Cultural intermediaries and place branding: a framework for understanding their impact and influence

Warren, Giannina (2021) Cultural intermediaries and place branding: a framework for understanding their impact and influence. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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This thesis explores the work of promotional actors in place branding. Drawing upon the theoretical lens of Bourdieu’s (1984) notion of cultural intermediaries, this paper applies a social constructionist approach to the analysis of the characteristics and work of those professionals working in place branding. As places have emerged as strategic sites of cultural, institutional and financial competition, a heightened degree of power and influence has been afforded to the ‘transnational promotional class’ (Aronczyk 2013) who promote them.

Nearly all of the literature on place branding and promotion highlights the need for key professional personnel who can form partnerships among a diverse group of stakeholders that agree on and commit to the overall vision of the place and its brand (Anholt 2007; Kavaratzis 2004; Szondi 2010; Hankinson 2007; Dinnie 2011; Landry 2008). Place branding offers a challenging stakeholder environment and demands strong leadership from practitioners versed not only in marketing, branding, communications and competitive strategy, but who also possess a keen understanding of the nuances of the place, extraordinary relationship management skills, and an ability to straddle the public/private divide.

The promotional agents who represent a place tend to view their work as the relatively passive interpretation and circulation of local cultural production and consumption; thus, they may claim that their actions are objective and rational — a series of brand management decisions based on measurable and achievable results (Aronzyk 2013). However, this thesis argues that this work is neither completely rational nor neutral, and in fact relies heavily on the personal and subjective investment of social and cultural capital, as well as performances of legitimacy, on behalf of the promotional actors responsible for the design and implementation of place brand strategies.

Drawing from interviews with 44 place brand practitioners globally, this study positions itself within a wider academic exploration of the promotional occupations as cultural intermediation that is currently occurring in the fields of PR, media sociology, cultural studies and marketing management. The immediate focus of this research is on working lives of a group of highly creative and influential people working in place promotion. Drawing on sociological theories of cultural intermediation (Bourdieu 1984) and emotional labour (Hochschild 1983, 2003), the research attempts to understand the subjective occupational reality of these individuals and how that might manifest in their lived realities working for a place during a period of intense promotion. The thesis employs a cultural economy perspective (du Gay and Pryke 2002) to examine normative professional expectations placed on these promotional intermediaries, the commodification of their personal resources for promotional gain, and the cultural influence they wield within broader society stemming from the high-exposure nature of their work. It is also grounded in urban studies and cultural geography, with an emphasis on place branding and tourism. The meteoric rise of place branding as a discipline within the context of promotional culture illustrates a pressing need to better understand the processes — and the people — behind place.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > Business School
B. > Theses
Item ID: 36443
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2022 15:51
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 18:03

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