City branding is a new area still adjusting. Setting up an efficient strategy may be tricky. Some cities choose to do it internally; others create city brands through an external body. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the advantages both strategies have; but comments are open to discuss which one is the most relevant.
Managed by an external body:
- Wider perspective: successful city branding strategies integrate all the city stakeholders in the process. External bodies are deemed neutral and may have fresh eyes on the topics a city has to face and on how to find a balance between the stakeholders (ie: companies, citizens, tourists and public institution) wishes as well as to have an efficient brand. In addition, they are more likely to propose less institutional ideas.
- Long term vision: external bodies are not obliged by political issues or electoral calendar. Therefore, they can conduct a continuous strategy as the team in charge of the project should remain the same.
- Expertise and resources: people in charge of city branding in external bodies are experts in that field. Indeed, these consultants may have skills and knowledge as they only work on city branding issues and may be studying or researching this topic on academic perspectives. Moreover, the resources (financial as human) of the external bodies are committed exclusively to the city branding strategy.
Managed by public institutions:
- Proximity to the Citizens’: by their nature public institutions are close to the city realities and its inhabitants. This is a key factor for implementing a city branding strategy.
- Public service: as a duty of public services, branding the city is part of their mission. Moreover, public institutions have the best interest of citizens in mind and non-for profit obligations.
- Better integration: the branding strategy should be integrated in wider city planning and thus coordinated with activities as urban renovation or cultural events. This link provides a more consistent strategy.
- Networking: Public institutions such as cities, regions or states have wider connections with other public institutions locally and internationally. Indeed, being part of a network of cities (eg: CAAC), twin cities agreements (eg: CEMR Twinning), European projects (eg: TONETA) and other formal and informal networks is an opportunity for collaboration, exchange as well as increasing city brand awareness.
Thus the choice is not easy and depends on the aim and the resources available. Combinations are also to be considered. Do you have more arguments on behalf of one or another? Any good practice to showcase?