Business and communication expert Seth Godin is not alone when he says, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories that you tell.” The idea that marketing through storytelling offers the best opportunity for a brand to stand out from the crowd is not new. Increasingly, storytelling is becoming an essential tool for economic developers too.
In an increasingly noisy and congested marketplace, economic development organizations are competing for the attention of prospective investors. The advent of online and social media marketing has made global marketing reach possible for even the smallest jurisdictions. It means that there are ever more voices clamouring for attention and extolling the virtues of their value propositions, incentive structures and build-ready sites.
How then, to stand out in the crowd?
One important commonality among investors and site selectors and C-suite executives is that they’re all humans. For decades research has shown us that humans are hardwired for interpersonal connections through storytelling. We’ve found some great examples of economic development organizations that get it. They’re leveraging the power of story to rise above the noise in attracting talent, innovation and investment. They’re doing great things and we’re not the only ones who think so. All of them were recently recognized by the International Economic Development Council for Excellence in Economic Development as part of their 2018 Awards.
Northeast Indiana undertook an in-depth, highly consultative process to be able to understand and articulate core messages about the region. They then crafted a strategy for engaging stakeholders in delivering those messages to ensure that prospective investors, residents and visitors alike were hearing the same story. The “master narrative” concept not only supports a strengthened marketing message, but it also supports greater and more strategic collaboration throughout the region because of this unified and cohesive vision.
Stories bring people together
Work Smart. Live Happy. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) “Work Smart. Live Happy. A Pennsylvania Story,” uses a storytelling approach to bring the stories of three exemplary communities in transition to life—Bethlehem, Erie, and Johnstown. In the process, the report illustrates how vision, hard work, and collaboration between local and state-level leaders has succeeded in achieving a variety of standout economic development and community relations victories. This special publication weaves three narratives about progress in several important areas, particularly in making the crucial but often overlooked connection between community and economic development, modeling the opportunities for technical and financial support and knowledge exchange that state-local collaboration can provide, and demonstrating the meaning and impact of the “Work Smart. Live Happy.” brand.
The power of story.
ElectriCities of North Carolina, Inc., a Public Power utility headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina took storytelling to a whole new level when they published a book. “Facing East: The Public Power Communities of Eastern North Carolina” is a full-color coffee table book created as a marketing tool for the utility and its member communities. It uses compelling stories blended with photography and data relevant to developers to highlight the attributes and opportunities of the 41 member communities. The marketing tool was recognized for its success in garnering the attention of site selection consultants and economic developers across the globe who may not have otherwise seen the benefit of locating in an eastern North Carolina public power community.