Placemaking: ‘During’ development challenges & considerations

As part of our ‘Placemaking: Buzzword or Brand builder?’ campaign, we are exploring the role of Placemaking brand and communications through the lens of the traditional development process – from planning permission through to legacy.

Today, we turn to the top four brand and communications considerations and challenges that arise ‘During’ the development phase:

  • Making the vision a reality: The movement from the planning to the construction of a development is often where risk creeps in. Placemaking does not end once planning approval has been granted; the people who are invested (financially, socially and culturally) in a place should be brought on the journey of physically building the place. Creating opportunities to experience and understand the place and its story through live events, interactive experiences and creative communications, will help engage all stakeholders in the co-creation of an authentic place.  
  • Maintaining existing place culture: Being perceived to ride rough-shod over a place’s existing identity, heritage and culture is a real risk for placemakers once shovels are in the ground. Developers should be wary of ‘parachuting’ in a new brand which does not connect with the area. Such an approach can prompt local backlash, including accusations of gentrification.
  • Ensuring place flexibility: Just as a corporate organisation may rebrand in order to tell a different story about itself, places develop multiple identities over time. Placemakers should not create a physical space that inhibits the emergence of new stories, new narratives and new identities. Today’s millennial and Gen Z audiences require flexibility from their environments. Accommodating this fluidity is a challenge for brands and communicators.
  • Inventing or Re-inventing?: Fashioning a place’s identity or brand from scratch is a different task to working within a location to create a place that complements the existing social, cultural and environmental landscape. Different approaches to branding are required in these circumstances. The audience, along with the communications that will resonate with them, need to be carefully assessed against the reality of the place ‘on the ground’. 

At the same time as navigating these issues, Placemakers also need to be savvy to the role of the media. Here’s our ‘Media Watch’ top tip for ‘During’ the development phase.

The construction phase is often when a development is most at the mercy of the media. Projects can last for many years and local attitudes – socially and politically – can change over time, just as communities begin to feel the impact of a new development on their day-to-day lives. At the same time, the building phase brings with it a host of hazards, many unforeseen, ranging from supply chain disruption to on-site incidents, which the media will scrutinise. Having a robust crisis response plan in place is vital. At the same time, consistently developing goodwill through communications and local engagement from the outset will be paramount for ‘rainy day’ situations.

Click below to download the full report ‘Placemaking: Buzzword or Brand builder?’

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