Monday, 3 December 2012

Leicester on the Map, Literally.

Leicester South MP Jonathan Ashworth took David Cameron to task in parliament last week when he apparently got Leicester and Birmingham muddled up. Mr Ashworth's response was to send Mr Cameron a map with Leicester and Birmingham clearly marked on it.

Whether this was a case of genuine geographical ignorance or just an attempt to duck a question remains to be seen but it did remind me just how much Leicester gets overlooked in so many situations.

I believe there is a perennial failing with much of Leicester's public relations efforts, namely that despite our many USPs, the vast majority of British people do not have the foggiest idea where the city is.

Terry Wogan famously nailed this when he described Leicester as The Lost City. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that people think Leicester is much further North, perhaps because of our reknowned Indian-origin population. How are we going to attract investment from London-based companies, for example, if they think we are just up the road from Bradford?

Jonathan Ashworth is right to get a map out but we need to do this on a much grander scale. before we can harp on about how great we are we need to first make sure that people know where we are located.

I would like to see our promotional agencies commission a survey of people in key British cities (and maybe even some foreign ones?) to see what proportion of people know where Leicester is located. I'm literally talking about getting people to stick a pin in a map. I believe this would not only highlight the challenge we face but also give a useful benchmark for future public relations work.

I think this would bring into focus just how invisible Leicester is, despite being Britain's tenth largest city. Campaigns to put Leicester 'on the map' should worry about the literal meaning of this as much as the metaphorical one.

For a start, we should tackle the absence of promotional signage on the road gateways to our city which epitomises Terry Wogan's characterisation of a city "constantly mentioned in traffic reports but 'otherwise unknown to mankind'". In addition, our companies and organisations should be encouraged to stick a location map on all their promotional literature like the one we put on the back of our company brochure:-

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