Leader: Boro PR campaign deserves fair wind

There is something irresistible about news this week that Middlesbrough is planning an audacious PR and branding campaign to secure itself 'designer-label' status. It is not merely southern bias prompting one to note that while there are many epithets one could attach to the town, 'designer-label' is not foremost among them. This is not quite as extreme as describing black as white, but it comes close.

The reputation challenges that towns like Middlesbrough face are easily described - common associations would include (with some justification) post-industrial decay, widespread poverty and historically wasteful or inefficient local authorities. It may seem like an easy solution to throw PR and advertising money at the problem - if enough of that happens there is bound to be a measurable impact on people's perceptions of the town.

The more difficult task, and the only way such an image revamp will have enduring value, is to ensure that the way the town describes itself and the reality of the town are the same. 'Brand Middlesbrough' will fool no one if its ambitious vision of renewal is not realised on the ground.

For a combination of good urban regeneration and communications reasons, the town's advocates seem to recognise this. There is a feeling that the multi-million-pound investment in the city centre and the zero tolerance crime-reduction strategy of former police chief (now Mayor) Ray Mallon give what was a depressed iron and steel town a more up-to-date story to tell. Indeed, the experience of other northern towns' attempts to reposition themselves in a more favourable or contemporary light is rather encouraging.

It takes long-term effort, of course, but Leeds now makes a plausible case for calling itself Media City and Manchester's sustained 20-year turnaround means nobody now questions the authenticity of its renewed reputation.

Nobody, either, should question the ability of the dedicated people of Middlesbrough to transform their home town from somewhere people leave or avoid to somewhere they queue up to live, work or invest in.

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