I rarely meet an economic developer that isn’t passionate about what their city or region is doing to create a better economic future. Sure, there are politics and issues that can drag them down at times, but successful economic development professionals truly care about the impact they are having on the cities they serve.
So how do you tell the story of where your city is going and the bright future you are working towards? That’s the challenge we hope to help you navigate! Translating your passion and dedication to your work into your organization’s branding and marketing is not an easy task, and usually isn’t something you or your staff are equipped to spend a lot of time on. However, when you connect your marketing, brand, and your every day talking points to a larger story, it enables people to be able to seamlessly connect with your city's personality and message.
To begin identifying and understanding the overarching story that your city has to tell, start by answering these 4 questions. Once you have a framework, you should begin to see how the details will fit in between the larger pieces.
What is something everybody knows about your city?
It is not a secret that fairy tales have no place in the brick and mortar reality of your community. For your story to connect with your audience, it has to be based on reality. Be sure to start with the positive things that your city is already known for that can immediately win your audience’s trust. Identify your strengths as a community and play off of those.
What is something very few people know about your city?
Give your audience some “local knowledge” that will peak their interest. Think about something that may not be commonly known such as the growth trajectory of your businesses/workforce, the recent successes you have been achieving, or even just some interesting facts. Engage your audience's natural curiosity and give them a reason to continue listening. A site selector wants you to tell them about the things they can't find on Google or in your raw data.
What is something you want your city to be known for?
You have established trust with the use of well-known facts and peaked interest with little-known information. Now is the chance to cast a vision for where your city is headed in the near future, but be careful not to wander away from reality- people need to see how your vision and plans are a result of trends, strategy, and action. Don’t leave it up to your audience to imagine where you might be headed on their own. Describe it, have a plan to prove it possible, and support it with existing data. Think of it as a path leading to a clear destination.
What are your key assets that make you ready for investment?
If you are going to convince a company to come to your community, they need to be able to envision themselves as a key component of your story. You should be able to prove how you are prepared to support their needs now and in the future. What are your assets, what is your plan for the future, how will you help them be successful in your city, and how have you done it before? Identify your assets for each of your target sectors/industries, and be ready to bring them the table whenever you are talking with prospects.
Just The Start
If you can answer each of these 4 questions, you will be able to form a general framework to build your city’s unique story around. How you use it, the details you may add, and the specific challenges you may need to focus on will all differ based on your audience, your goals, and your city. Remember, this is just a starting point. Continue to perfect it, build around it, and be consistent throughout all of your marketing, conversations, and materials, and your story will begin to take shape.