Melbourne PR agency, Ellis Jones, today completed its landmark brand perception study and community engagement campaign for Latrobe City Council. It comes at a pivotal time in history as the Latrobe Valley region, famous for coal fired electricity generation, prepares to recast its brand in a low carbon era.
“If I say 'Latrobe Valley' what comes to mind? Smog? Bogans? A line at Centrelink? If you said yes to all of the above you are in agreement with most Victorians,” said Rhod Ellis-Jones, Principal.
The three month study comprised telephone, email and in-field surveying, a Facebook quiz (the “Valley IQ Test”), a microsite, social media networking and an offline PR and advertising campaign. Benchmarking was also undertaken on other cities which had successfully overcome periods of significant industrial change.
Latrobe is home to a diverse mix of industries, a number of which are greater economic contributors than the coal and electricity generation industries, but are broadly not known to people outside the Valley.
“This is where all of Australia’s Yoplait yoghurt and Reflex copy paper is produced but no one knows. Such is the power of negative stereotyping left unanswered,” he said. “The real story of Latrobe is largely waiting to be told.”
The Ellis Jones campaign comprised a call to action, ‘I [ ] in Latrobe’, which asked local people to fill in the blanks. The agency’s design and development team produced a microsite, Latrobe Story, which allowed residents to share their experiences.
Competitive place branding requires strategy, substance and symbolism. The local campaign was a catalyst for uncovering the evidence that Latrobe is much more than energy and coal. It projected real faces and real actions to the outside world at a time when the valley is receiving intense media and policymaker scrutiny.
Mr Ellis-Jones said the project brought together the unique mix of expertise held by the agency, and expressed its ‘research as engagement’ model, which makes full use of online strategies and tools.
“This project represents the agency model of ‘research as engagement’ which merges the disciplines of community engagement, online communications and market research to generate deeper insight as well as buy-in for later marketing activity,” said Rhod Ellis-Jones, Principal.
Latrobe Valley’s actions are being closely watched by policy makers and other regions experiencing similar transitions as carbon intensive industries are phased out.
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