Campaign: Delivering Scotland's First Commercial Gold Mine
Client: Scotgold Resources
PR team: Orbit Communications
Timescale: April-October 2011
It is estimated that approximately 21,000 ounces of gold and 83,000 ounces of silver could be extracted each year across the 39-hectare site. But Scotgold's plans suffered a setback in 2010 when its planning application was rejected by the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park authority.
Orbit Communications was called in to handle lobbying and PR efforts around a second planning application in 2011.
- To promote the benefits of the mine to the local economy and counter arguments it would harm the local environment
- To secure planning permission for Scotland's first goldmine.
STRATEGY AND PLAN
Orbit's integrated PR and public affairs campaign focused on promoting amendments Scotgold had made to its initial application to address environmental concerns.
Scotgold's willingness to work closely with environmentalists was another key message. Pledges made by Scotgold to appease environmentalists included minimising the waste created, limits on blasting and agreeing to a 30-year conservation plan.
Orbit set about bolstering Scotgold's argument that the mine would benefit the local economy.
One of the reasons the initial planning application failed was scepticism over Scotgold's claim that the mine would boost the Scottish economy by £50m.
The agency brought in Professor David Bell, an economics adviser to the Scottish government, to carry out his own analysis. He concluded that Scotgold had, in fact, underestimated the benefits and presented evidence that the economy would be boosted by £80m if the mine was approved.
Another fear was that tourism in this scenic area would suffer. A survey of local hotels and retailers was carried out and revealed widespread support for the mine. Many local people believed it would attract rather than deter visitors. The creation of 52 jobs in the area was another angle promoted to politicians and the media.
MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION
The campaign generated more than 200 pieces of media coverage globally. Among those to cover issues such as the environmental concessions Scotgold had made were The Times, Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald. BBC Online's coverage focused on Scottish Natural Heritage's support for the scheme, as long as its environmental concerns were addressed.
The second application was unanimously approved. The first gold and silver is due to be extracted during the second quarter of 2013. Orbit continues to work with Scotgold, focusing on attracting investors.
SECOND OPINION - ANNE ASHFORD, CO-FOUNDER & DIRECTOR, ASHFORD CARTER COMMUNICATIONS
The success of this campaign was a victory for sound comms and underlined the necessity to build meaningful community engagement into business planning. Too often, organisations forget shareholders are not their only stakeholders and without community support plans can flounder.
The agency used a pragmatic approach and sensibly decided to bolster the community benefits of the proposal by working with independent experts to validate the figures. It is a PR given that an argument delivered by a firm seeking planning permission will not be as believable or persuasive as one provided by an independent third party. Armed with robust facts, the agency was able to have meaningful conversations with key stakeholders, including the press.
While successful, the team could have added a social media platform to enter into direct dialogue with stakeholders. This would have enabled the campaign to react to changes in stakeholder perceptions and generate greater emotional engagement.