So you’ve been charged with the honorable task to develop a place brand for your city, region, country, destination or neighborhood, but don’t know where to start? Place brand consultants can help you master the many potential pitfalls which are part of the place branding process. In fact, we strongly suggest you not to attempt this on your own.
Once the decision is made for an external expert to guide the development, implementation and management of your place brand strategy, another questions pops up: How to choose the right person for the job at hand?
This can be tricky because not all consultants promising place branding actually have what it takes to deliver. Most design or advertising agencies still think about logos, taglines, perhaps a new website – which is all good but has little to do with place branding.
Two examples of why it can be so tricky to choose the right place brand consultant:
Sebastian Zenker, Copenhagen Business School:
“I once heard a presentation from a consultant saying that you have to communicate the essence of a place in a three seconds message, since this is the only thing that your customer is able to concentrate on. Seriously? If such a dramatic reduction of complexity were the approach of the potential specialist, I would definitely avoid it!
Most importantly, try to get different people and viewpoints into one room. Some places like Oslo and The Hague for instance started to hire academics as part of the advisory board, to give input and knowledge into place branding processes. I value the work of practitioners and consultants, but I think adding an academic as some kind of adviser into that equation would make many decisions better.”
PR agency view
Christof Biggeleben, Germany:
“Clearly look for PR- and Ad-Agencies. Because there they come up with and create branding. Many scientists like to consult, but they are often quite theoretical.
The most important parts of a branding-campaign, however, are the central idea, the strategy and the creative measures. And none of that comes from the ivory tower of place-branding-science. They create rules, which agencies usually don’t even follow…”
Based on our expert interviews, below is our advice for city and regional authorities on how to select a place branding specialist to serve as advisor.
7 tips for selecting the right place branding specialist
1. Make sure you hire an interdisciplinary team which includes a creative practitioner and someone from academia with the necessary theoretical knowledge.
- Find someone within your organisation who is passionate about your city or region and has the right skills to liaise with and coordinate a place branding project.
- Get to know potential consultants through our expert interviews before you decide whom to contact. This will help you to choose the right person for the job, rather than the loudest.
2. Always check work experience and credentials of your potential consultant to make sure (s)he has delivered successful place branding projects before. You might want to check our case study section for this.
3. Choose a consultant who is comfortable with long-term commitment (place branding is a long-term process).
4. Make sure consultant ‘gets’ the specifics of branding a place, which are different to branding a product or organisation.
5. Run a workshop before you put out your call for bids, so potential consultants understand what exactly you are looking for. This will save both sides time and money.
6. Look for someone local, if possible, who understands your culture and is comfortable engaging with your place’s population and stakeholders. Buy-in from stakeholders is one of the most important ingredients for place branding success.
7. Save money by choosing a consultant who works at a university. A new generation of highly skilled “Pracademics” is combining university research and teaching with real life consulting. Those can be more price effective than private consultants.
How can we help?
Thank you for supporting our work as a TPBO premium content subscriber. We are here to help you succeed in your place branding endeavor, for example as information scout. If there’s anything we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. More about our services here.