We do this thing in economic development and community promotion sometimes, and it’s kind of stupid: we assume that “selling” our community’s benefits to people and business means that we have to dumb down everything that makes us unique into one cute logo and a catchy catch phrase. In the process, we often end up with something inane — anice drawing and a sentence with “Liveworkplayeatsleep” stuck in the middle of it….or “the Present in the Future of Our Past,” or “We’re within 800 miles or 60% of the universe,” or something equally…
meaningless. And I do mean “meaningless.” Come on: how many of those things have you seen that actually made you think, “this place might be worth my attention?” And yet we keep spending that money for those minimal, at best, results. Probably because we have no clue what else to do.
The Agenda 360 initiative in Cincinnati did something very different last year, and something that I think will be much more beneficial to the region in the long term. Instead of trying to mash everything you would ever want to say into one meaningless phrase, Agenda 360, in partnership with its Northern Kentucky partner Vision 2015 embarked on the Story Project: an initiative to uncover and articulate the themes, the characteristics, that make Cincinnati Cincinnati, and create a communications tool kit that enables everyone in the region, from small businesses to large corporations, local governments to nonprofits, to talk with their contacts about the region in a way that has meaning, real meaning.
It’s kind of the anti-marketing: it’s an articulate statement of the fundamental characteristics that make the place different from other places. And it’s not a command-and-control marketing campaign; it’s a basis for networked, share movement, whether that’s a big corporation talking to potential relocating talent or community staff trying to think about context – sensitive design characteristics.
The Story Project is a powerful tool in the deepest sense: like an underground river, it’s feeding a multitude of marketing efforts and enabling them to work in concert. It creates an alignment that none of the participants could have created on their own, and that might be more beneficial than any single marketing campaign could achieve.
Mary Stagaman, Executive Director of Agenda 360, gave this presentation at a local conference in February 2013 (I said September on the intro…my bad). In this presentation, she gives a great overview of why the Story Project was undertaken, what they found and how they’ve been using the results. It’s 40 minutes that you’ll be glad you spent.
Thanks again to Mary and Agenda 360. Enjoy!