John Donnelly: Let’s put Edinburgh on the marketing map

Marketing Edinburgh is showcasing it as one of best places in the world, to live, visit, invest, study and film. Picture: Hemedia
Marketing Edinburgh is showcasing it as one of best places in the world, to live, visit, invest, study and film. Picture: Hemedia
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Confidence, credibility and momentum help to give us strength, writes John Donnelly

It’s three years since I took over the role of chief executive and Marketing Edinburgh launched its first ever three-year business plan. I’m proud to say that thanks to the hard work of our small, dedicated team, the organisation is growing from strength to strength. It has confidence. It has credibility. It has momentum.

Marketing Edinburgh continues to deliver great quality work across a wide range of areas, recruiting members and partners, who do business in and on behalf of the city and all benefit from strong and prosperous Edinburgh. Collaboration, particularly between public and private sector, is critical. We’ve developed an effective relationship which allows us to work as an integral part of the Edinburgh tourism and destination promotion industries.

Over the last three years, Marketing Edinburgh has built a solid reputation and delivered tangible, measureable results for the city. Economic impact studies show that during the last financial year, Marketing Edinburgh delivered its strongest results to date, a remarkable return on investment of 137.4 per cent, £94 million from business tourism, in conjunction with our partners, £6.9m from film and £25m from campaigns. All for an investment of less than £1m.

What is clear is that the more we invest, the more we get in return. Our relationship with City of Edinburgh Council grows annually, it is their support and vision that enables Marketing Edinburgh to get on with the job promoting the city. In these fiscally difficult times for our local authorities, that should be commended. It is something that we will never take for granted.

2015 was an evolutionary year for Marketing Edinburgh and one that let us embed the foundations for future growth and capitalise on successes of the last two years. Convention Edinburgh, the business tourism arm of our organisation, reported a £2.8m increase in the economic impact figures on last year. A 10,000 delegate boost brought the total number of delegates attending 206 conferences in the city to 74,400 – no other UK city outside London can match that result.

The city centre marketing campaign, This is Edinburgh, also drew to a close, delivering all metrics and increasing footfall in the city by +2.86 per cent above the UK average and a rise in retail sales. The result was an incremental £50m uplift in city centre retail, hospitality and attraction sectors over the two-year campaign. Crucially, This is Edinburgh has also left a substantial and influential digital legacy for the city. By successfully creating Edinburgh’s first official web portal to the city, Edinburgh now has a direct line of communication to a combined new audience of over one million unique users and an additional 260,000 via its social channels.

Thanks to the success of This is Edinburgh, as well as a number of other global campaigns, including a corporate partnership with the University of Edinburgh promoting the city and university to potential overseas students, Marketing Edinburgh has proved its credentials. As a leading, award-winning marketing organisation, we can now talk with authority and credibility. It also demonstrates the opportunity and future potential we can unleash as a city by working more effectively together, for the benefit of all.

As we set out the next three years of our business strategy, it’s time to review the role and responsibilities of Marketing Edinburgh and expand its remit to become the true agency of the city. We need to root out inefficiencies and duplications and be clear on what we want from this agency.

This is the approach adopted by cities across UK and Europe and I believe there is a genuine danger that if Edinburgh does not act, it will fall behind. We’ve researched and learned from our global competitors and while there is no one size fits all solution, what is startlingly clear is that we must raise far more resource than we have now.

Developing significant private sector partnerships is one avenue we continue to progress and are working hard to build. After all, the private sector benefits from our work and a successful Edinburgh. But the ultimate aim must be to reduce Marketing Edinburgh’s dependency on City of Edinburgh Council and create a model which can be properly monetised over time. Only then will we be able to deliver clear, clever and consistent city messaging, strong enough to cut though the noise of the global marketplace.

We need a transformation.

Work to create that new model for Marketing Edinburgh is already under way, readying itself to take ownership of this role. As a non-profit organisation, the revenue we generate goes directly back in to promoting our city, showcasing it as one of best places in the world, to live, visit, invest, study and film. For Edinburgh to succeed, we must be allowed to lead, to compete and to innovate.

• John Donnelly is chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh,,