Some lessons have been learned from the recent national publicity surrounding Waterford.
One is that we have a difficulty getting a positive message out there when a crisis hits the city.
The potential loss of the largest employer in the city was always going to attract a negative slant.
However, few expected the intense focus on Waterford’s job problems and weaknesses.
The motorway for example was viewed as a negative rather than a positive in an Irish Times article – and The Financial Times also portrayed Waterford in a negative light.
In the aftermath of the elections, we spoke with former city councillor Davy Walsh and he highlighted the need to have a high-powered public relations individual or firm to promote Waterford and its strengths in the national media.
He gave the example of Noel Carroll in Dublin who talked up the city at a time of rising crime and achieved a better profile for the city nationally and internationally.
Limerick has also had a bad image portrayed in the past, with many ‘stab city’ jibes – but that appears to be a thing of the past now, as the city has benefited from having professional PR people with national media experience pushing the city and its recovery.
Limerick’s problems are not unlike Waterford and we can learn from them, says Davy Walsh.
They have lost jobs like Waterford and are now looking at the upside.
Waterford’s lack of a Minister was highlighted in the press, with people of late looking back at the time of Martin Cullen with a fondness he may not have felt while in office.
Davy Walsh thinks some opportunities have been lost with the North Quays debacle and some sectors not working for the city at large but for themselves alone.
That may be the past, but now there is a massive need for jobs and the city’s image needs to be more progressive.
He mentioned how the late Anne Ryan had talked up the city at the time of the opening of City Square, following some industrial difficulties at Waterford Crystal. The negatives were overcome with some positive action.
Katherine Bulbulia was also effective, he added. Now, the issues are more serious with the jobs crisis in Waterford and the loss of major industries.
A fresh approach may be needed and the local authority can play its part in emphasising the positives.
A Waterford emigrant in the USA recently read the Irish Times article on Waterford and read how the city was portrayed and asked what was the point in it and why do it? Why wasn’t there more balance? The negativity was rather pointless in his view.
Waterford needs a morale boost. Davy Walsh reckons that, at times, we have, in effect a non-performing PR machine.
We should avail of more opportunities to promote Waterford and mention successes like tourism.
A better message needs to get out from the public authority and the people at large.