Part of Meshpoints scope of work with Port Hedland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Shire of Newman on two projects has been to assist with branding, marketing and community engagement. Through these projects and connecting practitioners statewide, it's validated our past experience that communications and stakeholder engagement in the regions is nuanced and complex.
This can be far from straightforward in a regional context. We know from previous experience that effective regional communications often need a more nuance and more complex approach than for innovation networks or services in capital cities.
For communications to reach and impact sufficient numbers of people, there are some key factors to consider, including:
- There are fewer innovators and entrepreneurs, spread across a broader range of industries. This means targeting a narrow demographic or industry is not going to have sufficient impact,
- Papers, radio, posters and face-to-face meetings are just as important as any digital campaigns, and all channels need to be engaged to reach the right audience, but also to please partners e.g. for some Federal funding programs the Canberra-based managers want to see posts and mentions on Twitter, while a local partner wants to hear it on the local Indigenous radio station and most of the actual target audience are going to engage on Facebook or through the local paper,
- Branding often has to be welcoming to both established (Chamber of Commerce) with the innovative (creative industries networks), and in the case of Port Hedland, take the pervasive 'red' of the dust into consideration in the selection of the colour palette,
- Seemingly unrelated events and activities may be great opportunities or significant conflicts and need to be taken into consideration with timing campaigns e.g. local markets, horse races, school holidays, timing of the end of shifts at the mine, sporting carnivals. Because local people in the regions often wear 'many hats' (and all at once) anything happening in their community could be enabling or a barrier to them engaging.
- Local or regional internet speeds will limit the types of content accessible by your audience.
These considerations and more have been reflected in the branding scope, the communications schedule, specific content development and more.
Further, a recent action-learning call with practitioners from around the state revealed how different it is in each region. While the categories of considerations (demographics, events, channels) are the same, the considerations themselves (exactly who to target, when, and what channels work best) are completely different. The great thing about this realisation for all, was that the learning and reflection about it was all still relevant, as are the templates, models and procedures we have developed.