Media Representations of Places: Definition, Concepts, Theory

Media representations of places: concepts, theory

To what extent and how do the media – press, broadcasting or social – influence our perceptions of places and brands, and as such their image and reputation? With are the consequences?

Learn about:

  • Importance of media representations;
  • Why media representations are especially relevant for remote places;
  • Amount and nature of media coverage of places;
  • How news coverage influences reputation;
  • Why the ‘media reputation’ of places is hard to control.

Media representations of places – why care?

Media representations play a crucial role in the place image context. Perceptions of places, including countries or tourist destinations, are influenced by the ways in which they are represented by the media (Boisen et al., 2011).

While images are constructed and communicated through multiple channels, including direct experience, word-of-mouth and audio-visual media (Hudson & Brent-Ritchie, 2006), the mass media are one of the main means by which information is disseminated (Anholt, 2010).

The media play “a major part in informing consumers’ images of destinations…either directly in terms of being read, heard or watched, or indirectly through the advice given by friends, relatives and other sources.” (Hall, 2002, pp. 458-459)

Media representations especially crucial for distant places

Remote places in particular depend on media coverage to become known to the outside world (Avraham, 2000; Avraham & Ketter, 2008; Choi, Lehto, & Morrison, 2007; Dinnie, 2008; Kotler & Gertner, 2011).

What is more, the media’s portrayal of distant places is mostly accepted as their “true” nature by those not living there (Adoni & Mane, 1984; Avraham, 2000; Avraham & Ketter, 2008; Burgess & Gold, 1985; Gold, 1980; Pocock & Hudson, 1978; Relph, 1976).

In this regard, the media also function as a primary source for stereotypes and images associated with distant places (Dahlgren & Chakrapani, 1982; Gold, 1994). Media reporting can also turn remotely located places into areas of possible concern for people living thousands of kilometers away (Chouliaraki, 2006; Cottle, 2009a, 2009b).

Yet, the ability of places to become known through the media is limited by the tendency of the media in many countries to exclude peripheral regions (Avraham, 2003; Lahav & Avraham, 2008).

Amount and nature of media coverage of places

Regarding the amount and nature of media coverage of places, Avraham and Ketter (2008, p. 30; see also Avraham, 2000) – drawing on Manheim and Albritton (1984) – have proposed that places either:

  1. receive much negative coverage,
  2. are not covered by the media except in a negative context, usually related to crime, social problems, natural disasters, etc.,
  3. receive much positive coverage, such as cultural events, tourist activity, or investments, or
  4. are largely ignored by the media but when noticed are covered in a primarily positive light.

How news coverage influences reputation

Carroll and McCombs (2003) offer some guiding principles that help understand the influence of news coverage on (corporate) reputation:

  1. the greater the amount of coverage, the greater public awareness,
  2. attributes emphasized in media coverage become attributes the public uses to define a firm; and
  3. the valence of news coverage, positive or negative, is reflected in corresponding public perceptions about those attributes.

Although those principles were developed with business organizations in mind, they can be considered equally valid for understanding the significance of media reputation for place or national brands. In both situations, brand managers are, at the best, outsiders listening in, if not completely disconnected from such conversations (Humlen, 2012).

Media reputation: difficult to control

Controlling media-constructed reputation of a place is difficult, if not impossible (Murphy, 2010). The reputation an organisation or place enjoys in the media develops over time through a complex social process (Deephouse, 2000, p. 1098); it is constantly challenged and evolving (Murphy, 2010).

Apart from media representations of places being subject to sociopolitical influences beyond the immediate control of places, they also cannot entirely control editorial decisions or other news making characteristics (Avraham & Ketter, 2008).

This is not to say that a place’s reputation (coverage) in the media shouldn’t be closely monitored. Quite the contrary:

Isolated negatives in media coverage should not be dismissed as irrelevant, as “these dissonances may signal nascent patterns that, when they become obvious, may have assumed an immovable logic of their own” (Murphy, 2010, p. 233).


References

Adoni, H., & Mane, S. (1984). Media and the social construction of reality: Toward an integration of theory and research. Communication Research, 11(3), 323-340. doi: 10.1177/009365084011003001

Anholt, S. (2010). Places: Identity, image and reputation. Houndsmills, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.

Avraham, E. (2000). Cities and their news media images. Cities, 17(5), 363-370. doi: 10.1016/S0264-2751(00)00032-9

Avraham, E. (2003). Behind media marginality: Coverage of social groups and places in the Israeli press. Langham, MD: Lexington Books.

Avraham, E., & Ketter, E. (2008). Media strategies for marketing places in crisis: Improving the image of cities, countries and tourist destinations. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Inc.

Boisen, M., Terlouw, K., & Bouke, v.G. (2011). The selective nature of place branding and the layering of spatial identities. Journal of Place Management and Development, 4(2), 135-147. doi: 10.1108/17538331111153151

Burgess, J., & Gold, J.R. (Eds.). (1985). Geography, the media and popular culture. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Carroll, C.E., & McCombs, M. (2003). Agenda-setting effects of business news on the public’s images and opinions about major corporations. Corporate Reputation Review, 6(1), 36-46. doi: 10.1057/palgrave.crr.1540188

Choi, S., Lehto, X.Y., & Morrison, A.M. (2007). Destination image representation on the web: Content analysis of Macau travel related websites. Tourism Management, 28(1), 118-129. doi: doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2006.03.002

Chouliaraki, L. (2006). The spectatorship of suffering. London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications.

Cottle, S. (2009). Global crises in the news: Staging news wars, disasters, and climate change. International Journal of Communication, 3, 494-516.

Cottle, S. (2009). Global crisis reporting: Journalism in the global age. Maidenhead, United Kingdom: Open University Press.

Dahlgren, P., & Chakrapani, S. (1982). The third world on T.V. news: Western way of seeing the ‘other’. In W. Adams (Ed.), Television coverage of international affairs (pp. 45-62). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Deephouse, D.L. (2000). Media reputation as a strategic resource: An integration of mass communication and resource-based theories. Journal of Management, 26(6), 1091-1112.

Dinnie, K. (2008). Nation branding: Concepts, issues, practice. Oxford, United Kingdom: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Gilpin, D. (2010). Organizational image construction in a fragmented online media environment. Journal of Public Relations Research, 22(3), 265-287. doi: 10.1080/10627261003614393

Gold, J.R. (1980). An introduction to behavioral geography. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Gold, J.R. (1994). Locating the message: Place promotion as image communication. In J.R. Gold & S.V. Ward (Eds.), Place promotion: The use of publicity and marketing to sell towns and regions (pp. 19-38). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Hall, C.M. (2002). Travel safety, terrorism and the media: The significance of the issue-attention-cycle. Current Issues in Tourism, 5(5), 458-466. doi: 10.1080/13683500208667935

Hudson, S., & Brent-Ritchie, J.R. (2006). Promoting destinations via film tourism: An empirical identification of supporting marketing initiatives. Journal of Travel Research, 44(4), 387-396. doi: 10.1177/0047287506286720

Humlen, A. (2012). Why ‘humanizing’ brands begins with a state of mind. Emotional Branding Alliance Blog.  Retrieved March 19th, 2012, from http://www.socialvoicebranding.com/why-humanizing-brands-begins-with-a-state-of-mind/

Kotler, P., & Gertner, D. (2011). A place marketing and place branding perspective revisited. In N. Morgan, A. Pritchard & R. Pride (Eds.), Destination brands: Managing place reputation (3rd ed., pp. 33-54). Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Lahav, T., & Avraham, E. (2008). Public relations for peripheral places and their national media coverage patterns: The Israeli case. Public Relations Review, 34(3), 230-236. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2008.05.002

Manheim, J.B., & Albritton, R.B. (1984). Changing national images: International public relations and media agenda setting. The American Political Science Review, 78(3), 641-657.

Masters, E. (2010). Brand Aotearoa? Deep origin marketing of functional foods and other natural products of New Zealand origin. (MBA Master thesis), University of Liverpool. Link to Pdf file

Murphy, P. (2010). The intractability of reputation: Media coverage as a complex system in the case of Martha Stewart. Journal of Public Relations Research, 22(2), 209-237. doi: 10.1080/10627261003601648

Pocock, D., & Hudson, R. (1978).Images of the urban environment. London, UK: Macmillan.

Relph, E. (1976). Place and placelessness. London, UK: Pion.


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