OPINION: The WA capital’s great natural environment has seemingly blinded its residents to the other aspects that make the city a great place to live.
OPINION: The WA capital’s great natural environment has seemingly blinded its residents about the other aspects that make the city a great place to live.
I have sat through many presentations over the years and few, if any, have hit the mark like the summary report on Perth’s reputation as a city by market research firm Ipsos.
Prepared for the Committee for Perth, the report has some of the most intriguing findings I have seen around the vexed issue of how we perform as a city on a number of fronts: direct investment, as a study destination, and as place to live or work.
Not only did this detailed report highlight where Perth does poorly against several major alternative centres in Australia and our region, it also clearly points to where we could better focus our efforts to improve the reputation of the state’s capital.
From my point of view, the biggest takeaways from the report, which was outlined by Ipsos corporate reputation director Australia and New Zealand, Sally Braidwood, were the failure of Perth people to sell the attributes of our city and the importance of focusing our promotional efforts away from what most people already know, such as the great environment.
Before addressing those two points it is worth outlining the depth of the study. On top of 600 people in Perth, about 2,000 people outside Western Australia – in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Auckland and Singapore – took part in the survey.
Respondents were asked about their familiarity with all of the cities involved across a range of criteria, from the environment, work, investment, study and liveability, and whether they would recommend a place on the basis of those criteria.
It may not be breaking news that Perth sat behind most cities on a variety of these measures. It is also clear that Melbourne is the leader when it comes to forging a reputation as a place to work, study and play.
Perth stood out in two of the areas I mentioned.
Firstly, the report, perhaps unsurprisingly, found there was still a hangover from the Dullsville period around the turn of the century when the Lonely Planet guide book, once important in the travel world, criticised the WA capital for being boring.
Although I assumed many, like me, felt that reputation was long gone, apparently many here have not changed their view.
The report found Perth residents were more than 2.5 times more likely to feel the city was ‘average’, ‘boring’, ‘dull’, ‘flat’, ‘parochial’ or ‘similar’ than non-residents. That’s a staggeringly negative view to have of your own city.
I can’t help wondering if some of those perceptions are in part a reflection of the big number of immigrants we have here – both foreign and interstate – who have experienced life elsewhere and have sacrificed excitement for a more family-friendly place.
Nevertheless, as Ipsos found, our failure to be self-promoters of our city is a big problem, so thinking it is dull can’t help.
“While Perth residents are comfortable recommending their city as a place to live, visit and work, they’re less confident when it comes to being a city to study and invest in,” the presentation stated.
It is even more marked as an issue when it comes to so-called ‘influencers’, those who have decision-making power or are influential in their organisations when it comes to doing business nationally or internationally.
In every city, except Perth, resident influencers were at least 12-15 percentage points more likely to recommend their own city as a place to invest than the same sort of people who lived elsewhere. Just 64 per cent of Perth residents would recommend their city as an investment destination, only 2 percentage points above non-residents. In Melbourne the gap was 81 per cent compared with 62 per cent and Singapore a huge 84 per cent to 51 per cent.
I suggest the Business News readership is a big part of that influencer cohort, so let’s change our tune.
As the graphic above illustrates, we also need to change our approach to promotion. Outsiders recognise Perth’s wonderful climate, beaches and clean air, so there’s no point harping on about them, as most tourist advertising does; it is wasted effort.
If we want to get more people here to study, work and live, the report shows we need to convince them it is a great place to invest. That is the number one area where we can shift the needle in terms of Perth’s reputation; and that takes a more sophisticated approach to marketing than what we have been doing so far.