While Canberra-bashers existed long before social media, the myths of Canberra are being tackled head-on with an ironic social media campaign of the same name.
The Instagram hashtag #canberrabashers is one of many being tested by a group of University of Canberra media and communications students who are trying their hand at being social media influencers by developing a campaign to promote Canberra as a place to live, work and visit as part of their studies.
The Digital Engagement and Analytics students have created the campaigns for Instagram as part of their Communication and Media degree, with the accounts highlighting some of the best Canberra has to offer, from food and arts to culture and business.
But they present stunning twists on Canberra stereotypes such as the city being ‘boring’, our world-class roundabouts, public servants (of course) and some of our stunning yet underappreciated landmarks like the waterfront at Gungahlin.
The students have been led by researcher and lecturer in communication and media, Prue Robson, whose PhD focuses on the reputation of Canberra as a place to live, and subsequent ‘Canberra bashing’.
Ms Robson is researching why the perceptions and stereotypes of Canberra exist as part of her thesis. Her findings have led to an assessment that combines developing social media skills and getting students on board as champions for Canberra.
“Today’s communication professionals are expected to have a solid grasp on digital media and the jobs we’re seeing advertised for our graduates are increasingly focused on content creation and social media management, so this was the perfect opportunity for students to get some hands-on experience in those roles,” said Ms Robson.
Ms Robson says the sterile stereotypes of Canberra have been supported by news and popular culture media, with her students tasked to shift the popular narrative about Canberra by minimising the negatives and emphasising the positives.
Among the Instagram accounts include @cuisinesofcbr, which showcases the finest food Canberra has to offer, while the account @canberrainsider gives followers the inside scoop to Canberra’s best-kept secrets.
“In just 13 weeks, the students have researched the topic, developed a social media strategy, created content for their Instagram accounts and evaluated their campaign,” said Ms Robson.
“It’s been a fantastic effort on their part, and they should be really proud of the results they’ve achieved in such a short time period. We even have some groups presenting their campaigns to VisitCanberra.
“I think a few of the students have realised just how hard being an influencer can be. There’s been a lot of cold meals, long hikes and embarrassing themselves in public just to get the perfect Instagram shot.”
Ms Robson said there is definitely a change in how people view Canberra, with a shift towards the more cosmopolitan lifestyle.
“Canberrans are increasingly being portrayed as fancy by the media. Most of that is around our food and wine culture and the arts.”
She said one of her favourite parts of her research has been to see that Canberrans say they don’t drink at pubs and clubs, they drink at national institutions.
Two of the students undertaking the research, Grace Robson and Alex Huntly, made the account @billoftheberra, featuring a rubber duck (Bill) in all of their posts.
They said Bill is a likeable duck who travels with them and people can identify with.
“We’ve been getting a lot of comments from people reaching out to us and asking for more information,” said Alex.
“In particular, a lot of the outdoor posts do really well so people are seeing the natural side of things. We know that we’re the bush capital of Australia, but I think people forget how easy it is to get out and see those kinds of places.”
Grace said it has been the perfect uni assignment.
“Instagram is what most of us do just for fun anyway, so when we’ve got this little fellow, that just makes us get out and explore more and see lots of cool places,” she said.
Follow the students’ work by searching #uccommsmedia on Instagram. The top campaigns will also be on display at the UC Faculty of Arts and Design Student Graduate Exhibition 2019: FADX on 20 November.