Marketing chief’s new vision for city

Lurene Joseph
Lurene Joseph
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THE woman responsible for selling Leeds to the rest of the world announced her arrival yesterday by dropping the Marketing Leeds brand and renaming the organisation Leeds and Partners.

Lurene Joseph insisted the new name did not represent a rebrand, but instead highlighted a new way of working that the city must adopt if it is to raise its profile, speak with “one voice” and attract more investment.

She said: “We have got to work in a different way. We have got to work in partnership with the city, with the city region, with partners nationally and internationally, with the private sector. That’s the sort of approach that gets things done.”

She told the Yorkshire Post that her remit is “all about inward investment”, including tourism and promoting the city “around a clear agenda”.

Ms Joseph said she has met between 150 and 200 business and civic leaders in her first 100 days in the job since joining from the London Development Agency. She has identified four sectors that she wants the city to promote more coherently: professional services, financial services, healthcare and digital.

“My challenge now is to get under the skin of those sectors and look for points of differentiation,” said Ms Joseph.

She has asked businesses including PwC, Leeds Building Society and IBM to help her identify the strengths in each sector.

When potential investors consider Leeds in the future, the city can respond by saying “we have got key sectors who are able to support your business”, she said.

She described Leeds as “a hidden gem”. She added: “Now it is about Leeds getting a voice. The city is quite well connected. I don’t think Leeds will become a global city, but we will become a city that’s known globally. That’s the aspiration for key areas of work.”

Ms Joseph is finalising funding with Leeds City Council until 2014 and is planning ahead for a three-year cycle of work beyond then. She hopes to secure between £3m and £5m from the city council.

She said that the funds would not be diverted from other areas of council activity like schools. Instead, she said it represents investment that can unlock value in existing assets.

She added that Leeds and Partners hopes to recycle funds as well as look for new revenue streams. These include a new city app for smartphones and tablets developed with the telecoms firm O2. She is in talks with Leeds University about using its 250,000 alumni around the world to drive traffic to the app with information around Leeds.

Leeds and Partners will also return to the international property conference MIPIM in Cannes next year with private sector sponsors. And the company will revamp its events programme, another potential source of new revenue, she said.

Ms Joseph said she will be working with local and regional tourism organisations like Visit York and Welcome to Yorkshire and also London and “some of the big players around the world”.

“It’s not just talking to Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, it is a much wider conversation, of which Gary has a huge part to play,” she added.

Looking ahead, she wants to position 2013 as “Leeds’ year” with investment in new shopping centres, a concert venue, regeneration and broadband.

“We have got to leverage on all the investments coming to fruition and in the pipeline,” she said. London is abuzz with Yorkshire’s success in the Olympics, she added. “So what is happening up in Leeds?”

Ms Joseph grew up in the West Indies and moved to the UK to further her education. She worked for Shell and TXU before joining the London Development Agency.