John Donnelly: It's a capital opportunity to promote Edinburgh

COLLABORATION is key to selling the city to the world, writes John Donnelly

John Donnelly, Marketing Edinburgh

Collaboration – the buzzword claimed to be at the heart of many an organisation’s business strategy. All working together to achieve something. Whilst a good ambition, in reality it’s a word often over-used and undelivered.

It takes a lot of hard work, creativity and diplomacy to promote Edinburgh and collaboration between public and private sector remains critical. That said, I believe it needs to be about something more powerful. Integration, the act or instance of combining into an integral whole.

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This is the primary role Marketing Edinburgh (ME) plays in the capital’s development. Acting as a catalyst and facilitator, driving economic activity, we showcase Edinburgh as an inspirational destination to the rest of the UK and internationally.

Scotrail Great City Swap. ScotRail campaign aimed to challenge our cities residents to head out and explore their neighbouring city. 22/9/16 Picture © Andy Buchanan 2016

Working together we can deliver better experiences for residents and visitors. But it also reaches beyond city boundaries. In the autumn, ME joined forces with Glasgow City Marketing Bureau to support a ScotRail campaign aimed at challenging residents to head out and explore their neighbouring city.

And it worked. The fully integrated Great City Swap campaign created intrigue with our audiences, leading to an uplift in ticket sales at leisure travel times and the downloading of thousands of travel itineraries and special offers in each city, enabling individuals, friends and families to discover a little more about what is on their doorstep.

We must lead by example. In the last year, ME has worked to encourage behaviour change within the city. Not only by identifying and introducing businesses with common goals, but by cooperating with them to create campaigns that showcase Edinburgh.

We’ve brought together excellence, connecting Edinburgh’s scientific and academic elite, represented in the Edinburgh Ambassador Programme and one of the city’s best-know chefs, Tom Kitchin. Over the last 12 months, ME has hosted a number of mutually beneficial events for both parties, the highlight being the grand gala dinner celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Edinburgh Ambassador Programme at the EICC. This particular partnership not only rewards our Ambassadors with a greater insight into (and taste of) Tom’s passion and skill, it has opened up a network of individuals to The Kitchin Group, who globally represent Edinburgh in their field of expertise – and have personally delivered over £900 million worth of conferences to the city in the last 20 years.

Scotrail Great City Swap. ScotRail campaign aimed to challenge our cities residents to head out and explore their neighbouring city. 22/9/16 Picture © Andy Buchanan 2016

To become fully integrated in our city-wide approach takes drive and tenaciousness. To improve, Edinburgh as a city must be ever ambitious.

This week, Edinburgh announced the launch of its first-ever destination campaign on China’s influential social media sites Weibo and Weixin, which share a combined audience of 1 billion. It’s the latest stage in getting Edinburgh “China Ready” to welcome what is set to become one of our biggest emerging markets in the years ahead.

Already the top UK destination for Chinese visitors outside of London, it’s exciting to see organisations such as Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, Edinburgh Airport, VisitScotland and Scottish Enterprise join us in working with local businesses to help them prepare for and host this high-value customer. We are also campaigning for Edinburgh to be the home of the first Scottish direct flight to China.

One of the most important secrets to successful collaboration is listening. It’s a lesson the City of Edinburgh Council has very much embraced with its 2050 City Vision for Edinburgh, of which the consultation stage closes this week – it’s a chance for residents and businesses to make their opinion genuinely count.

I’ve been working at ME for over three years and in that time I’ve had countless discussions with people telling me what they would do to make Edinburgh a better place to live in, work in and visit. Well, this is the time to do something about it. Get involved, engage and contribute.

• John Donnelly, Chief Executive, Marketing Edinburgh