Developer gets locals involved in mall plans

Dunedin Property planned to turn two Shrewsbury shopping centres into a ‘super-centre’ as part of a £30m scheme. The Darwin and Pride Hill shopping centres were to be converted into a six-storey retail and leisure development.

Campaign Vote Shrewsbury 
Client Dunedin Property
PR team Primal PR/JDPR
Timescale April-August 2005
Budget Part of retainer

Given the high-profile nature of the development, and the risk of alienating locals who shopped at the existing centres, it was felt that a PR campaign was needed to involve residents and encourage them to support the redevelopment.

Objectives
To raise awareness of the redevelopment programme and generate widespread public support and loyalty. To  increase footfall in the existing shopping centres.

Strategy and Plan
To meet the brief of getting locals involved in the development, a two-tier competition was devised where residents would come up with the name for the new centre, firstly by suggesting names and then voting from a shortlist. Promotion of the competition was predominantly through coverage in local papers the Shrewsbury Chronicle and Shropshire Star, and on Beacon FM. More than 100 names were suggested.

Market research agency The Big Picture was hired to research feasibility for the names and narrow them down to  a shortlist of four. 

A press release was sent out announcing the names – Castle Gate, Quayside, River Hill and Tudor Place. Actors represented each of the names in a mock-politician electioneering stunt. Photocalls were also arranged with Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski and the town crier.

A competition offered £500 worth of store vouchers to be spent in the Darwin and Pride Hill Shopping Centres. A voteshrewsbury.co.uk website was also set up, with links to it from the Beacon FM website.

The vote campaign culminated in activity at the Shrewsbury Flower Show, a major event in the local calendar. At the show, 5,000 'Vote Shrewsbury' bags were distributed and Dunedin Property hosted a cocktail party for 40 'local VIPs', who cast their votes on the name. A regular drip-feed of news was released to the media, including updates on how the voting was progressing. 

Measurement and Evaluation
Coverage included articles about the redevelopment in the Shrewsbury Chronicle, Shropshire Star and Smart Shrewsbury magazine. Beacon FM and BBC Radio Shropshire also covered the story.

Results
More than 11,000 votes were cast (representing 15 per cent of the Shrewsbury population) and about 50,000 visitors were exposed to the Vote Shrewsbury message on the weekend of the flower show. Beacon FM had more than 1,000 entries for its competition. Work on the new centre, Castle Gate, will begin next February.

The PR team also handled a number of negative stories, such as one about a voting slip that 'misleadingly' mentioned several brands that would be found in the new centre.

Shrewsbury Chronicle acting news editor Alex Ferguson says: 'Because this concerned the main shopping centres in Shrewsbury, it was a big thing for the town. It was ideal for our readers to be involved in choosing a name. We had hundreds of suggestions. Some amusing, some I couldn't repeat.'

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