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Master Your Story: Effective Economic Development Attraction Starts With Great Storytelling

Storytelling matters

In today’s digital world, site selectors can access your data without ever touching your website. What they can’t see through your data alone is the unique story of progress and growth your city has to tell. That’s why truly effective attraction efforts always start with great storytelling. Unfortunately, most cities just try to tell a few individual stories within their marketing, but they never step back to realize that their entire marketing effort should be shaped by storytelling. 

Your Audience Is People

Whether you are working towards workforce or business attraction with your marketing, the audience is always the same- people. People are hardwired to connect deeply with stories. Narrative is woven into the fabric of history from the very beginning of time. Stories have been passed on by people via word of mouth, etched in stones, written on parchment, bound in books, and are more available than ever in our digital age. You may not be writing an academy award-winning story for your economic development efforts, but stories have the power to move people and shape decisions. Knowing your audience is always the most important part of communication, and people connect with stories.

People Want To Be A Part Of Growth & Movement

But it’s not just any story. They want to be a part of a great story. Companies want to know they can make a difference in the community they come to. Dollars and cents, taxes, the right property, and the right number of skilled workers matter- but you can show that in your data. The story woven around your data needs to be forward moving, focused on growth, and invite your audience to find their place within that story. Help them visualize the opportunities your city holds. Help them see the needs your city still has to reach the goals of growth and future vitality it wants to achieve. Driven people, especially business people, are never satisfied sitting still. Show them your city isn’t either and create a feeling of excitement that the community can connect with and companies don’t want to miss out on.

It Sets Your City Apart

A moment of honesty here- Your city won’t be the right fit for every company that engages with your story. But in a world where you can find the right metrics and an easily accessible location in a dozen places, you have to find a way to set yourself apart as unique. Nothing is more unique than the people that make up your community. And those people come together to create a million incredible stories every day that begin to form the larger one that makes up your city. Lean into those stories. Get to know them. Then tell them to the world: Small business stories, stories of manufacturing growth, and stories of forward-thinking in your city governments. Your city’s story may be similar to another, but it is always unique in one way or another.

Clarity Wins The Day

Donald Miller, one of today’s premier proponents of storytelling marketing, said something that should really encourage you when it comes to your city. He said, “It’s not always the “best” stories that get the most attention – it’s more often the ones that are the most clearly told.” The same is true with cities. Your city might not have all the bells and whistles or have the best plan for the future with fantastic growth on the horizon. But if you tell your story of growth and opportunity in a clear way, that will put you in a position to win over other cities who don’t. Never underestimate the power of simple, clear, and honest storytelling.

“It’s not always the “best” stories that get the most attention – it’s more often the ones that are the most clearly told. ”

– Donald Miller
Marketing Made Simple

Data & Details Naturally Find Their Place

As economic developers, you have to provide key data and important details about your community that companies need to know. But the great thing about starting your marketing with developing your story is that those things easily become the supporting cast. As you begin to understand what your community's unique story is, you will see what data is needed to support your story. Don’t have great data? There’s a great article here that talks all about how to tackle that problem. But when you start with the story, your website will be better organized, your data will be easier to engage with, and you will be able to identify those key numbers that will help your community's advantages stand out. 

Hire A Marketing Company That Thinks Like Storytellers

All this information is great, but the truth is you probably don’t have the time to tackle your story all on your own. You know all the pieces in your head or who to talk to in order to get them, but connecting them together in your marketing can be challenging. So here’s a tip- find a company that thinks like storytellers. Listen to the questions they ask about your community. Find out what kind of effort and thought they put into the details like your website site map or content creation. Find a company that doesn't just sell you flashy tools and promises of faster turnarounds, but through their work shows you that they know how to help tell your city's unique story to the world.

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