What can JFK teach us about Brand Norfolk?

  • Chris Sargisson, Chief Executive Officer Norfolk Chamber of Commerce with Chamber Staff Sam Brown and Jack Edwards

Having lived, worked and raised my family in Norfolk for well over 25 years now, it’s kind of easy for me to articulate the many great things our region has on offer.  Simply put, it is just a fantastic, supportive place to be.  I’m guessing though if you're reading this, then you probably already know. Sure, there’s a shopping list of things we need to make the region better: roads, connectivity, and 5G for example, but compared to many other locations the positives truly outweigh the negatives.  Not everyone, in Norfolk, is aware of this fact, (well some are), but not many …. yet! 

Brand Norwich and Norfolk

In the years before I took this role of Chamber CEO, hearing people refer to the place I lived and worked inaccurately would make me smile. I would think to myself. “Pfffft, whatever.  Go ahead and believe the outdated stereotype, I know the truth.”     

Now I see things very differently.  Our region (Norwich, Norfolk, the East, my road etc.) has some of the most creative, innovative and world-leading businesses to boast about. Changing the inaccurate perception of ‘place’, rather than being a niggle is now one of my biggest goals.

If the understanding of our region remains in the past, then students in our schools, or to put it a better way: ‘your future workforce’ will not consider that their future is on their doorstep.  You are on are on their doorstep!

Perception comes before investment! Consider this, our creative, innovative, and future world-leading businesses need the best connectivity.  The agricultural community needs the best connectivity to make the most of new technology designed to save time, money, fuel and more.  If the perception of place by decision makers outside the region, who are responsible for making these decisions, is outdated then it makes the job of getting what we need (not want, NEED) much harder.    

We need to update the perception of our region as ‘perception is our reality.’  If the perception remains outdated it will hold us back from the many things we need.


Former American President, John F Kennedy’s inaugural speech of 1961 was a ground-breaking speech of the time. Kennedy gave a clear message of hope, and a new approach of peace with the focus on, the relationship with the international stage.  He asked for his fellow Americans to join him on the journey and make an oath, to no longer look inwards, but outwards and beyond, and for all his citizens to be responsible for their country’s journey and its future. 

“Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country”

Norfolk businesses, need to go on a similar metaphoric journey.  We can change our voice and therefore the true perception of our region and to do so we must work as a collective and not as an individual.

Our narrative of the region - let’s be clear

The way we tell our story, about what we do and who we are is key to everything. How we speak, the stories we tell and the words we write. We are all ambassadors responsible for our futures and the new generations of worker’s futures too. Remember if we don’t tell anyone about what we do, how will they know? How will they understand the correct use of ‘place,’ how and why they should ‘invest’.

There are three things to collectively do

Thing 1: We need to be seen.   

Online consumption has changed the game for every business. You must now master the art of storytelling and create digital content. Show the world what you do, share the environment you work in, live in and play in. Now! 

The Chamber will help and if you create it, we will broadcast it. 

‘Norfolk’s Voice’ is a soon to be launched as a digital channel, it’s all part of our transformation program to allow a greater voice for business.  It will need your content, your stories, your voice.  The narrative of the ‘now.’ Why? Because in Norfolk the now is the ‘WOW’!

Thing 2: “you can’t sell on a negative!”

No one I’m sure will have a tin of Yeoman’s pie filling in their cupboard, if you have, throw it away as I think they stopped production in the 1980s, so it will probably make you poorly, anyway back in the 1980’s Yeoman’s ran an unusual marketing with the slogan ‘guaranteed, no lumps of fat or gristle.’ 

Doesn’t sound very appealing does it… lumps of fat or gristle! 

Leaves you feeling a little queasy, but I can see what they were trying to do. However, the approach runs the danger of associating you with the thing you’re trying so hard, not to be associated with. 100% pure beef would have worked better!  

We ‘Norfolk folk’ have a bit of a habit of referencing the misperception of the region first, before highlighting the positives, “People say Norfolk is the end of the line. But it really isn’t!”  Why is being the end of a line a negative? Surely, the end of your journey is where everything starts, a beginning, not an end?

Don’t highlight negatives, particularly ones that no longer exist. “Norwich used to have the black death in the 1600s, but it’s been eradicated now, well several centuries ago!” How far back do you want to go?  

Close the book on the negatives, place the book on a high shelf and let it collect dust.

Thing 3: Like JFK make an oath! 

Do something every day or every week for Norfolk.  Something that you do, see, find or hear that accentuates a positive.

There are loads to choose from. See it, share it, and put a Norfolk wrapper around it that talks about the place my favourite is #brilliantnorwich, #brilliantnorfolk.

Think of the power of the collective, If we all did this, imagine the effect.   

If we don’t do these three things the negatives will prevail. They are easy to find, they get lots of coverage sadly. So, make the oath, and restore the balance.  

It’s all about the Now.


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