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Gloucestershire Business News

Council considers proposals for Marketing Gloucester

A small 'place marketing' team within Gloucester City Council and a steering board to work alongside it are among the recommendations of a report into The Future Marketing of Gloucester.

The findings of the report, commissioned following the liquidation of Marketing Gloucester in February, will be discussed by the city council's overview and scrutiny cabinet tonight.

Marketing Gloucester, which was owned by the council and organised events such as the Tall Ships Festival, was declared insolvent in February after its financial position became "untenable".

Chief executive Jason Smith was sacked at the end of 2019 along with fellow director Richard Brooks.

Punchline-Gloucester.com reported that a leaked report  - which outlined Marketing Gloucester owing nearly £1million - showed the extent of the financial problems was still not clear due to "a myriad of potential unidentified costs" relating to the UK Digital Innovation Centre.

The overview and scrutiny committee questioned former Marketing Gloucester chairs Councillor Paul James and Councillor Jennie Watkins, together with Councillor Steve Morgan and other senior figures in March.

The recommendations were drawn up after consultation with a range of sectors and a review of how other cities make and promote themselves.

The report's summary said: "The COVID-19 crisis clearly impacts massively on this work but the assumption is made that there will come a time when the city needs to reboot and be marketed assertively - and arguably taking the right approach will now be more important than ever.

"The clear objective, within the allocated budget, is to create a place marketing capability and narrative for the city that fully supports its ambitious long-term growth and development plans.

"The emphasis of the recommendations is on being pragmatic, collaborative and ambitious."

The report, drawn up by Steve Brown who was brought in as interim managing director of Marketing Gloucester before it entered administration, made a range of recommendations.

  • Appoint a small, highly-focused 'place marketing' team within Gloucester City Council for at least two years.
  • A Gloucester Marketing Steering Board to work alongside the place marketing team, consisting of senior figures from leading organisations such as the council, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester Rugby, The Peel Group, the University of Gloucestershire and a leading private company in the city.
  • Invest in creating a compelling brand identity for the city.
  • Prioritise developing a stronger digital presence to promote the city.
  • Strengthen other aspects of the city's marketing collateral.
  • Embrace and help to shape the Visit Gloucestershire initiative championed by the GFirst LEP
  • Further develop history and heritage as a selling point of the city and ensure it is at the heart of Gloucester's narrative.
  • Curate and further develop a strong events and festivals programme.
  • Start to integrate the inward investment challenge into the place marketing agenda.
  • Launch a Gloucester Business Ambassador Scheme.

The report recommends a £140,000 annual operating in budget for the next two years.

And it says the new place marketing team should have highly targeted key tasks with a mission to "Build a highly professional marketing effort and city narrative that supports and showcases the ambitious growth and development agenda of the city."

The report acknowledged the most debatable recommendation is the idea that place marketing should sit within the city council.

But it has said it had been proposed for three reasons - limitations of the budget, little short-term prospect of securing additional funding from the private sector and a credibility issue in launching a new destination marketing organisation so soon after closing Marketing Gloucester.

Marketing Cheltenham was held up by the report as a "useful operation to learn from - and a potential good partner for Gloucester".

The report said: "Marketing Cheltenham operates as a department of the council (Cheltenham Borough Council) but sits in a separate building and seems to operate with a high degree of independence.

"The investment from the council is somewhere between £150-200,000 and around £150,000 is added through a membership scheme, through providing some services for the Cheltenham BID and other commercial activity."

But the report concluded there is no blueprint among a wide range of operating models and "all the people spoken to complained of a shortage of funding and budget pressures".

The report does not include any proposals for the future of the UK:DRIC which is likely to be determined from discussions between the council and GFirst LEP.

The problems with Marketing Gloucester first rose to prominence when the company approached the council for a £224,000 loan in early 2019.

Paul James stood down from his role on the board in May 2019. He also stood down as leader of the council last year and left his seat on the council last week, having initially intending to step down at the cancelled elections in May.

He has been appointed to lead post-Covid economic development at Cotswold District Council, a role which was advertised with a salary of up to £38,100.

Councillor demands to know why city council doesn't have Marketing Gloucester whistleblowing report 

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