3 Practice of Place Marketing
3.3 Stakeholder Collaboration in Place Marketing
Inter-organizational collaboration has been also been a prominent topic in place marketing and branding literature, and interactive approaches have gained prominence regarding stakeholder collaboration (Ooi and Pedersen, 2010; Hanna and Rowley, 2011; Houghton and Stevens, 2011;
Kalandides, 2011; Klijn et al., 2012; Kavaratzis, 2012; Braun et al., 2013;
Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013; Stubbs and Warnaby, 2015; Kavaratzis and Kalandides, 2015; Rinaldi and Cavicchi, 2016). Indeed, as Houghton and Stevens (2011) have indicated, the more successful place marketing projects are ones that are able to engage with stakeholders, while those that fail to do this are more likely to fail. This train of thought can be associated with the broader theme present in the management literature concerning the potential of collaboration in problem solving. This is crystallized in the idea of ‘collaborative advantage’, which states that organizations can accomplish superior outcomes by working jointly rather than on their own (Huxham and Vangen, 2005, p.2).
Studies have elaborated a variety of reasons why stakeholder participation is beneficial for the place marketing and branding activity. Firstly,
studies have addressed that stakeholder involvement contributes to the construction of meaning and content. This can manifest, for example, through co-creation, management, and finally ownership of the place brand (Hanna and Rowley, 2011; Hankinson, 2004; Hatch and Schultz,
2010; Kalandides, 2011; Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013; Kavaratzis and Kalandides, 2015; Campelo et al., 2011). Secondly, studies have argued that stakeholder involvement contributes to an enriched representation of place (Kavaratzis and Kalandides, 2015), and in this sense also helps to clarify the identity and qualities of the place brand (Hankinson, 2010;
Klijn et al., 2012; Eshuis et al., 2018). In this sense, Kavaratzis (2013) has emphasized the potential of collaboration in forming common ground regarding the individual goals of stakeholders, and to unite them under a shared strategic vision. Thirdly, studies have also highlighted the relevance of stakeholder participation because of the public and political nature of place marketing and branding activities (Klijn et al., 2012; Kavaratzis, 2012;
Stubbs and Warnaby, 2015; Lucarelli and Giovanardi, 2014). In this regard, stakeholder participation has been argued to increase the democratic and political legitimacy of the activity (Eshuis and Klijn, 2012; Eshuis and Edwards, 2013; Braun et al., 2013; Eshuis et al., 2014).
While researchers have identified various benefits of engaging stakeholders in the place marketing process, the literature has also addressed various problems which can influence participation processes.
Firstly, the studies have pointed out that places have a high amount of potential stakeholders, who have various and often conflicting interests regarding the place, and finding common ground to reconcile them can be difficult (Saraniemi, 2009; Paasi, 2011; Zenker, 2011; Houghton and Stevens, 2011; Kavaratzis, 2012; Eshuis et al., 2018; Dinnie, 2018; Halme, 2020a). In this regard Kalandides (2011) has pointed out that too wide a range of participation of stakeholders can hinder the effectiveness of the place marketing activity (Kalandides, 2011).
Secondly, stakeholders who participate in the place marketing activity come from different positions of economic or formal power, which can result in biases of power relations between them. In these struggles, those with more power triumph over others, and can advance their interests over others (Eshuis et al., 2018). This is also reflected in the coordination of the place marketing projects, where because of the high number of potential stakeholders, managers face a decision on which stakeholder groups to
include in the activity. As a result, managers are more likely to engage with powerful groups with strong interests towards the place marketing activity, while less powerful groups have a possibility of being completely excluded (Boisen et al., 2011; Kavaratzis, 2012; Messely et al., 2015).
Thirdly, the strategic selectivity of certain symbolic and geographical aspects of place that is inherent of place marketing and branding practices (see sub-chapter 3.1) implies that certain groups are always considered as more relevant for the selected representation of the place. Studies have identified that this selectivity leads to issues of inclusion/exclusion and power struggles (Clegg and Kornberger, 2010; Boisen et al., 2011;
Warnaby and Medway, 2013; Kasabov and Sundaram, 2013; Messely et al., 2015). Regarding processes where this selectivity occurs, Kasabov and Sundaram (2013) have urged researchers to address the forms of power that enable the assertions of certain stakeholder groups to operate as gatekeepers in passing certain issues and perspectives concerning place marketing and branding agendas.
While studies have discussed the negative tensions in the place marketing and branding collaborations, there have also been alternative views which have considered struggles as an essential part of the place marketing collaboration. For example, Kavaratzis (2012) has framed the struggles in stakeholder collaboration as ‘creative tensions’, which can bring forward various stakeholder perspectives, and so contribute to developing a brand that is more aligned with the essence of the place.
This line of reasoning resonates with communicative planning theory, which emphasizes inclusion, deliberative communication, and collective decision-making (Fischler, 2000; Healey et al., 2008). In this vein, studies have started to pay more attention to the communication processes in stakeholder collaboration, in order to mitigate the negative effects of the tensions between stakeholders (Beritelli, 2011; Kasabov and Sundaram, 2013), and also the potential of forming common ground between various interests and interpretations (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2008;
Kavaratzis, 2010; Atorough and Martin, 2012; Stubbs and Warnaby, 2015).
One stream of these studies has brought attention specifically to the use of language and discourse within the communicative processes in
stakeholder interactions. For example, Lucarelli and Giovanardi (2014) have discussed different ways of contestation which can express the hegemonic and sub-alternative positionalities of stakeholders. In a similar manner, Halme (2020a, 2020b), has discussed types of communicative dynamics of collaboration which can contribute to constructing common ground or conflicts between stakeholders. In the next section, this discursive approach to collaboration is discussed in more detail.