‘Smog and bogans’

EFFORTS to “rebrand” Latrobe Valley are set to escalate in coming months but will need to combat widespread external perceptions of “smog, bogans” and “a line at Centrelink”.

While work on phase one of Latrobe City Council’s City Image Strategy Project is still underway, project consultants Ellis Jones released a statement this week announcing the completion of a “landmark brand perception study and community engagement campaign”.

The three-month study, the findings of which are expected to be presented to a local project reference group later this month, found external perceptions of the Valley were largely negative.

Principal of the Melbourne-based public relations agency Rhod Ellis-Jones told The Express yesterday the agency’s statement intended to target “the marketing and branding press”.

It is believed the premature release of some information had not been approved by council.

While Mr Ellis-Jones said the “competitive place branding” campaign undertaken for Latrobe was a “catalyst for uncovering the evidence that Latrobe is much more than energy and coal”, an extensive study found when most Victorians heard ‘Latrobe Valley’ what came to mind was “smog, bogans” and “a line to Centrelink”.

According to Mr Ellis-Jones the company’s three-month study comprised “telephone, email and in-field surveying, a Facebook quiz (the “Valley IQ Test”), a microsite, social media networking and an offline PR and advertising campaign”.

He said benchmarking was also undertaken on other cities which had “successfully overcome periods of significant industrial change” however, until the report has gone before the project’s reference group, Mr Ellis-Jones did not want to comment on which areas Latrobe was compared with and what those comparisons revealed.

The study did, however, indicate the enormity of the task this area faces in changing external perceptions of the Valley.

Latrobe City manager community relations Jacinta Kennedy said the image strategy project was about acknowledging people’s opinions but broadening their perceptions.

“It is about adding to (the picture), building on it and giving people more to consider about the region,” Ms Kennedy said. Mr Ellis-Jones told the marketing press the diversity of Latrobe’s industries, though “broadly not known to people outside the Valley” included a number of industries which were “greater economic contributors than the coal and electricity generation industries”.

“This is where all Australia’s Yoplait yoghurt and Reflex copy paper is produced but no-one knows,” his statement said.