PLACE BRANDING STRUCTURE & FUNDING SURVEY

PLACE BRANDING STRUCTURE & FUNDING SURVEY

There is a huge diversity of organisations with a responsibility for implementing place branding to engage citizens, to attract tourism, talent and investment, and to create positive perceptions of cities, regions and nations around the world. Joanna Landau, CEO of Vibe Israel, has been looking in to what seems to work – read her perspective below.  What is your remit? How are you funded? How many people work in your team? Please take part in our survey: it should take no longer than five minutes to complete, all your responses will be treated as confidential and we will share the findings of the survey with you through citynationplace.com.  You can choose to remain anonymous or, if you provide your details, you will be entered in to a draw to win a complimentary ticket to attend one of this year’s City Nation Place conferences in Singapore, New York or London.  

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GREAT Britain. iamsterdam. Unlimited  Australia. NYC & Company. All wonderful examples of top-down, significantly funded and professionally orchestrated place branding efforts that have yielded and continue to yield the desired results as set out by their leadership. We can learn a great deal from and be inspired by all of these places, and many more that are implementing governmental or municipal programs successfully.

But what happens when there is no top-down effort by the government of a country or municipality of a city, or when such efforts fail or are badly managed? What are the citizens and residents of such places who appreciate the need for a proper place branding effort to promote their country or city, to do?

Such is the case in my country, Israel. In 2007, the Israeli government embarked upon the development of a holistic nation branding program. The Foreign Ministry commissioned a leading place branding agency from the UK and in 2009presented its strategy for increasing tourism, trade and FDI, exposingits culture and improving public opinion. The plan was grand, and research showed clearly that the Israeli people connected with the brand strategy proposed. Extensive surveys around the world that tested the narratives also showed very positive feedback. In 2010, the program was submitted to the Government for elaborate funding, but the annual budget of the State of Israel, which is heavily affected by the need to invest in security, had little room for such an adventure. The program ultimately received much less funding that originally anticipated, and under these circumstances, with little buy-in from the various government ministries that would need to cooperate in order to implement the program, it eventually fizzled out and was never truly tried and tested.

Around the same time, and as a result of reading up on the topic, I discovered that in countries where place branding efforts succeeded, there was always at least one non-governmental organization that supported the efforts of the government and reinforcedthemfrom the bottom-up. I decided at the time to establish such an organization, hoping to see the Brand Israel program develop into a nationally recognized and well-funded government project. That was in 2010. 8 years on, and my non-profit, Vibe Israel, is still going strong, implementing the original Brand Israel strategy on a very small scale as far as our funding will allow, but the government has clearly given up on the notion of implementing a Brand Israel program. For several years, I tried to lobby my government to reconsider, but it had other concerns and I came to realize that my expectation of a properly managed top-down place branding effort by the government of Israel may take much more time. Time I do not have, as a citizen of my country, to spare. I believe my country needs a place branding effort, and I have come to the conclusion that if it’s not going to happen top-down, then it will have to happen bottom-up, led by Vibe Israel which is today a mere $1 million organization with a staff of only 10 professionals.

To take on this enormous commitment, and develop a work-plan that will require significantly greater funding than we currently have and a much bigger staff, I decided to conduct preliminary comparative research to see what is happening in this realm in other countries. After all, Israel is not the only country whose government has left it to its citizens or city whose leadership has left it to its residents, to lead the process. I began by randomly picking 22 countries and cities where there are place branding efforts, and looked into who is leading these initiatives, what their annual budget is, what the organizational structure is, and which aspects of place branding they focus on (holistic – all channels – or single channels such as tourism, FDI, attracting talent, etc.). I discovered from this very initial research some important findings that concern us all as practitioners in this field:

There appears to be no standardization in this field at all. Not with regard to the organizational structure of place brandingefforts, nor the leadership (government/NGO/business sector),and not even a set of best practices regarding the activities required in order to successfully manage the reputation of a place.;

In some places, the government or municipality is very involved, but in others the efforts are led by nonprofits and NGO’s with minimal governmental or municipal support, and still, the efforts bear fruit. In some countries the budget is enormous, tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, and yet in others the budget is small but enough to make a difference;

Despite this lack of consistency, since its inception in the 1990’s, professional place branding has become a respected and well-recognized industry, with almost every city and country investing in it in some form or another.

Most importantly, for those of us who are working in this field, the lack of standardization represents a significant obstacle for anyone wishing to enter into such a process, whether bottom-up or top-down. While there are excellent consulting firms and place branding agencies, this industry is in dire need of standardization and best practices we can all benefit from, as opposed to just case studies that tend to be very specific to the abilities and conditions of the place presented in the study.

To help not only myself but anyone else who is interested in getting a better understanding of place branding efforts around the world, I reached out to City Nation Place and asked them to partner on this research, in the form of an anonymous survey to be filled by the members of CNP. I was delighted when CNP saw value in such a survey for all of its members, and expressed interest in the findings of this survey being presented at the next Global CNP event in London this November.

Please click here to participate  in this important survey, that can shed light on our industry and hopefully serve to professionalize it as we learn from each other how best to brand the places we come from. Thank you!

Joanna Landau is the Founder & CEO  of Vibe Israel, a 2016 CNP Finalist of the Best Use of Social Media Award

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