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It All Starts With Your Image
September 28, 2002

The following article appeared in the September 9, 2002, edition of Nation’s Weekly, a weekly publication of the National League of Cities.

What is Richmond’s image? What instant impression jumps into the minds of people in other parts of the Bay Area when they hear “Richmond?” If you had to describe Richmond in one sentence, What would it be?

Waterfront city or Industrial City? Fresh air and sunshine or pollution? Crime and blight or parks and trails? Good schools or bad schools? Heritage preserved or heritage lost? Clean streets or dirty streets? Good government or bad government? Read the following article and let me know what you think is the image of Richmond and what it should be.

It All Starts With Your Image
by Anna Graf Williams and Mary Jo Dolasinski
Posted: September 9, 2002

Establishing your city’s image helps to grow commerce, quality of life and tourism. Refine your brand, attract stakeholders and grow your community through effective marketing.

Creating And Branding An Image For Your City

When you tell people you’re going to New York City, what do they ask you? “Are you going to see any Broadway shows?” or “Have you seen the Statue of Liberty?” Whether it’s shows, or buildings, history or good food, people have an image in their mind of what you will see in New York. Wouldn’t it be great if your city could do the same thing for people? Even if you’re not a New York, you can use branding to help people identify what you want your city to be.

When we talk about branding we’re actually looking at marketing your city in a way that people have instant recognition of where you are and what your city offers. Targeted marketing can help you bring people to your city whether you’re looking to increase commerce, promote a good quality of life, or encourage tourism. You can use branding to establish a national presence or improve your recognition in the state.

Finding the Right Image

Finding the right image to brand can be a challenge. If you’re lucky, your city may already have a reputation for antiquing, history and heritage, sports, or as a good place to raise a family. If you are still searching for ideas, take a good look at what your city offers. Ask for input from your community: from businesses, volunteer organizations, tourism attractions and citizens. Once you have some opinions on how your city is unique, it’s time to test your ideas.

How do visitors see your city? Are you in a location where you could be a destination site for a larger city? More importantly, what are the local’s saying about you? Focus groups, competitive analysis, and independent studies can help you narrow your focus and determine which brand will attract your target market. Decide what market you want to draw in to your city and get feedback from more than one audience.

As you begin to develop your brand image it is critical to get buy-in and cooperation from different groups in your community. Developing a detailed marketing plan will take time and effort. Be sure to share the vision and listen to the different viewpoints and perspectives. Your marketing efforts can be enhanced when you partner with others in the community. You want to have everyone working towards the same goal.

Make sure your marketing materials give a consistent message to the world. Coordinate print ads, brochures, TV and radio ads, correspondence and website to support your branding. Keep your message simple and people will remember!

Once you have your City’s campaign in place you’ll need to periodically check and make sure it is working. Tracking sales tax, innkeeper’s tax, job and welfare statistics, and new business growth are just some of the ways to determine if the message is getting through to people. Follow-up conversion studies, feasibility studies, and focus groups can help you determine the impact of your marketing.

Build Your Brand to be Terrorist Proof

An established branding of your community can attract new visitors to your area and keep established visitors coming back. The “repeat” visitor brings money, the opportunity to grow business and the chance gain more word of mouth visitors. When New York needed to promote tourism in the wake of 9/11, what did they do? They went back to their image — with commercials featuring Broadway stars, reminding everyone of the classic image of New York. When you have the right brand image for your city, you can find success.

Anna Graf Williams, Ph.D, is a senior partner and founder of Learnovation, LLC.  From 1996 to the present, Williams has offered learning and innovative solutions to educational, training and hospitality tourism problems.  Strategic planning, curriculum, leadership and innovative teaching strategies are among the core of Learnovation’s services.  Williams has also authored a number of publications and has been a trainer for NLC in the past.

Mary Jo Dolasinski is director of training with White Lodging Services.  Dolasinski directs activities related to Management and Employee Training, Development, and Employee/Management Promotion. She is the author of “Training the Trainer: Performance Based Training”, published by Prentice Hall in 2002.  Dolasinski has also been a trainer for NLC and the Leadership Training Institute in the past.

Williams and Dolansinski will present a full-day Leadership Training Institute seminar entitled, Coke  or Cola: Marketing to Brand Your City on Wednesday, December 4, 2002, during NLC’s Congress of Cities in Salt Lake City.  For more information, visit the conference website and click on the Leadership Training Institute Seminars button or call the Leadership Training Hotline at 202-626-3170.