Cities competing to attract what Richard Florida calls the “creative class,” or an educated workforce, to drive their local economies face a distinct challenge in presenting themselves in the best light. That’s because place branding for relocation is different than branding for tourism.
Relocation of residency involves choices based on: lifestyle; longer term consequences such as career trajectories; quality of life; amenities regarding education and technology; cultural activities; social values; and family and cultural compatibility (Silvanto and Ryan, 2009, p. 104).
To be successful in attracting talent, cities must be effective in describing the identity, or essence, of a place. This is usually understood as its characteristics, a description that is often formed through case studies and data which describes the tangible, real-world, details. These details can include demographics of the residents; domestic growth rates; and percentage of open space for recreation.
But data and statistics alone don’t communicate the “reality” that is perceived by the target audience (Zenker, 2011).
In the words of urbanist Jane Jacobs, successful places are multidimensional and diverse, they do not cater to a single industry or a single demographic group. They are full of stimulation and creativity interplay (Silvanto and Ryan, 2015 a, p. 107).
Intangible qualities of a location – such as excitement and conviviality – are an essential part of creating a unique destination brand personality (Ekinci and Hosany (2006)).
For example, the City of Carlsbad is a hotbed for several technology categories – which also means a need for skilled, creative professionals. At the same time, the city, as well as the companies in the area, provides a great quality of life and an enviable work-life balance. Quality of life can be communicated in terms of miles of hiking trails, miles of beaches, the number of restaurants, and test scores for schools.
While data has its place in a campaign, numbers can fall short in communicating the satisfaction you feel after an early morning, pre-work, surf session. Or the comfortable summertime ambiance of a local craft-brew pub, windows wide open to passersby on the sidewalk.
Story telling through images is the best way to communicate these intangible qualities of a region. And social media platforms, especially Instagram and Facebook, are the best vehicles to reach the right audiences for cities trying to attract professional talent. Through social media, stories are told in bite-sized installments, which add up to a compelling narrative, if done right.
A social media post of a photo of a real resident paddling out in the first morning light, follow-up images of her at work with like-minded and happy coworkers, and shots of a group of people enjoying a meal at a local eatery, are effective ways to communicate the work life balance that these cities offer.
At Cook + Schmid we have worked on a number of campaigns using social media to project an image of a location that resonates with prospects. Here are some other tips from our experience that contribute to an effective campaign to reinforce place branding through social media:
- Make sure content is aligned with your true values. You can’t fake it!
- Don’t make your images look too posed or professional
- Reinforce your key messages by being consistent in the themes you choose
- Best of all, prompt users to generate content themselves, because the most genuine and valuable stories come from users themselves
Silvanto, Sari & Ryan, Jason (2014). Relocation branding: a strategic framework for attracting talent from abroad: Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 2, No. 1
Zenker, Sebastian (2011). How to catch a city? The concept and measurement of place brands: Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 4, No. 1
Ekinci, Yuksel & Hosany, Sameer (2006). Destination Personality: An Application of Brand Personality to Tourism Destinations, Vol. 45, No. 2, pp. 127-139