Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

We Are…Not Loved

Kevin Roberts, global marketing guru and kiwi export, spoke at the recent Local Government New Zealand conference. His company, Saatchis, has developed LGNZ’s masterbrand campaign “We are” (so hopefully we got his talk for free!).

He’s an irresistible and compelling speaker, but essentially his message was that despite much of what councils do being essential work (roads, parks, other infrastructure), the results of the recent reputation survey showed councils “We are” not thought of as irresistible at all.

The reasons why are complex, but the survey summarised three key failings: communication & interaction, performance and (lowest of all) leadership. The survey results showed an overall reputation index of local government and, unsurprisingly “We are” only rated 29%.

Roberts used his “lovemark” idea to indicate the direction local government should be aspiring towards. We are currently stuck in the “commodity” area and, to state the obvious, not much loved at all.

Good on LGNZ for undertaking the work done. It will be part of an annual exercise and, with the wider campaign, indicates a serious effort by the sector to lift it’s game.

Mayors and Regional Council Chairs were also surveyed on a range of issues. When asked what their major impediments were, the results were: 1) Funding/Affordability (around 60%), 2) Central Government (around 25%), 3) Public engagement (around 15%). I thought this ‘mayoral’ view neatly summarised the challenge Kevin Roberts and the reputation survey expressed. Our council leaders are so preoccupied with “their” issues, and with blaming or scolding central government that they have lost sight of the most important “impediment”: Building much greater public support.

How much easier would it be to confront the first of these two issues, if the third was much less of an issue.

In Auckland, we need a candidate for Mayor who has the capacity to turn this around.

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