Client: The Wykeland Group
Skills: Planning and public affairs, media relations, social media monitoring and management
When a derelict stable block threatened to thwart the construction of one of Hull’s most exciting developments, social media blew up.
C4DI (the Centre for Digital Innovation) – a much-talked-about digital and creative hub and centre piece for a wider £14m development – was eagerly awaited by the region’s tech community. But before the building could go ahead, land on the development site needed to be cleared, and this is where the trouble began.
Certain historians knew of the remains of old stable block that had some historical significance and used this as the basis of their opposition to the scheme, making their views known in the press. This was a major factor in Hull City Council’s planning officers’ recommendation that the planning application should be refused, putting the whole scheme in jeopardy.
The development was being brought forward by Wykeland and we were their retained agency at the time and had been for a number of years. We had been involved with C4DI since conception, launched it in the media and organised the public consultation and exhibitions around it and the wider development.
But with the negative PR resulting from the planned knocking down of the stables, we had to change tact. Working with the team at C4DI, our role became to whip as much outrage as possible at the prospect of the development not going ahead, survey Twitter, and generally build a case for this dilapidated stable block not to stand in the way of progress.
Thanks to the positive PR we generated, the development had become more than a building to the city. It was a beacon that lit the way to Hull’s new, exciting digital future. As a result, no one could quite believe it might fall at the planning stage.
tprc. worked with local social media influencers in the tech community to make as much noise online as possible, inspiring others to express their support for C4DI. The subject trended locally, with everyone from football fans to local radio stations questioning the absurd notion that this exciting development could be halted.
Once the social media explosion settled down, we analysed the reaction and compiled it into a detailed report demonstrating the strength of feeling in the support of the development. The reported was sent to the relevant councillors and used for general lobbying of the Hull City Council.
Of course, this all generated further media coverage, so by the time the planning meeting occurred, TV and radio stations were parked outside of city hall to hear the result and grab an interview.
We accompanied the developers to the meeting, media statements already written for both potential outcomes, and to manage the broadcast media.
The committee recognised the amount of public support the development had received and knew refusing it could be potentially disastrous for the credibility of the council and the city. The application was eventually passed, after a site visit and some design amendments.
We worked with Wykeland and the C4DI team throughout the development of the site, providing PR services through site clearance and the construction of the building.
We also organised the official launch event which featured special guest Claire Braithwaite, then head of Tech North at Tech City UK, down to inviting a distinguish list of guests from business and politics, to writing the official opening speech for the development lead.
C4DI is now established as the digital and creative hub it was always destined to become, and the beating heart of Hull’s tech-based industry.