As one of the most recognisable names in affordable High Street fashion, Primark spent years seeking a suitable site in Scotland’s capital city to create a flagship store.
When it secured a site on Princes Street, the location in a World Heritage Site meant it faced a rigorous planning process, scrutinised by both Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government.
Primark had to demonstrate the most extensive possible public consultation – a challenge for a company which prefers to avoid the media spotlight.
So, we conceived, created and managed a private online network called Primark – Have Your Say which allowed anyone to share their views with other interested groups and individual – a planning first in Scotland.
It also allowed Primark to provide regular updates on the planning process and artist’s impressions, like that pictured
The biggest objective for Primark was a tricky one to navigate – demonstrating to planners that extensive public consultation had taken place, yet doing so in as low key a way as possible.
Despite its enormous, pan-European business, Dublin-based Primark remained so shy of the limelight it did not even have an internal PR or marketing function.
So, the attention and publicity which can surround a major public consultation exercise was a no-no.
Our solution was to create a private, gated community, where anyone could view the most up-to-date plans and proposals, while commenting on them and leaving their thoughts and observations.
It had to clearly demonstrate that important stakeholders were involved in the process – including heritage organisations, architectural bodies, business and retail groups, community councils, city councillors, MSPs and MPs.
And the ultimate aim was to satisfy the planning authorities and help Primark earn planning permission.
What we did
We used the Ning private social network platform and engaged professional web designers to create a site with Primark branding.
We secured the domain name primarkedinburgh.com and ensured members were required to complete a registration and validation process with a genuine email address.
After extensive stakeholder mapping, we contacted all parties – including architectural bodies, retail groups and politicians. They were provided with a simple guide on how to use the site and encouraged to voice their support or objections.
Our planning PR team managed updates and moderated the network daily.
Support included endorsements from Councillor Tom Buchanan, Economic Development Convener at City of Edinburgh Council and from heritage group, The Cockburn Association.
When the site went live, Holyrood PR announced the move to local media, ensuring the story focused on the innovative use of technology.
That was reported positively in the Evening News, Edinburgh Herald & Post, Business 7 and Buildscotland.co.uk – all praising Primark.