Opening address by North West Premier Edna Molewa at the North West Provincial Communications Branding Conference
Our officials and support staff
Facilitators from the International Marketing Council Roleplayers
Stakeholders here present
Ladies and gentlemen
All protocol observed
I am pleased, and I hope I speak for us all, to be here at the beginning of a process we shall, a few years from now, no doubt look back upon as the beginning of great things for our province in the two critical fields of tourism and business investment.
May I extend a particular word of welcome and gratitude to the International Marketing Council for responding positively to our call for their participation in this our first ever Provincial Branding Conference, and which I am privileged to declare officially open even before I conclude my speech. May we all find it as useful and productive as we intend it to be?
Ladies and gentlemen, an advert by one of the makers of popular sneakers says, "Image is everything." Those three words encapsulate the essence and meaning of image. In business millions have been known to be lost due to tarnished images, hence the phenomenal growth of reputation management as part of corporate identity and risk management.
Over the last two decades information and communication technologies have turned cities, countries, regions, continents and the world into one small neighbourhood. Ironically, though, even as the world has metaphorically become smaller any entity, big or small, almost disappears if it lacks a unique identity and if it is not positioned to leverage on its selling points, it's DNA, as it were.
Our province is one of nine in a country situated in a continent of fifty-four countries. Factor in all the provinces and regions of all the other countries in all the other regions and all the other continents and you begin to see what potential there is for us to become minuscule to a point of total invisibility when in fact it should not be so.
Consider, for a moment, the fact that arguably the biggest industry in the world, the auto industry, is reliant upon platinum to a point of addiction. Now consider, for a second, the fact that our province is one of the world's leading producers of platinum and you begin to understand that we have no right to be anonymous.
I have no doubt that some among us here can eloquently argue that we are not anonymous, in which case a resultant question would be the nature of our image. Some, of course, can orate about how inoffensive and, indeed, how generally positive, our image is, and they can point to media analysts, those men and women who so faithfully count the number of times we are covered by various media platforms, and what percentage of that coverage is either positive or negative.
Whatever the debate we might enter into here today, of one thing I think we are all in agreement and that is the fact that we are worth much more than anyone out there currently thinks. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of one's image, and that, therefore, is the crux of branding. Flowing there from is the question whether we are branded effectively and optimally, and if in fact we are branded at all.
I say this less to cast any aspersions on ourselves but more to emphasise some paucity in our management of our image and our portrayal of ourselves. We have all come to understand that, given the opportunities and the potential nurtured and inherent offered by our identity, we could become an even stronger and more iconic brand. That is why we are here.
We are here to individualise our province on a multi province, multi country, multi region and multi continent landscape. We are here, however, to do so not in a spirit of competition with anybody because, ironically, it is those very other provinces and countries and regions and continents that we would like to see appreciating our image and therefore touring our province and investing here.
In approaching our branding non-competitively we are affirming our citizenship of the world, and our being, in the words of the English poet, John Donne, a piece of the ocean, a part of the whole.
The famous stoic and Roman philosopher-emperor, Marcus Aurelius, put it in a slightly more arcane manner when he said:
"This thou must always bear in mind, what is the nature of the whole, and what is thy nature, and how this is related to that, and what kind of a part it is of what kind of a whole."
We are here, then, to find our place and situate ourselves in a crowded space.
Today, however, is but one more step in a journey which began with the conception and inauguration of our province in 1994. It is a step whose footprint is stronger as we, for the first time, combine all the relevant role players in pursuit of a uniform, common and shared form of branding our province. We are firmly taking charge of our image and identity so as to proactively influence our country's, our continent's and the world's perceptions and views about our province.
We do so under the facilitation of experts in this field, the International Marketing Council, whose track record in successfully branding our country and at least two other provinces speaks volumes. They are particularly important because their work on the country's branding means synchronisation and alignment can be taken as givens. The International Marketing Council should place us within the broader and macro context of the country's positioning and definition of itself on the world stage.
One must caution, however, that the ultimate success or failure of our province's branding hinges upon our own attitudes and actions. It begins, at least in my view, with pride, pride in who we are and what we stand for, pride in our values, pride in our work, and pride in our achievements. It also hinges on a shared identity and oneness of purpose. That pride in one's identity and oneness with one another is memorably articulated by Lucille Clifton, the African-American poet, in her poem, "Listen Children", when she says:
we have been ashamed
hopeless tired mad
we loved us
we have always loved each other
children all ways
pass it on"
The collaborative effort symbolised by the variety of stakeholders assembled here today mirrors our vision of the way forward beyond this Conference and that is the partnership, within the parameters of common messages, among all the role players. We see a future where all those concerned with and responsible for the province's marketing, from individuals to institutions and organisations, both directly and indirectly, will be reading from the same page and singing from the same hymn book.
As we start the process, let there be no holy cows, let us slaughter them all. No topic should be considered off-limits, including the contentious issue of a possible name change. As long as all issues are argued cerebrally rather than emotionally, we should all be receptive to new ideas, and always expect to be pleasantly surprised.
It is only through intellectual rigour, critical interrogation, deconstruction of the conventional, and unpacking of the complex that we shall produce a quality marketing and branding strategy.
Let it go unforgotten that this is a destination marketing exercise. Our end-goal is to profile and showcase our province to attract trade, tourism and investment. And this is part of a much bigger project and that is our brave and courageous fight against poverty and joblessness and our noble objective of creating a better life for all our people.
Allow me to close, please, by referring back to 3 August this year when I spoke on the occasion of the renaming of the Central District Municipality to Ngaka Modiri Molema District. I said then:
We are gathered here today to confirm our change of the name of the Central District Municipality to Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality. I hope we all do so mindful of the import of a name. A name is a unique appellation which, meaningful or not, immediately conjures up some images relative to its owner. If that theory is correct, then it is correct to say the district municipality named after Ngaka Molema will be expected to demonstrate traits and characteristics associated with Ngaka Molema.
Indeed, pretty much the same thing has to be said here today. We shall have to live the image we shall resolve to portray at this conference. We shall have to personify and exemplify the values that will underpin the image and brand we shall be creating at this conference. We shall have to be ambassadors, both in behaviour, in disposition, in deportment and in action, of the brand that we shall be creating here. Our brand shall be our identity, a distinct personality not to be confused with anything else, and upon us it shall rest, and upon our actions it shall fall. And that, as we all know, is not an option.
I thank you all.
Issued by: Office of the Premier, North West Provincial Government
10 September 2007
Source: North West Provincial Government
Province Or State