The Challenges in Summary

We ARE living in a climate emergency. So why should Place Branders be concerned?

  • It is currently already affecting many places
  • It’s affecting nature, livelihoods, settlements, investment and tourism
  • High levels of carbon in the atmosphere is increasing pollution, reducing air quality, increasing respiratory illness
  • Rising sea levels are eroding coastlines and flooding settlements
  • Increasing incidence of bush fires are destroying settlements, houses, businesses, vineyards, killing many species of plants and causing the death of many animals
  • Together impacting and damaging the quality of life in affected places

In short, the impacts and inaction coupled with climate change denial is damaging Place Brands.

  • It’s affecting place perception
  • It’s affecting place reputation
  • And it’s negatively affecting the brands of those places
  • Which can damage their prospects for investment, retention and attraction of people, businesses and tourists unless action is taken to mitigate that actual and potential damage

In short, it’s time for place branders to take a lead in ensuring that their places take these threats and their consequences seriously, help colleagues to understand that investment in mitigation is important and that doing can have a positive impact on the reputation of their place, on its offer and on the story that their brand can tell.

First Steps to Capture and Tell the Story of Mitigation

Based on our research on, and work to date with, places taking this link seriously, we set out below a number of recommended first steps, thought processes, and communication actions that place brand teams and others they work with can take to capture and tell the story of how their place is beginning to mitigate the effects of climate change, through their strategies and their communications. 

All around the world people who have woken up to the seriousness of the Climate Emergency are asking their national, state and local governments serious and timely questions about the future safety of their place, about the potential impacts of The Climate Emergency on their daily lives, on their businesses and on their investments, about the actions those governments are taking and planning to take to mitigate known and potential impacts. It’s high time that these questions are treated with the seriousness they deserve and are answered with total honesty and clarity.

Step 1 – Get to Know the Climate Emergency

Increasing numbers of people in more places around the world are acknowledging the harrowing truth of the known and potential impacts of The Climate Emergency across industries, sectors, and places. 

Place Branding is no exception and is being impacted already. Destination development strategies, for tourism attractions, for science parks, for new settlements, for retro-fitting existing settlements, will be all affected by relevant climate change impacts and brand strategies will need to recognise what those impacts will be and represent the actions the place is taking to mitigate them in their brand offers. 

We believe that this situation offers Place Brand practitioners an opportunity to present ideas on how to create compelling place and destination brand strategies that honestly reflect the hazards that places are facing and the positive actions they are taking to deal with them.

What’s exciting about this is that it’s a cause we can all get behind. We’re seeing a transition from climate change action being viewed as a possibility to a probability, if not to a set of undisputable facts, from a nice to have concern to a must have focus, becoming a basic but central requirement and element all Place Brand strategies

Brand audiences have choices about where to stay, where to learn and study, where to train, where to work, where to visit and, increasingly, they want to know if they will be safe and have a long-term future.

When presented with a choice of places to engage with or invest in, there’s less of an argument nowadays about which would be chosen if one is effectively taking action to mitigate the impacts of climate change and the other is not. Aware consumers are thinking about the long term in their lives and a place that is not taking action to secure its long-term viability is not only bad for its brand, but also bad for its people and businesses. 

So, the question arises, what actions can we take as Place Brand practitioners to integrate and include Climate Emergency responses thinking into our Place Brand strategies? 

Step 2 – Establish a Shared Understanding of The Climate Emergency

A good way to start is to begin by booking a meeting with your team to talk about it. Pose a number of simple questions for discussion to establish your level of individual and collective understanding of The Climate Emergency and its potential impacts on your place.

Step 3 – Identify Your Audience – Who You Need to Talk With

Who are the other people you want to get into your room to share the conversation on The Climate Emergency? These will include the people in your team, your department or agency, your governing body, the key stakeholders in your place, and its media. 

Be prepared for your audience. Assuming that your intentions are, at their core, inherently positive, it’s important to remember that others aren’t necessarily negative but perhaps less informed of the actual repercussions in doing nothing or too little about climate emergency mitigation. The long-term financial hit of not investing in preventative care should help to make your point. 

Frame a “What’s in It for Me” pitch to persuade them to come into your room and take part in the conversation and present them with a preliminary analysis on the costs and benefits of doing so and the costs of not doing so. 

As a Place Brand practitioner, you will be regularly confronted with the challenge of understanding the wants and needs of investors, businesses and organisations, and many different groups and individuals in your local population. Whether the purpose at hand is to drive expenditure of time, money, or even thoughts towards a place, there is an argument to be made for the Climate Emergency to be given due consideration in your deliberations. 

Step 4 – Let There Be Lights, Camera, Action! 

Now, we’re going to highlight several ways that Place Branding can progressively work to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. But first, let’s look at who and how. No matter what your position, role, or even organisation, we can all begin by gathering information. Looking out for best practices, and in this case, how other place’s actions have influenced perceptions towards their country, region or city, as it pertains to the Climate Emergency, which will both inform and inspire. Take it to the next level. Place Branding strategy decisions often come from the top, so why not start there by discussing the challenges that lie ahead in terms of attracting a desired audience amid the rise of an urgent and growing state of need. 

Step 5 – Build a Lasting Active Community of Serious Intent

To do so effectively for the long term you will need to use the intelligence and data you have collected in the preceding steps on the known impacts of climate change on your place, whether past or present, and the potential of relevant potential future impacts on your community, in order to work with it to begin framing a plan to mitigate impacts not yet addressed and to communicate this to the wider community. Possible impacts to be assessed include but are not limited to, natural disasters, air pollution-related health problems, key carbon emitters, retrofitting worn out housing stock, and transport-related emissions of CO2. 

Taking stock together of what could go wrong and analysing the detrimental effects of a laissez faire approach will help you to convey the cost of doing nothing. You can discuss the general people and planet benefits of taking action, but you should do so through the lens of your local situation. For too long discussion on the Climate Emergency has been about what governments “up-there” should or must or can do. It’s time for local communities to think about what they individually, collectively, or in specific interest groups might do. 

Next up, compile a list of actions already being taken to combat the challenges currently being faced by your country, region or city. This will help to identify who to turn to for support and local know-how as well as identify where little action is being taken. This brings us back to the point of knowing your audience. Understanding where the action is and is not being currently taken allows for a productive conversation and ultimate presentation as to fixes which can be implemented where necessary and benchmarks of success for reference. Acting locally and thinking globally in this way can be very effective and persuasive. 

Integrating Action on The Climate Emergency into a place’s Central Idea (one that encapsulates and drives its brand strategy) will help to further the mandate for policy and action which address your current and future needs. Similar to the thinking behind the neighbourhood effect, looking at the collective action being taken by one’s neighbours will work to influence either directly or indirectly an individual’s action and behaviour. The greater the involvement of and action by your “shared community of interest” the more likely it is to be satisfied with the results. Historically, it may not have been an attractive trait to require certain “green” practices to sustain place development, but the tables have turned, and the majority of today’s place audiences would feel a greater sense of attraction to a community which prioritises the local wellbeing.

It is time to take the Challenges and Impacts of the Climate Emergency seriously

The focus of this article is the importance of recognising the known and potential impacts of the Climate Emergency on places and the implications for the development, implementation and communication of their Place Brand strategies. 

It builds on the blogs that Malcolm Allan, President of Bloom Consulting, has been writing for The Place Brand Observer during 2020/2021 on how Place Brand strategists might take practical effective actions in making this link.