Campaign: Edinburgh keeps calm as G8 protest descends

Last summer's G8 Summit, despite being 50 miles north of Edinburgh, had a major impact of the Scottish capital. Joe Lepper found out why.

WINNER: Issues & Crisis Management
Campaign The G8 Summit
Client The City of Edinburgh Council
PR team In-house
Timescale March-July 2005
Budget £150,000

From 6-8 July last summer, the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire hosted  the G8 Summit, with Canada, France,  Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the US and the UK all represented by their heads of state or government. Despite Edinburgh being 50 miles to the south of this venue, the summit had a major impact on Scotland's capital.

Bob Geldof publicly called for one million people to march to Edinburgh in protest at third-world debt, while up to 100,000 were expected to watch the Live8 concert on big screens in the city.

The challenge for Edinburgh Council was to ensure these marches and events all took place peacefully.

To foster a ‘partnership approach' and create a positive and welcoming image. To promote the city, and keep residents, businesses and visitors informed of G8 activities, as well as delivering accurate, reliable and timely information to all media. To maintain public calm and communicate public safety information, while negating any anxiety or nega­tivity among the city's residents.

Strategy and Plan
A detailed action plan was established early to ensure the comms process was co-ordinated effectively. This involved centralising the PR teams of the council, the emergency services, Edinburgh City Centre Management Company, the Scottish Executive and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Joint messages were delivered from the council, police and partner agencies; a G8 enquiry line and website were set up; and meetings took place with community groups, businesses and other partners.

In addition, letters were sent to affected groups and information was published in various local media. In terms of media management, a media centre was established and press packs created. A range of cultural and educational events were also planned to mirror the summit's agenda.

Measurement and Evaluation
More than 1,000 articles on the summit and march appeared in local and national press; there were 12 hours of summit-specific TV coverage on BBC, STV, Reuters, CNN and Sky. From April, there was daily international radio, press and TV coverage.

Some 1,500 media enquiries were taken and answered; 350 statements and press releases were produced in the weeks up to, and during, the summit. There were 2,500 hits a day on the G8 section of the council's website and 9,000 calls were taken on its enquiry line.

The council received overwhelmingly positive feedback from residents and businesses, with many local firms pledging to remain open for trading despite earlier fears that a protest march could lead to vandalism. Some people even posted positive comments in the council's ‘feedback book', and Edinburgh was billed in various press as a welcoming city.

Edinburgh Evening News city council reporter Brian Ferguson says: ‘We knew there would be big unofficial protests here. But the council did really well to pull together a programme of events. It made it clear that it supported the Make Poverty History campaign and it always stressed that Edinburgh was open for business. When Geldof got involved things were thrown into a bit of a quandary, but the council coped and sent out the right messages.'

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