Below, Jordan shares an example of a local business and community working together to mutual benefit.
Take, for example, Beau’s annual Oktoberfest event, started in 2008. The Bavarian beer event began as a small gathering in brewery’s yard before seeing steady growth year after year. This October, the 2-day event raised $95,000 for charity, attracted 14,000 visitors and featured 8 bands, 28 restaurants and nearly 100 varieties of beer. The company spent over $350,000 on local suppliers and services to put on the event. For a town hovering around 2,000 residents, this is massive. And for this festival to work, it requires the support of the community. Volunteers handle ticket lines, beer sales and game booths. The local fire department directs traffic and parking.
This tourism event has become an economic driver for the community. Accommodations are packed, restaurants are full and people are discovering this picturesque small town between Montreal and Ottawa. It is not often that one home-grown business makes such an impact in a community but, as Beau’s and Vankleek Hill have shown, it can happen. This mutual support is crucial as it’s a symbiotic relationship between business and community that is too often taken for granted by either side. This fun event is an excellent example of getting it right.
Over the past fifteen years, I've provided media relations services to a range of organizations in the private and public sectors. The list includes 50 start up technology companies, several manufacturing firms, national associations even large publicly traded companies. Prior to that I had a long and interesting career in municipal economic development.
Of course, client organizations retain my services for one thing - increasing their profile in the media in Canada and, in some cases, in international media outlets.
The ability to recognize a good story is absolutely essential to effective media relations but in my experience the majority of organizations don't do it very well.
A few years ago, I attended a luncheon hosted by a development agency in an Ontario municipality. The speaker was the CEO of a successful company that manufactured a product in demand by various customers particularly in the US.
He gave an excellent presentation, noting at one point that a television series in the US had included the product in one of their episodes. Sales were brisk and there were several new products on the planning board. I approached the speaker at the end of the event, introduced myself. I asked about their media relations effort. As it turned out this company did no media relations whatsoever.
Furthermore, I discovered that the municipality hadn't done anything in conjunction with the company either. Talk about a missed media opportunity!
Municipal economic development professionals are busy from a marketing perspective with paid advertising, direct mail; social media content creation and collateral. But I wonder how many think about media relations. And I am not talking about sending a news release to the local newspaper. I'm talking about assessing all economic activity in the municipality, identifying interesting stories within key sectors and getting those stories to the media up to and including national and international media outlets.
You would be amazed at how much media coverage can be generated from a simple story that is communicated to the right reporter at the right time in the right manner. I mean national and international coverage too. When that kind of coverage occurs everyone benefits: the company, the municipality, the economic development office, the Chamber of Commerce - everyone in that community gets a boost from seeing (one of theirs" in the media.
I believe that within the vast majority of Canadian municipalities there are all kinds of great stories. But they will never see the light of day unless someone recognizes that fact. Done well, media relations can have a profound and lasting effect on municipal economic development.
Shaun Markey is President of Shaun Markey Communications Inc., a boutique PR and media firm, which has provided media communication services to a range of Canadian clients in the private and public sectors. He is located in Ottawa, Canada.
As part of your economic development marketing plan, here are five key steps to keep in mind when preparing to tell your municipality's story.
Do the research - Building on the work of your economic development strategy, further research can be undertaken to determine gaps in your current marketing efforts, and uncover specific business needs and opportunities.
Have a story to tell - Start with highlighting your unique competitive advantages. What are the community's main strengths? What is the main benefit of your community's location? Is it the multi-skilled people in your labour force? Creativity and innovation in your key sectors? A cost advantage in shipping goods?
Tell it well - Always lead with benefits, of course. But different audiences have different needs, and messages must be developed that will strike a chord with their intended target. Having a strong brand is part of telling it well. It also means supporting the message with well-designed and creative materials, grabbing the attention of the recipient so he or she can see value in reading further.
Tell it often - Marketing studies show that responses increase when an integrated, coordinated, multi-channel approach is taken. Beyond simply purchasing media space or posting social media entries, there needs to be a process for keeping the marketing program on the rails.
Build the relationship - This is the punch line: creating and nurturing those contacts with whom you expect to do business - whether it is a prospect, an industry representative or an influencer.
Keeping these five steps in mind will help you develop a compelling story about your community - and lead to the long-term relationships you're seeking.
This is the first of a series of blogs on Economic Development Marketing. Our experience working with Eric and the McSweeney team has introduced us to numerous communities - many of whom seem to face a similar challenge: How do we attract new investment, while retaining our existing businesses? At least a part of the answer: a good marketing plan.
An economic development marketing plan involves three components:
- An assessment of your community's marketing preparedness
- The development of marketing tools, tactics and timing
- Evaluation and refinement
Marketing preparedness is when you compare your current marketing efforts with where you want to be, and confirm the target audiences identified in your economic development strategy. It's also a chance to assess whether your community's brand reflects your new future direction - or whether it needs to be enhanced or refined.
With your marketing preparedness assessment complete, strategies can be developed, tailored to each specific audience. The strategies will outline the 'tools, tactics and timing' necessary to reach your marketing goals. They'll include identifying the right tools and knowing how and when to use them. Of course, tools will include tangible materials and well as media strategies, events and face-to-face selling. Ongoing evaluation and refinement on a regular basis keeps the plan dynamic and fresh.
The finished plan ought to be a fairly dynamic 'road map', identifying what makes your community a unique place to live, work, play and invest in. It serves to guide the actions of staff and allows for measured results. An effective marketing plan is key to directing the effort that will help attract the right investment to your community.