A startling similarity emerges whenever I speak with economic developers.
Namely, everyone’s location has immense assets for tourism, business
attraction, and/or talent retention, but few professionals feel these assets
are being communicated as broadly or frequently as they need to be.
Furthermore, despite being able to convey passion for location in face-toface
discussion, for some reason, the message, in its pure, most passionate
form rarely reaches our target audiences. Somewhere in our marketing
our place– loses something. It loses its flavor, it loses its authenticity.
Social media is an amazing tool for a few reasons. First, it is free. Second,
it is free. And third, it has the ability to reach huge numbers of people.
Economic development organizations can use social media to bring
attention to positive developments in their city; focusing primarily on
Twitter, Instagram , Facebook, and LinkedIn. A key to remember with the
use of social media, is encapsulated in Grady Booch’s famous s quip that
“A fool with a tool is still a fool.” In other words, just having social media
isn’t enough. Content is king and your ability to identify your target
audience, and generate creative corresponding content will be critical.
Economic development organizations should be aware of their location’s presence on social media and see the multiple platforms as an opportunity to shape and drive a business friendly narrative. For instance, if you are trying to attract technology companies to your location, you should be thinking – “what local tech entrepreneur should I write a profile piece on and photograph at their office?” Or, “do I have a soft-landings facility in my region and if so, can I generate a profile of one of the facility’s users?” Pictures of people tend to generate more clicks than just words or skylines on these platforms so a constant thought in the mind of the professional economic developer at events or out in the community should be “what, or who, or where, as I move throughout my day, really captures the vibrancy of this place?”
Though corporations might not be logging onto Twitter to make their relocation decisions final, the content of a well-run social media account conveys a sense of vibrancy, stability, and modernity to potential investors looking to invest in your location - and an active Instagram surfaces on the radar of a young people making decisions on dining, living, working and travel.
It is a well-known fact that nothing, even images, can
compare to the impact of actually experiencing a place inperson.
Therefore, one of the most important things an
economic development organization can do is create microopportunities
for investors, visitors, and current employers
and their employees to learn about your place. I say microopportunities
because boots-on-the-ground may make it
sound like I’m suggesting full-blown, expensive familiarization
tours. I’m not. Through a simple private or public walking
tour offered to your key audiences, you can prove that there
are indeed exciting developments, hidden gems, and unique
and valuable assets for investors in your location. Personto-
person relationship building and information sharing is
at the heart of a successful boots-on-the-ground strategy. If
you connect with the right people, and keep groups small and
activities simple, you can create fantastic, affordable, bespoke
experiences for individuals based on their interests – and in
doing so; create new ambassadors for your place.
This latter strategy, earned media, is a good one to work at in your community in the New Year, for its low cost and high yield. Earned media is press you receive for free as a result of an activity in your community. To the extent that your organization hosts events (ribbon cuttings, small business classes, groundbreakings, hackathons) make sure you are alerting local media, hyperlocal media including bloggers, and the national news sources that are read by associated industry or affinity groups. Even better - invite a specific columnist to come to your event. Most journalists have Twitter accounts where they discuss their focus at their respective papers in their bio lines so you can target the most relevant columnists with your story. Pro tip: Make sure to let journalists know in the form of a Press Release and/or an email, what kind of photography opportunities will exist.
Despite the increasingly important role of social media, and the power of boots-on-the-ground marketing, traditional marketing either online or in print, still plays an important role in today’s economic development marketing landscape. Traditional marketing usually consists of a website, hard pieces of collateral which can be distributed, advertisements, and earned media.
is President of EMI Strategy, a firm focused on inclusive, innovative, economic development marketing strategies that pack a measurable impact for clients. She is also the author of the marketing Guidebook ‘Economic Development Marketing on the Cheap.’ Before beginning her firm, Emily worked for OCO Global, a global lead generation firm and earlier in Marketing and Business Attraction at Brick City Development Corporation in Newark, New Jersey. She has a MA in Urban Planning from Rutgers, a MA in International Relations from Central European University, and a BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of Delaware. She is a member of Northeastern Economic Developers Association. For the entire Guidebook feel free to contact Emily at: