Place-branding your way back from disaster

The organiser of a folk festival that’s helping a bushfire-ravaged NSW town bounce back from adversity is among a diverse lineup of speakers at this year’s Place Branding Conference.

Zena Armstrong: power of music

Place Branding Australia 2024, taking place in Sydney in June, offers two days of informative workshops and inspirational speakers who’ll share insights on how they’re using their unique brands to stimulate the local economy, boost social cohesion and recover from disaster.

As well as leading placemaking experts and the custodians of national brands from Australia, NZ and Fiji, the conference will highlight smaller regional case studies, like the town of Cobargo on the NSW south coast.

Director of the Cobargo Folk Festival Zena Armstrong will talk about how the community’s strong live music tradition has helped the battered community come together and rebuild after the devastating 2019 bushfires.

Armstrong say the folk festival, now in its 27th year, was put on hold during the fires and Covid. But now, along with the annual Cobargo show, it’s acting as a glue that holds the community together as it continues to rise from the ashes.

“The real value of having the both events is we all work together,” she told Government News.

“So there’s a lot of opportunity for building and maintaining connection across all parts of our community.”

Discovering the ‘beating heart’

Conference curator Stu Speirs says Cobargo’s remarkable community resilience can be distilled down to the sense of collective identity and place brand.

Stu Speirs

“We know that places that have a collective well formed identity rebound from natural disasters far quicker than others that don’t have that same sense of cohesion, and Cobargo’s a very good example of that,” he told Government News.

Speirs says despite the diversity of voices, there’s an underlying theme for this year’s eagerly anticipated conference, and that’s the importance of understanding the collective identity of a community and finding what lies at the heart of its ‘place’.

“It’s about helping communities uncover the heartbeat of their place to help ignite their economic and social development,” he says.

Speirs says while the concept of place branding has its roots in destination marketing, it’s evolved far beyond that.

“Its going a step beyond that to understanding how a place identity can be used not only to attract residents, businesses, and potential visitors, but also help galvanise the existing community and their sense of social cohesion,” he says.

Practical advice

Speirs says Place Branding 2024 will offer a wealth of practical advice and plenty of food for thought for anyone with a stake in the wellbeing of their community.

“This is for anyone who’s a custodian or a manager of a place,” he says. “That can be local councils, economic development agencies, or people involved in planning for resilience.

“In pulling together the program we’re particularly mindful of wanting attendees to leave with practical outcomes and clear obvious next steps.

“The conference program is very much geared towards enabling attendees to progress, wherever they are on their place branding journey.”

Place Branding Australia will be held onJune 12-13 in central Sydney.

Find more information and register interest in attending here.

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