The Essex girl and Essex man phenomenon has been more powerful in shaping people's perceptions of the area than any marketing campaigner would dare to hope for.
MORI research shows Essex has the highest recognition ratings of any county in the region. Unfortunately, the images people outside the county hold of Essex are not particularly positive. Essex CC and the Essex Economic Partnership believe this is having a negative impact on tourism and investment.
Leaders of business, industry, local government, the media, tourism and academia recently got together to consider what might be done to dispel popular stereotypes about Essex. As a result the county has made a commitment in its local public service agreement to enhance the image of Essex and by doing so increase tourism, investment and cultural events in the county.
Essex organisations are already working together on campaigns to boost the county. A 'Real Essex' tourism campaign was launched earlier this year, exhorting people to experience Essex for themselves. The campaign is primarily targeted at those in the surrounding counties.
The Real Essex campaign has just been supplemented by the launch of the Essex Festival of the Countryside by Essex resident, author and feminist, Professor Germaine Greer.
Other initiatives include the Essex Book Festival, which is supported by high profile celebrities like Tony Parsons, Melvyn Bragg and Libby Purves.
Meanwhile the Essex economy is prosperous and unemployment is lower than the national average. The council is working to support business in the county and launched the Essex Trade Centre in January.
Having succeeded in persuading the government to include the image target in the PSA, Essex is now embarking on a partnership effort to turn its high profile to its advantage.
A recent conference held built on this work and helped develop a collective approach to promotion. It was classic Essex. Loads of ideas, loads of enthusiasm and a desire to get cracking with some real action.
peter martin (con)
Cabinet member for regeneration, Essex CC