Develop and position the Brainport brand/seal of quality (2006-2009)

Brainport is the name of a highly innovative region: the southeast of the Netherlands with Eindhoven at its centre. This region has always come up with ingenious technical inventions, such as the first overseas radio broadcast, the video telephone, electronic music and the CD, LEDs, the Blu-ray disc, tiny computer chips, the MRI scanner and the nano-microscope. The region’s strength lies in high-tech systems and materials, food, life technologies, design and automotive. One of the top European technology regions, Brainport is one of the three pillars of the Dutch economy together with Rotterdam (seaport) and Amsterdam (airport). The collaborative mentality between government, business and knowledge institutes contributes to a favourable business climate.

As head of communication, I developed a plan for Brainport BV, which was established in 2006, for the international and national positioning of the region and set up a communication department. I managed ten people, wrote annual plans, budgets and reports for financiers. I reported to the director of the Brainport foundation and indirectly to the board of management, which consisted of representatives/directors from the regional government (mayors of Eindhoven, Veldhoven, Helmond), knowledge institutes (TU/e, Fontys etc.) and companies (Philips, DAF, etc).

The challenge was to develop a brand with international strength as well as a communicative company where top-notch people would want to collaborate. I was the sounding board for the director in the area of positioning and communication. I developed the Brainport corporate story by talking to and motivating all of the companies involved in the triple helix. In the end, Brainport was their company, and joint involvement and ambassadorship determined whether the concept would be a success. As chair of the regional communication community of companies, knowledge institutes and organizations, I involved communication managers in corporate stories and the companies’ ambitions. I led a European tender process for a communication consulting agency to work out the story for businesses, citizens and the government in several languages and to develop several communication tools. I had contact with programme leaders, managers, civil servants, mayors, spokespeople and lobbyists.

I was responsible for the start-up positioning of the region and strength of the triple helix, for the communication of Brainport programmes and projects, the opening of a Brainport office in the VNO-NCW building in The Hague, and communication with Brussels. I set up discussion cafés for members of the European Commission in a Brussels newsletter and wrote a lesson plan for middle schools in which economy, geography and history came together. Once the regional house style had been decided, all of the involved organizations received a communication kit for their Brainport communication.

My strength was my personal approach to building relationships. In recognizing needs in the network. Many parties helped develop stories, but they also had to be intrinsically involved. Ambassadorship takes time, energy and requires focus. Insight into public-private collaboration and a lot of patience.