Next month, the Government will issue the first in a number of place surveys that will test how effectively local authorities are communicating a sense of place.
Survey ratings will feed into the Government's Comprehensive Area Assessment of each council and badly performing councils will be named and shamed.
Local council PR body LGCommunications suggested council comms departments should stop focusing on individual services and instead 'communicate our communities' sense of place'.
But councils have a raft of issues to deal with first, the body warned.
LGCommunications vice-chair and Buckingham comms chief Carl Welham said: 'Local government will have to rethink the way that it communicates if authorities are to capitalise on the place-shaping agenda.
'The new emphasis on place means that campaigns will have to be assessed according to their impact on the community, not whether council officers are pleased with the posters. Local government communicators we will have to adapt or perish.'
LGCommunications has also issued a white paper, Communicating Place Matters, to 300 authorities. The report advises councils to place more emphasis on campaign comms; to offer tangible results; to agree a common public service approach and to generate political leadership.
It also recommends that councils 'offer a story for their place that is authentic and links legacy issues and future aspiration'.
The forthcoming place survey follows developments such as the Department for Communities and Local Government's 2006 Strong and Prosperous Communities white paper.