This article is by Westco Account Director & Chair of LG Comms, Simon Jones.It’s a classic chicken and egg. What comes first when considering city branding: economic development and communications or communications and economic development? I think the answer is obvious – but very few councils get it.Successful economic development should be considered part of a strategic communications function, if not wholly then at least as a driving force. If it is seen merely as an ‘add-on’ then you are doomed to failure.For, economic growth ‘place marketing’ as many like to call it, cannot be conjured up through flashy brochures, smiling pictures, a couple of events and a nice website.
How to deliver economic growth?
The development of a genuinely authentic offer only happens over time and is formed of many moving parts, not least bringing your partners and community with you.
1) Think differently
To deliver growth we have to think differently. It is resource intensive and we have to start bridging the gap between what is naturally considered the domain of communications and economic development respectively.
At the heart of place marketing for economic growth is the need to tell a powerful, compelling, authentic story which draws in and builds the assets of the areas we are championing and connects them with the audiences we are seeking.
3) Strategic communications
To achieve economic development, strategic communications must be central to all the component parts – research, partnership working, a cultural strategy that brings our communities with us, creative campaigning, digital, public affairs, evaluation, policy, underpinned with a CRM which drives outbound and in-bound marketing.Most councils make the mistake of separating these components across disparate and far-flung parts of the Town Hall which inevitably means bundling in all kinds of ingredients into a cake recipe and hoping for the best. It’s not surprising that we end up with too many soggy bottoms.This isn’t necessarily a land grab for communications – what it is though is a sensible reminder for why local government needs a strong communications capability. Attracting economic growth should be central to that mission.
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