Place stakeholders, who are you?

IMGP0691An overview by Tamara Guirao, CAAC coordinator, and Elise Baudelet, junior expert in territorial marketing at CAAC

A comment made on the post Academic lesson (part 2): Umbrella brand for cities? questioned companies and tourists as place stakeholders. An overview on academic and practical definitions of the concept will help to understand the CAAC stance in this matter.
The comment, made by city branding expert Maurice Berthiau, explained that “a tourist can’t be a stakeholder. Stakeholders are linked to the product and have interest in his development. Even companies in your city may be not associated in the brand strategy and thereby not stakeholders.”
And, at a first glance, he is completely right. If we take the main meaning of “stake-holder”, not everybody can be included, as they are related to decision makers. But the concept has evolved to include a larger span.

An integrated city branding strategy should consider all aspects of city management and involve the diverse actors of a place. Moreover, the main difference with traditional branding remains in the number as well as the diversity of the internal as external stakeholders.
Even if some authors have detailed it differently, internal stakeholders are identified in the academic literature in the three following categories: public actors, private actors and citizens. Representing the town institution and taking decisions, the public sector is an obvious actor of the city. Citizens are defining the place identity, its culture and its value. Residents are making the city while being the targets of the branding strategy. Indeed, the city has to make inhabitants agreed with the brand to enhance it.
Companies are stakeholders as they are involved in the territory development (regarding economy as well as innovation). It reflects the dynamism of a place, and so private sector is a tangible element of the city image. Furthermore, if building a partnership with them, companies may be ambassadors of the place brand. The municipality also targets private sector to invest in its place. Companies are in the centre of the city brand strategy.

In academic papers related to destination branding, authors such as Ashworth (2) or Hankison (3), include visitors as places’ stakeholders. As they are targets of the destination and thus they influence its strategy, authors think of them as external stakeholders. In addition, tourists have a role to play in the place image (word of mouth, people of influence…). Indeed, the segment a place chooses to target (eg: sportsperson, families, elders, upper-class…) will define its image.

Summing up the idea of multiple stakeholders for cities, Lucía Sáez, Iñaki Periáñez and Lucía Mediano (1) assert that “the number of “stakeholders” involved [in a city] is greater and more varied [than for a good, service or company]: residents, politicians, businessmen, artists, tourists, journalists, potential foreign investors, and public administration officials.”

IMGP0269Should we apply the concept in EU affairs and projects, “stakeholder” is widely accepted as meaning all the society bodies and dimensions that are affected, directly or indirectly, by the issue and that independently of their capacity of policy decision. Currently on preparation, the European Commission has even drafted its Guidelines on stakeholder consultation, identifying a list of categories and enclosing the target of consultation in “four stakeholder types, those:
1) affected by the policy;
2) who will have to implement it;
3) who have a stated interest in the policy; and those
4) who have the knowledge and expertise to propose strategies and solutions on the issue at hand. “

This is also the approach taken by URBACT when building Local Support Groups or ESPON projects like ATTREG; an ESPON project searching to define “Attractiveness” by investigating in which way policy makers can improve the attractiveness of their city or region by reconciling the interests of both residents and visitors.

Thus, city branding, as it is encouraged by the CAAC in the ATBrand project, fully involves all these stakeholders. ATBrand partners do it currently: Its Liverpool, or Cardiff are two examples of the success this approach may have. Recently, Cork has also integrated tourists, citizens and companies in its brand identity definition.

CAAC has also claimed the necessity of creating stakeholders’ groups for the implementation of the Atlantic Maritime Strategy or a better involvement in multi-level governance.

So the question should evolve from the who to the how. In the framework of the new programming period and EU2020, which place should be reserved to stakeholders in EU policy-making?

(1): Lucía Sáez, Iñaki Periáñez, Lucía Mediano, (2013) “Building brand value in major Spanish cities: an analysis through municipal websites”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 6 Iss: 2, pp.120 – 143
(2): Ashworth, G. (2010) Should we brand places? Journal of Town & City Management 1(3): 248–253
(3): Hankinson, G. (2009) Managing destination brands: establishing a theoretical foundation. Journal of Marketing Management 25 : 97-115

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