Perceptions of international places tend to be more influenced by the media than by personal and direct experience, as the media’s view is far more accessible. Other influences of perception include historical and political relationships or trading links. Organisations like the British Council help to promote the UK through educational and cultural links, whilst the government and monarchy also have a vital role in promoting international relations for the UK. Promoting a positive perception of place is important as it can encourage investment into an area, which is crucial for the survival of the place.
There are different agents of change which manage the perception of place. They can include national and local government, corporate bodies, tourist organisations, and community groups.
At a national and local level, strategies have been adopted to manage and manipulate perception of place in order to attract people and investment. These strategies include place marketing, rebranding and reimaging.
Marketing companies may be employed by national and local government to improve or create positive perceptions of place. In Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset, strategies have included:
- Advertising campaigns like using social media
- Official Weston-Super-Mare website and newsletter
- Weston-Super-Mare logo
- Creation and promotion of first ever Love Weston Winter Wonderland, festive attraction – aimed to increase perception of Weston-Super-Mare being a destination to do Christmas shopping
This is used to discard negative perceptions of a place. The aim is to make a place seem more desirable to live in, as well as to invest and work in. In 2013, the slogan ‘People Make Glasgow’ was introduced as the new brand name for the city. It was chosen following a crowd-sourcing social media campaign involving over 1500 people from 42 countries. The campaign argues that people are at the heart and soul of the city.
Many argue that rebranding should take place from the inside out, involving local residents with ‘insider’ experiences. It is thought that without a true understanding of a place, it would be too difficult to properly regenerate and rebrand a place.
There are some problems surround rebranding. Different stakeholders may include pre-existing residents, local businesses, potential investors, local government and potential home-owners, and it can be a challenge to satisfy as many of these groups as possible. Some regeneration and rebranding schemes have driven out locals who the schemes were originally intended to help as rising property prices and rents have favoured more affluent people.
Reimaging seeks to discard negative perceptions of a place and generate a new positive set of ideas, feelings and attitudes of people to that place. This may include revival or pre-existing but outdated place image. This process has been well documented concerning Liverpool in the 1980s and 1990s. Deindustrialisation caused economic downturn, and there were major riots in 1981. Large-scale regeneration began, and the Tate Liverpool art gallery was one of many projects aimed at reimaging the city’s industrial heritage through culture. The Merseyside Development Corporation used the term ‘There’s life in the old docks yet’. The presence of the gallery was a key factor in Liverpool winning the title of European Capital of Culture in 2008.
This is an organisation identified by a certain name. They could be institutions, businesses, non-profit enterprises and government agencies. Tourist agencies aim to ‘sell’ place to potential visitors, so want to create a positive perception of place. In the UK, they include Visit Britain. They may use promotional materials like brochures, videos and slogans to adopt a unique selling point. In 2012, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority put vintage-inspired designs featuring nostalgic images of the Pembrokeshire coast on show at Cardiff Airport. The posters won many awards, and also successfully attracted people to the area.
Community and local groups:
They are active in managing and improving perception of place in order to attract investment and improve opportunities and services within the area. Regeneration and rebranding strategies have increasingly involved local people, since they have ‘insider’ experience of place and will be the people most affected by any changes.