Northern Rivers Councils collaborate in regional branding project

An ambitious regional identity project has brought together seven councils in a collaborative partnership with businesses, industry and government to leverage the collective identity of the region for social and economic benefits.

Jane Laverty

The Northern Rivers Joint Organisation, comprising Tweed Shire, Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, Clarence and Richmond Valley councils, has been working with other stakeholders to develop the Northern Rivers NSW brand over the last five years.

Regional Director for Business NSW Jane Laverty will talk about how Brand Northern Rivers is now leading the way for NSW at the Place Branding Australia conference next month.

See the full Place Branding Australia program here.

Laverty, who is also a steering committee member for Brand Northern Rivers, says while the project is still in its early stages, she hopes it will serve as a case study in looking beyond classic destination marketing in favour of a whole-of-region approach with broader benefits.

“Brand Northern Rivers really is a way of bringing the seven local government areas together behind a single view and vision for the region collectively,” she told Government News.

“It’s about demonstrating the Northern Rivers is a growing and thriving region with a bright future.”

An overarching brand for a diverse region

With LGAs stretching from the agricultural hinterlands to the holiday coast, much of the attraction of the Northern Rivers has resided in its diversity. But it had become clear that the region lacked an overarching brand that could be used across LGAs, Laverty says.

There was also inconsistency between the region’s visitor brand, its business and investment brand, and its brand as a community and a place to live.

“We realised that in terms of a place brand, it may have not always been consistent,” Laverty says.

“Often Byron would do something, or Tweed would do something , or the hinterland areas would do something. But there wasn’t really the sort of collectiveness we wanted.”

A unifying brand logo for the region

The branding initiative was originaly led by business, Laverty says.

“One of our business leaders had been involved in an international food expo and he noticed there were people from our region there, but they weren’t under a single place brand umbrella.

 “He came back and we got together as a group of economic  development stakeholders and said I think we’ve got a problem.

“And that industry led push the state government gave us a bit of funding back in 2019 to develop the Northern Rivers NSW brand.”

A period of consultation with the community, business and local councils led to the development of a brand logo that could be used across the regions. The logo, featuring an interconnected ribbon in the shape of NSW was launched in March 2020.

The Northern Rivers Brand logo

“That design was influenced by what we heard from people,” Laverty says.

“The design is showing this ribbon of connection and the shape of NSW, finishing with in a heart that sits where we are physically positioned in NSW.”

Developing a business case

More state government funding was secured at the end of last year to begin the next step of the branding plan, and develop a business case and strategy.

The business case is due in coming weeks, and there will also be work to establish a brand office with resources to take the strategy forward.

It will be a financial buy in from industry to match and partner with local, state and federal government.

Jane Laverty

Laverty says the committee has been undertaking extensive research as well as talking to local and global brand managers to gather insights about best practice, including Brand Tasmania.

“While Tasmania has a government brand agency ours is quite different, because it’s industry led but supported by local government,” she said.

“What we’re bringing to this is that collaboration with industry. It will be a financial buy in from industry to match and partner with local, state and federal government. “

Three foundations

Laverty says there are three foundations to the strategy, including brand ambassador, brand as a service and brand to life.

Brand ambassador is about the stories of the people inside of the region, and their sense of pride and connection to the region.

Brand service relates to how the brand can really support economic, social and environmental outcomes, while brand to life takes the regional story to the world.

“If we talk about our councils and our elected officials, they travel. Our mayor from Lismore has just been in Japan with the Sister Cities initiative,” she says.

“Whether it’s travelling internationally or domestically, it’s about being able to feel very confident, as a representative of a region, that you can speak the story of the region.”

Onboarding local government

Working closely with councils is key to any place branding strategy, Laverty says.

“It’s important at every level. It’s important to have our our mayors and councillors understanding and valuing a regional place brand.

“It’s really important at the executive level of general managers and executive team members that they they see that value of branding and how it interacts with their economic development teams and your visitor services teams.”

The real success will come when other regions in NSW, in partnership with their councils and other layers of government, can start reflecting their regional brands as well.

Jane Laverty

Laverty hopes the Northern Rivers experience will showcase a regional pilot for NSW.

“The real success will come when other regions in NSW, in partnership with their councils and other layers of government, can start reflecting their regional brands as well,” she says.

“If we have really strong regions in NSW, we’ll actually have a very strong NSW and a competitive state.

“I think this is the time to invest in really strong place brands, for regions and I’m excited that the Northern Rivers has been given an opportunity to demonstrate the potential.”

Read more here: Reflecting on 15 years of Vivid; Place Branding Tasmania Czar to address conference

Place Branding Australia 2024 runs from June 12-13. Tickets are available here.

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