Garath Keating: Lord Mayor of the Month

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A new breed of mayor


“We had to start from scratch building our own brand identity. “


As soon as Garath said that I knew we were going to get on.


It is great to hear civic leaders talking about brand awareness and brand loyalty. It shows that they are approaching the role in a different way.


But most of all you can tell that Garath thinks a bit differently. In fact, you can see Garath thinks differently. Literally all you need to do is take on look at him and you can tell he is not your typical Lord Mayor.


The most stylish mayor


Civic leaders are great at garnering publicity for their councils and their visions. But when local news website Belfast Live asked the question ‘Is this Lord Mayor the most stylish in Northern Ireland?’ I had a feeling we were in for a great year.


In his typically modest way Garath said, “I wouldn’t brand myself as stylish, but I have a commitment to wearing hats.” Belfast Live went a bit further, “With his skinny jeans, rolled up sleeves and shaggy hair – the Queen’s law graduate bears a closer resemblance to Russell Brand than your typical politician.”


I’m never going to say that you must look like Russel Brand, but it helps if you don’t look just like a typical politician. Of course, Garath has some advantages, as he points out “being a younger mayor, I had a different approach to style.” But even so, anyone can follow his lead. We are all individuals, so we can all bring a bit of individuality to the role.


Dress like and individual


Because after all it isn’t about dressing like Russel Brand or even Garath. It’s about dressing like yourself. It’s about not being scared to dress more informally. Because if you dress in a more informal way then you are more accessible. More people will approach you if you look less daunting.


Just because the mayor used to wear a frock coat it doesn’t mean you have to. Garath gets that and by being himself, by being a bit more relaxed he looks like someone from his community rather than someone above his community.


Dancing to a different tune


Garath didn’t stop with the way he dressed. He took some risks which many traditionalists would have run from.


During his time in office one of the local retail parks, the Rushmere Centre in Criagavon, celebrated its 40th anniversary. But Garath didn’t just go a long and cut a cake, he went much further. Some young people from the local dance school and a team from the centre put together a song and dance extravaganza covering the four decades the shopping centre had been open. Yet there is no doubt who the star is.


Garath simply said that “I made an idiot of myself”. I disagree, I think the video they produced looks great. Sure he had a lot of help from the local dance school, sure he had a lot of help from the camera crew, and yes the editor did a good job too! But Garath is at the heart of a great advert for an important part of his local economy.


Saturday night fever


It’s a great advert not because it is packed full of great music. It’s a great advert because Garath’s performance gained a lot of media attention. After all, how often do you see Lord Mayors in music videos? Unsurprisingly the press lapped it up.


But there’s more to it than that. People love it too. It gets shared on Facebook and Twitter because it is a funky video with a funky civic leader. Garath has done a big thing to promote something important in his community.


Just do it


The absolute best thing about it is that many people in the civic space just wouldn’t touch it. They’d say it was inappropriate for the mayor to be in a music video. Then again, they wouldn’t like the way Garath dresses either.


And I’m glad Garath paid more attention to his brand identity than he did to the naysayers.


And you really should watch the video, it is awesome.


You know when you get it right


I think Garath is a great example to other civic leaders. I hope people will look at his sense of style and think maybe I can dress differently. I hope they’ll look at his music video and say the mayor can be cool. I hope they’ll look at his whole time in office and say things can be different.


But above all of that when I asked him how he found his year he said, “I found it very uplifting”.


It should be uplifting. And it can be if you relax and be yourself.


If you can’t get enough…


If you’d like to hear more from Garath and some other amazing civic leaders then you can watch the panel discussion from The Unchained Civic Conference.


All you need to do is register on the National Network for Civic Leaders website.


Then you can watch Garath, some other amazing civic leaders and some communications and leadership experts. I’ll even keep you informed about this year’s Unchained Civic Conference.

Duncan Bhaskaran BrownGarath Keating: Lord Mayor of the Month

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