Key principles for placemaking brands: Part 3

PlaceMaker – also available as a downloadable guide – explores six key principles for ambitious place brands in 2024. In this article, we delve deeper into the third principle, doing what you'll say you do, with examples of our placemaking work for Wirral Waters.

How to deliver on your promises and objectives

Your behaviours, how you work with your partners, and how you live by your brand values in the real world contribute to building your reputation and reinforcing your project's sense of place. 

But over-promising and failing to deliver on your objectives can demolish a trusted reputation, built over decades, in a matter of seconds.

To limit the chances of this happening, place brands can implement a series of initiatives including strategic planning for flexibility and enhancing community engagement efforts.

Below you'll find three placemaking essentials to consider, followed by a positive real-world example of delivering on your promises featuring our work for Wirral Waters, near Liverpool.

01. A flexible plan to achieve a sustainable vision

Placemaking brands should have a clear and well-defined vision of what they aim to achieve for the place they represent – this is a given. 

Initiatives and objectives created to reach the outlined vision should be designed with long-term sustainability in mind. Consider factors such as environmental impact, economic viability, and social equity. 

While these plans should provide a clear roadmap for implementation, they need to be designed with enough flexiblity to adapt to changing circumstances and the unexpected occurrences that will inevitably arise.

Strategies to build flexibility into your long-term plans could include:

  • Detailed preparation of contingency planning 
  • Regular potential change anticipation sessions 
  • Fostering a culture of experimentation including the testing of new ideas
  • Continuously evolving your plan using data from regular monitoring and evaluations
  • Work on improving communication techniques with your teams

02. Enhanced community engagement initiatives

Engaging with the local community is essential for placemaking brands to understand the needs, aspirations, and priorities of residents, businesses, and other stakeholders.

By involving the community in the planning and decision-making processes, placemaking brands can ensure that their initiatives are responsive to local needs and preferences.

To really get to the heart of what the community wants, enhance your planned engagement initiatives. 

Strategies to enhance current community engagement initiatives could include: 

  • Active listening training for your team
  • Implementing inclusive participation 
  • Special efforts regarding cultural sensitivity 
  • Demonstration of impact that goes beyond words
  • Celebrations of local community paying attention to unique societal nuances 
  • Commitment to long-term engagement

03. Transparency and accountability

Placemaking brands should maintain transparency in their operations and decision-making processes. They should ensure that stakeholders and local communities are regularly informed about their activities, progress, and outcomes.

They should also hold themselves accountable for their actions and outcomes, acknowledging successes, and addressing any shortcomings or challenges openly and honestly. 

Strategies to ensure transparency and accountability could include: 

  • A functional and easy-to-use 'contact us' process
  • Implementing a process for actively responding to feedback 
  • Ensuring shared information and content is accessible to all members of the community 
  • Building trust through actions
  • Regular, dated public updates 
  • Regular opportunities for consultations 

Example: Wirral Waters, Merseyside 

Our work for Wirral Waters – working alongside our client, Peel – is a positive example of listening, taking action, and delivering exactly what a previously dubious and concerned local community requested.

Somewhere Associate Director, Scott said: "Wirral Waters is regeneration on an epic scale.

"Covering 500 acres of dockland facing Liverpool, the site had been in decline for more than 40 years.

"Unfortunately, the local population was cynical of a long-term 30-year 'vision' after years of broken promises.


"To move forward, we took a step back, running community engagement to understand what local people wanted.

"The community’s focus was 'jobs for their kids'.

"So, we worked with the developer, Peel Group, to reprioritise, gaining grant funding, building a local college to train youths in the trades that would build the ambitious development.

"The college build was a physical demonstration of the developer's commitment.

"It won a RIBA Sterling architecture prize which propelled the story into the national press for placemaking, and set it on a path where hundreds of homes sit alongside offices and educational buildings."

To learn more or to receive your copy of our downloadable PlaceMaker guide, email our Associate Director, Scott McCubbin via [email protected]

Share this article