Can Whanganui get its story straight?

Just two years after the "Whanganui All you need (and then some)" branding exercise for the district, which followed Whanganui District Council's development of a reputation management strategy and a "leading edge" vision, economic development agency Whanganui and Partners is making another attempt to define the district's uniqueness and improve perceptions.

Destination marketing strategic lead Paul Chaplow says a series of workshops with the business, tourism and education sectors is gathering information to feed into the "regional brand story".

"The workshops are to get input from different parties into helping identify our unique attributes and personality that will help to form our story," Chaplow said.

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"Based on the outcomes of the workshops, we'll develop a distinctive and unique regional story to help capitalise on our attributes and differentiate Whanganui from other regions. It is also to strengthen our international and domestic reputation by creating a consistent brand proposition to attract and retain visitors, families, businesses, students and events, which in turn will help grow Whanganui and its economy."

Chaplow said the project would build on the previous work on Whanganui's brand, reputation and "leading edge" vision.

"It's a bit more emotional than something like the reputation management strategy and as such we're looking for a different type of feedback than previous projects sought," Chaplow said.

"Second, even in the few years since the Whanganui brand was developed, we've seen a lot of changes: an increase in new residents, new businesses opening, house prices rising and the beginnings of a shift in our national reputation. We want to incorporate the impact of these changes, as well as any feelings about the direction of this movement, into the story.

"While we all have our own ideas about how we would describe Whanganui and its attributes, the Whanganui region currently doesn't have a distinctive and unique story. For the purposes of growing Whanganui, we believe it is important to create an authentic and consistent regional story about who we are. When others know our story, that is when the word starts spreading and positive change happens. "

Kelly Crick, former brand manager for Tourism New Zealand, is facilitating the workshops which will be followed by surveys of the participants. A draft story or stories will then be circulated for comment before the story is finalised, Chaplow said.

The cost of developing the Whanganui brand story, including the workshops, survey, collation and writing of the regional story, would be about $10,500–$12,500, Chaplow said.

The workshops were open to anyone who wanted to contribute. The education workshop will be held at Whanganui and Partners in the Innovation Quarter, 179 St Hill St, at 2pm on Wednesday, October 3. The business and tourism workshops have been completed.

It was possible a workshop would be organised for the creative sector but this had not been confirmed, Chaplow said.