider and more diverse audience. It has emphasised the importance of marketing and PR and, beyond that, it has demonstrated the power of positive storytelling.

A new readership has gained a fascinating insight into the nuts and bolts of local companies and how they go about their business, as well as the inspirational stories of the people behind them. And it has helped those businesses to think about the different ways in which they can get their message out there across different channels.

Giving our members an opportunity to tell their stories has never been more important. During the past 18 months we have faced unprecedented challenges both personally and collectively. We have come through it and our resilience, and capacity to adapt, has been remarkable.

We emerge from the pandemic with optimism but also with an awareness that there are challenges amid the opportunities. Business activity is higher, companies are recruiting.

But costs are also rising. Energy prices are sky high, salaries are rising rapidly, and raw materials are more costly and harder to source. The impact of that on the bottom line is obvious.

Companies are finding it harder to recruit the right people. At one of our recent round tables one professional services business told how the rise of remote working has meant firms in Manchester, and even London, were now recruiting people living in the Liverpool city region. Competition for people is now fierce.

Businesses have also been looking at the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow and many will be wondering what it means for them in the short, medium and long-term. Similar to messages around investment into digital technology, businesses are being told that sustainability is no longer optional.

Net zero carbon is the direction of travel and one of the clear messages that has come from our Knowsley Insight magazine over the past 12 months is just how much our members are doing to embrace the decarbonisation agenda. They are prepared to change, innovate, invest – and they need support to do that.

In Knowsley we have seen tangible evidence of that change. As you will see elsewhere in this month’s Insight both Jaguar Land Rover and Ford have made major commitments to invest in electric vehicles. That is fantastic news for the workers in both Halewood Operations and for the wider supply chain. It is a major vote of confidence in our economy.

But what does the shift towards electric vehicles mean for our wider business base? Almost 80% of firms in the city region fall into the small or micro category. These smaller entities employing five people are the engines of our economy.

They see the importance of sustainability and are ready to make the journey to net zero carbon. But they are worried what it will cost them? How much will they need to invest in alternative forms of energy, in things such as solar panels, electric or maybe even hydrogen vehicles? There is talk of clean air zones in Liverpool and Manchester. What will that cost Knowsley businesses operating in and out of each city?

Government needs to step up. We need more than rhetoric. We need real incentives to change. Penalties for those struggling to make the changes would be terribly counterproductive in my view. Cashflow is tight for many and we need a new system of ‘green grants’ to support the transformation. A lot more carrot and a lot less stick.

During the next 12 months there will continue to be challenges for our members as well, I am sure, as some amazing opportunities. As always, at the Chamber, we are here for you to support your growth ambitions, to offer help directly or point you in the direction of the resources you need to change and prosper.

And we will use the success of Knowsley Insight as a platform to keep looking at new ways to help you tell your stories. Feedback from members has shown how much they value their voices being heard. Over the coming months we will strive to amplify those voices as much as we can.

In December we will resume the process of our annual economic reviews, which was disrupted by the pandemic. We will collect solid data on recruitment, investment and business activity and gain a real snapshot into where our economy is at. That will feed into Knowsley’s five-year economic plan.

As the year draws to a close I want to pay tribute to all our member businesses for the incredible resilience and adaptability they have demonstrated over the past 18 months and as this is our final e-magazine of 2021. I look forward to seeing all our members at our AGM which is being held at 10.00 am on 15 December 2021, at Knowsley Hall.