Taking a risk to reap rewards

Advertising campaigns in the metropolitan market can be a high cost luxury beyond the means of some regional Local Governments. To address this, five shires in northeast Victoria adopted an innovative public relations strategy that has yielded over $2 million in publicity value for the region.

In 2004, Benalla, Mansfield, Mitchell, Murrindindi and Strathbogie Municipalities joined forces to form the North East Provincial Victoria Visiting Journalist Program, to create opportunities for journalists to produce stories about the region. The decision was a risky move due to the speculative nature of the work, but the gamble paid off, with the program generating over $2 million in publicity value since November 2004.

Each Shire has invested $5,000 annually, which has been matched by $25,000 per annum from the Victorian Government’s ‘Regional Development Victoria’ program.

The program involves finding interesting local stories that showcase opportunities to live, work and invest in the five provincial Shires. Visiting Journalist Program staff identify media outlets that may be interested in the news or the individuals involved. Metropolitan print, radio and TV have responded well to the program, with stories featuring local businesses and ‘tree changers’, along with education, art and sport initiatives within the five municipalities.

While the results are impressive, Coordinator Judy Dixon warns visiting journalist programs are not simply a cheap and easy way to gain publicity.

“Don’t underestimate the time involved or the skill set required to meet the editorial media’s needs and wants,” she said. “It would not work without the support of each Council’s Economic Development Managers, who understand the opportunities and how the program complements their Council’s broader suite of strategies.”

The innovative public relations approach has yielded many and varied benefits for the Local Governments involved. Most importantly, the program is succeeding in debunking some of the myths associated with country living.

For further information on the program contact Judy Dixon on 0418 324 146.