This week we spoke to Eoghan Prendergast, who, despite being in his new role for just three months, has made significant progress with much more planned.
Limerick Marketing Company is a fully resourced operation funded by Limerick City and County Council. It has taken over the activities of the Limerick Communications Office, which previous to this promoted the city through traditional and new media, as well as Limerick.ie, the online guide to events and activities in Limerick.
Marketing the City of Culture programme will be the first major undertaking by the new office, while there are plans for the development of an exciting range of digital marketing initiatives.
Congratulations on your new role as Head of newly formed Limerick Marketing Company. It comes ahead of Limerick’s City of Culture year. What is your vision for the role?
I’ve said publicly that we want to double the number of tourists and foreign direct investors coming to Limerick over the next five years. They are two of our main specific goals, but the overall objective is to rebrand Limerick as a welcoming, creative, vibrant, and resourceful location, that gives investors a good return on their investment and visitors to Limerick a good reason to recommend it to others as a compelling place to visit. We are thinking ambitiously, but we believe whole-heartedly in the potential of Limerick and particularly its people in achieving these goals.
My role will be to promote Limerick to the national and international marketplace across a range of sectors. But I also believe that we will give Limerick people – living in Limerick or elsewhere – a sense of pride and ownership in their city and county. We’re lucky to have 191,000 potential ambassadors to help us in what we’ll be doing, and Limerick people are never found wanting when we pull together.
The Limerick agenda is one, which has been bought into by very many agencies, not least Government, who announced a package of €6 million for Limerick National City of Culture 2014 in last week’s Budget, for which we are very grateful. This will pave the pay for the animation of Ireland’s first National City of Culture.
How do you think this forward-thinking step by Limerick City and County Council to create a dedicated Marketing Company will improve the city and county?
The company is the first ever dedicated place-marketing company established by a Local Authority in Ireland and will be very focused on helping to deliver the Limerick Economic and Spatial Plan 2030. As we have a very broad range of opportunity in Limerick we will be integrating our marketing to industry, tourism, culture and the arts, retail, sports, education and residential target markets. We will be using traditional print marketing but with a much more active digital marketing focus, alongside a heavy emphasis on trade and consumer show marketing.
We see our sister agencies – local, national and international – as key partners and we have already told them that our job is to make it easier for them to promote Limerick in whatever they are doing.
It’s been a very positive year for Limerick in so many ways – tourism, business, culture and of course sport. Will your role bring together all facets of life in Limerick?
I am delighted you asked that question. It has indeed been a very positive year for Limerick and I already see a change in the way Limerick is being perceived – although we’re only starting! Hopefully the days when Limerick didn’t get as much balanced media coverage as other locations is well behind us. In fact that’s about the one area that we’re content to be the same as every other place. Media are hugely important to us and we have strong plans in the pipeline to work very closely with the media to get the message out about how Limerick is fast becoming Ireland’s renaissance city.
What are the challenges ahead?
We still live in difficult times although I think Limerick emerging energetically from that. You could say that in sense we’re coming from behind, but that gives us a very good look at what’s happening with our competing locations – and there are over 100,000 of them in Europe – and how to move up the running order. To continue that sporting analogy we’ve always been consistent performances, but others have got more of the spotlight, but we’ve done extra preparation, are wearing a new and fresh green kit, and we’re very focused on being on the winners podium.
Tell us a bit about City of Culture 2014 – what’s planned and what legacy will this leave for Limerick businesses?
On November 4, we will launch a vibrant, dynamic, family friendly programme that we hope will capture the imagination of an international, national and local audience. We look forward to Limerick becoming the Stage for Culture in Ireland in 2014. There will be something for everyone right throughout next year along with a number of legacy projects. It will be a very special year and the best thing I can say at this stage is – you need to be here in 2014.
You were interviewed recently on Today FM’s Business Show on the subject of place branding. Do you think this concept generates tangible results for a city/county and for those who live and do business there?
Yes I do, provided we live and deliver on what you’re brand says, rather than it being a nice thing to have on a website or brochure. We have created a model based on international best practice and we have taken a leaf from the Manchester book, as Manchester is an outstanding example. Other than population, the similarities between it and Limerick are uncanny. Manchester, just like Limerick, is noted for its theatre, music, sport and the arts and has an international airport, just like we do with Shannon Airport on our doorstep.
I’ve worked for a long time in economic development in a number of countries, and while I would say this anyway wouldn’t I, I really do believe strongly that Limerick has a very strong product combination, and a population that delivers and welcomes success, in whatever shape that takes. That’s a very strong platform from which to market your location and deliver those tangible results in terms of jobs, investment, visitors and a vibrant cultural community that is, rather than just says it is, a go to place for investors, visitors or the local population. It is a very good time to invest in Limerick or to visit, and I can tell you confidently, you’ll have a good time doing that.