Before you start to build your brand, you should build a research phase into your project.
Think about your audiences and who you need to hear from to gain a better understanding of how your place is currently perceived, always keeping those strategic objectives in mind. The council may feel that it knows the place that it serves, but good research and external perspectives will ensure that your brand has relevance and authenticity.
If you want some good statistical insights into how your residents currently perceive the place where they live, and how they feel it is externally perceived, it is worth investing in some quantitative research. This could take the form of a face-to-face or telephone survey. Using a proper market research company will ensure that you get a true representative sample that reflects the demography of your area. This kind of research can be a worthwhile investment. The LGA can provide access to high-quality and good value research services with market research providers, so it may be worth getting in touch to see if this could help you.
The subject lends itself well to a focus group methodology. Get advice from any in-house consultation and research expertise that sits within the council, and set up some focus groups of residents, local business people, partners and council staff. Do not mix your groups – you may want to ask them different questions. Focus groups can cost very little – just the cost of refreshments – though when asking residents for their time, it helps to offer a small incentive or thank-you such as a modest gift or shopping voucher for each participant. You can do on-street questionnaires to talk to visitors to the area to gain additional perspective.
Use your research phase to explore the questions that will really help you understand your place.
- Do residents feel proud to say they live there?
- Do businesses feel optimistic about its future?
- What are its positive and negative associations?
- How do visitors to the area feel about it?
Also, don't forget to use what already exists. Look back at council-run place surveys to see how perceptions may have changed over time. Find out if local businesses have done their own research that you can share. Big companies in particular often do considerable research before they locate to an area, and companies of all sizes may have relevant customer insight to share. Once you have gathered all your insights and existing research, it's worth pulling it together into a short report to share with key stakeholders and to inform the project throughout.
Remember, any research you commission at this stage will have value beyond this project, in informing the work of the council and its partners.