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Manchester Central

As the pandemic took hold in the UK, Manchester Central quickly transformed itself from a buzzing events venue into a hospital. Here’s the story of how the digital team has used Brandwatch in times of constant change.

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CASE STUDYManchester Central

“I don’t think I ever would have imagined this happening," says Samantha Pike-Devlin, Digital Communications Executive at Manchester Central. She’s been on an incredible journey over the last few months.

Samantha is responsible for planning and managing the production of digital content for the North of England’s leading conference and events venue. It’s a huge job. Manchester Central hosts an array of enormous events, like the Conservative Party Conference, Premier League launches, and ITV’s much-loved Ninja Warrior UK.

Samantha’s duties are just as diverse as the events happening at the venue. She manages and creates content for social media, hosts podcasts, plans supporting online content for events, writes internal and external newsletters, and liaises with big-name organizers, to name a few.

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Manchester Central has hosted The X Factor
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Ninja Warrior is filmed at Manchester Central

She’s also a Brandwatch power-user, monitoring the competition, tracking campaigns, and developing insight-driven content based on her findings.

Despite all their experience, nothing could have prepared her and her team for 2020. As the pandemic hit, the events landscape changed overnight. But that didn’t mean Manchester Central shut its doors.

Instead, it became one of seven venues across the country that became a Nightingale Hospital. These are critical care centres for Covid-19 patients, and in just a few weeks Manchester Central was set up for the treatment of up to 750 patients from around the North West of England.

In this case study, we’ll take you through how Sam and her team have adapted to the ongoing situation, how they’re using Brandwatch to monitor and develop current campaigns that are happening right now, and how they plan to use digital insights in the future.

Looking beyond likes

Manchester Central first got onboard with Brandwatch back in 2018.

“The initial investment came out of a big piece of research I was doing,” says Samantha. “The social media landscape was changing, the way that people were analyzing and measuring their success on social media was changing.

"Previously we were using basic vanity metrics like engagement numbers and follower counts, and I wanted to develop that further because there’s so much more out there to look at. The research I did led me to Brandwatch and for me it was the top choice out of all the others I looked into – Brandwatch stood out as the one we’d get most value from.”
— Samantha Pike-Devlin, Digital Communications Executive at Manchester Central

Since then, Sam has used Brandwatch for a number of different use cases, including content strategy, campaign analysis, and competitor analysis.

When creating content programs, she’ll use Brandwatch data to get a good sense of what has and hasn’t worked.

“What’s great about Brandwatch is that you can delve right in and find the specific mention, the specific tweet, or the specific article that has caused that influx in activity. Once we have those insights we can adapt our content to try and mirror that success. You get to see not necessarily what we’re doing wrong, but what we can do better.”
— Samantha Pike-Devlin, Digital Communications Executive at Manchester Central

Analysis of the competition goes beyond tactical content ideas. One of Samantha’s main aims when investing in Brandwatch was to go beyond vanity metrics to look at more meaningful share of voice analysis. The venue identified seven main competitors and Samantha analyzes online conversation around them each month. Being able to see exactly what’s driving conversation around competitors helps provide inspiration for content and key insights for the wider team.

Samantha uses Brandwatch insights on an ongoing basis, but also in a monthly report for senior leaders at Manchester Central. Having these insights inform the venue’s online presence, and communicating the impact to senior leaders, has meant that people across the organization understand the value of the venue’s online presence.

“Internally, Brandwatch has helped us to allow our teams – people in my own team but people across the business as well – to understand the impact of our online activities. Using Brandwatch and being able to create monthly reports enabled us to harness insights, develop outputs, and track our online success. They also give other teams in the business a full appreciation for how our brand resonates online. It definitely has allowed us to inform the business better on what we’re doing.”
— Samantha Pike-Devlin, Digital Communications Executive at Manchester Central

Becoming a hospital

When Manchester Central made the switch from events venue to hospital, every team’s work was significantly impacted.

“It was a busy time. It was quite intense. And as you’d expect, it was picked up by local, national, and international news. We do host high-profile events, but this is probably the most high-profile thing that’s happened to us in the last couple of years outside of the events we host,” says Samantha.

“A lot of the news coverage or online mentions we usually generate tend to be around events happening at the venue. This was really us taking centre stage as a venue and playing a role in something that will go down in history. It’s a significant milestone for us.”
— Samantha Pike-Devlin, Digital Communications Executive at Manchester Central

Brandwatch was able to help the team swiftly with monitoring the situation in Manchester Central’s existing setup.

“Our Customer Success Manager at Brandwatch contacted me after hearing the news, which was really proactive, and I appreciated that,” says Samantha.

"Brandwatch allowed us to quickly and easily adapt our queries to pinpoint increases in engagement because of the Nightingale. It was really useful for us to have that platform at that time, especially because it was happening so quickly. It was good to know that Brandwatch was running in the background and picking up that insight for us so we could just pop in and check on those outcomes.”
— Samantha Pike-Devlin, Digital Communications Executive at Manchester Central

“It also helped us to look closer at the sentiment around the situation as well. Of course, it was largely positive. To be transformed into a hospital and support the NHS during these challenging times was a really great thing we were and still are so proud to be involved in, and that was echoed in what people were saying online,” says Samantha. “Given the volume of online conversations that were happening around the Nightingale hospitals, Brandwatch allowed us to keep on top of what was being said about Manchester Central.”

The future of events

In the last few weeks, Manchester Central have collaborated with the Events Industry Alliance to look to the future. Part of that is a social media campaign – #ProjectConfidence.

“Covid has obviously had a huge impact on the events industry and as one of the leading venues we felt like it was important for us to reassure our stakeholders that we’re working with peers and partners behind the scenes to ensure that events do return and they return safely,” says Samantha.

The aim of #ProjectConfidence is to engage event professionals across the industry with carefully crafted and coordinated content that provides reassurance to collective audiences, highlights the value of the events industry to demonstrate the need for its return, and motivates audiences to participate in events once again.

“Brandwatch is key to us monitoring the campaign across the entire industry. I was able to set up a new query, a project dashboard, and a campaign dashboard, and that’s been really helpful in us tracking how successful the campaign is. Engagement around #ProjectConfidence has been incredible and the campaign will run for some time to come.”
— Samantha Pike-Devlin, Digital Communications Executive at Manchester Central

How Manchester Central is maturing into digital consumer intelligence

Looking to the future, Samantha has some big plans for how digital insights like those she gathers can help the wider business.

“Moving forward we want to use the Brandwatch Consumer Research platform to look at the way that people are talking about the industry, our venue, positive and negative feedback – those nuances in conversation. As a venue, we’re committed to continually improving what we do and Brandwatch will be a really useful tool in helping us to enhance our proposition.”
— Samantha Pike-Devlin, Digital Communications Executive at Manchester Central

We’d like to thank Samantha and her team at Manchester Central for sharing their experiences with us.

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