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Who really creates the place brand? Considering the role of user generated content in creating and communicating a place identity

Skinner, HM (2018) Who really creates the place brand? Considering the role of user generated content in creating and communicating a place identity. Communication and Society, 31 (4). pp. 9-24. ISSN 0214-0039

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Abstract

This paper explores online and social media users’ contributions to place identity creation, challenging the role and importance of various actors in the place brand identity and place brand image formation process. Findings arise from a content analysis of 149 separate photographs of a unique event that takes place on the Greek island of Corfu as part of the Orthodox Easter festival. Findings are also informed by autoethnographic reflexivity from the researcher’s own participation in and observation of the event, and 84 images from the researcher’s own photographic record of the event. Comparisons are drawn between social media users’ images and those communicated by the local Municipality through 7 relevant images reproduced in the official Easter on Corfu brochure. The images uploaded by social media users were not vastly different in terms of content from those of the local authority, and were also similar to those taken by the researcher. Perhaps it may be time for place branders to not only voluntarily give up their perceptions of control over at least part of the identity formation process and encourage contributions from wider stakeholders, but to no longer perceive them as mere consumers of the brand, but also as its co-creators. However, this will require another shift in academic understanding of place brand identity and place brand image, which may be difficult to achieve considering that there has only recently been reached a certain level of agreement within the extant literature about the various definitions of terms associated with these constructs.

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