DIGITAL MEDIA AND THE BRANDING OF DOWNTOWNS: Strategies For New Business Development Using Paid, Owned And Earned Media
Final Project for the Master of Arts in Technology and Communication The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication Submitted by Robert Brian Bowman BrianBowman@alumni.unc.edu November 26, 2013
Digital Media and the Branding of Downtowns: Strategies for New Business Development Using Paid, Owned and Earned Media
Table of Contents
Executive Summary……………………………………………………………………………….. 3 Begin with Branding……………………………………………………………………….………. 6 What Distinguishes your Community? …………………………………………………… 7 Be Authentic…………………………………………………………………..…………… 8 Incorporating Digital Media into the Media Mix …………………………………………………. The Hub and Spoke Marketing Model…………………………….………………………. Some Popular Media Platforms…………………………………………………………… Watch What Local Businesses are Doing Online…………………………………………..
9 9 11 14
Using Digital Media to Attract Business…………………………………………………………... Atmosphere……………………………………………………………………………….. Recruit Help to Amplify the Message……………………………………………………... Know your Audience…………………………………………….……………………….... Place before Job…………………………………………………………….……………... Consider Reaching Out to Other Cities…………………………………………………….
15 16 16 17 17 18
Using Digital Media to Retain Business…………………………………………………………… 18 Large Business and Industry………………………………………………………………. 19 Small Business………………………………………………………………….………….. 19 Two Successful Digital Campaigns………………………………………………………………… 21 Startup Stampede…………………………………………………………………………. 21 The “Smoffice”…………………………………………………………………………….. 21 A Note about Entrepreneurs………………………………………………………………………. 22 Business Incubators.............................................................................................................. 23 What’s Next? .................................................................................................................................... 24 Short Online Video………………………………………………………………………… 24 Crowdsourcing Contests………………………………………………………….………... 25 Actionable Insights…………………………………………………………………….…… 25 Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………………….. 26 Appendix A: Interviewee Bios……………………………………………………………………... 27
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY We live in a fascinating, yet disruptive time. Digital media is increasingly pushing its way to the front of the line as the consumer’s first choice for access to news, shopping and social connections. The way we communicate and receive information has been forever changed by the Web. Consumers, who were once expected to be content in their role as information receivers, are now able to talk back, criticizing, enhancing and potentially repeating what they see and read to their friends and followers. This multi-directional flow of information, enabled through a growing number of digital media sites, provides opportunities for new relationships and economic growth. Digital media is not a panacea for bringing new businesses to your downtown, but it plays a part, and that role is expected to grow as websites, social media and other applications stretch the borders that once constrained small budgets. Used strategically, the paid, owned and earned media model can help you create and encourage a positive atmosphere that is attractive to business prospects and valuable to current businesses. So What Exactly is Paid, Owned and Earned Media? If you’re not familiar with the term “paid, owned and earned media (POE)”, you’re not alone. While the nomenclature is common in trade publications, it’s an unfamiliar term for many marketing professionals. Simply put, the paid, owned and earned media model is the new, digital version of marketing communication tools you already know. Here are some examples.
There are two key differences between the online and offline examples: the most obvious, of course, is that online examples require some sort of electronic communication. Just as important is the realization that the balance of power has shifted between marketers and consumers. Because of these new digital communication channels, content consumers are also content producers. People can easily take to the web to tell their friends and followers about their experiences in your
downtown district. Before the web, most could communicate only to people they knew. In the world of Twitter (and several other social networking sites), one person can influence literally thousands of people, some of whom they’ve never even met. It’s important to acknowledge and even embrace a crucial new truth in the 21st century: you have less control over your message; your audience has more. These new online tools have shifted some of your communication power to the people you hope to influence. While the realization of less power is sobering, it also holds great promise. Satisfied customers are also likely to use digital tools to say good things and even help carry your marketing message. Paid, owned and earned media can help you plan more strategically, improve your message and boost your return on investment. OUR APPROACH To uncover best practices for using digital media for business development and branding, we interviewed professional communicators, marketers and developers in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina. Just 30 miles apart, these downtowns are enjoying business growth and prosperity that neither has seen for decades. Interviews were conducted in October, 2013 with 11 key stakeholders. These hour-long, semi-structured interviews provided the opportunity to uncover additional information and context that would have been difficult or impossible to determine from secondary data alone or from a quantitative survey. Quotes from influential leaders are shared throughout the document so you can hear from them in their own words. Interviews were conducted with:
Jenn Bosser: Assistant Executive Director, Wake County Economic Development Matthew Coppedge: COO of Downtown Durham, Inc. David Diaz: President, CEO of Downtown Raleigh Alliance James Goodmon: President and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Company, visionary of the American Tobacco Historic District James Goodmon, Jr.: Vice President and General Manager of the Capitol Broadcasting Company New Media Group, including oversight of startup projects Adam Klein: Chief Strategist for The American Underground Derrick Minor: Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager, City of Raleigh Joe Procopio: Founder, Publisher of ExitEvent, contributor to tech-related publications James Sauls, Director, Raleigh Economic Development Casey Steinbacher: President, CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce Allyson Sutton, Communications and Events Manager at HQ Raleigh
(See Appendix A for detailed biographies of interviewees.)
Downtown Durham and Raleigh have strategically positioned themselves as distinct brands that are attracting businesses, a talented workforce and new residents. As the state and nation struggled with chronic unemployment beginning in the late 2000s, downtown leaders and stakeholders used paid, owned and earned media to capitalize on improvements that breathed new life into aging districts. Durham Nicknamed the “Bull City” more than a hundred years ago, Durham was built on tobacco and entrepreneurship. The community is experiencing significant residential growth and business success after embracing its entrepreneurial roots. Durham’s history includes long-time connections to the American Tobacco Company, founded by the Duke family in the 1890s, and Black Wall Street, an early 20th century downtown financial district owned and operated by African Americans. Today, a steady stream of students and recent graduates from nearby universities have chosen Durham as a place to start new businesses, especially businesses that focus on technology. Investors have transformed historic buildings, many of which were once used in the tobacco industry, into business and residential centers. Today, some of the historic properties house the American Tobacco Campus (technology companies, restaurants and marketing firms), the American Underground (a startup hub owned and operated by Capitol Broadcasting Company) The American Tobacco Historic District is a highlight of downtown Durham. and numerous new businesses such as coffee shops and specialty clothing retailers. The district is also enjoying new construction. The Durham Bulls minor-league baseball team plays in a beautiful brick facility downtown, and the new Durham Performing Arts Center is one of the most popular sites in the nation for theatrical and musical performances. Just a few years ago, empty storefronts weren’t unusual in the district. Today, downtown apartments and condominiums are full, and new ones are under construction within sight of Main Street. Matthew Coppedge, COO for Downtown Durham, Inc. said the biggest difference is the attitude of residents: “When Durham citizens have visitors that come in, and they want to bring their friends to downtown it’s a totally different vibe than it was 10 years ago. It’s just a different feel.” While physical improvements to downtown Durham began 30 years ago, the downtown district’s new reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship is just three to five years old.
Raleigh The state capitol, downtown Raleigh’s identity was driven largely by its association with government until recent years. Visitors quipped that the district shut down at 5pm when state workers went home. Today, the district is thriving. From 2011 to 2012, 38 street-level businesses opened their doors downtown. During the same time, 27 vacant storefronts were filled and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance reported a revenue increase of 11% in food and drink establishments. Downtown Raleigh leaders explain that two events helped transform the district: the 2006 reopening of Fayetteville Street to traffic (the central “Main Street”, the corridor was closed to vehicles for decades and used as a pedestrian mall) and the 2008 opening of the Raleigh Convention Center. Two larger companies have also moved to downtown Raleigh in recent months. In 2013, software maker, Red Hat moved its headquarters and approximately 500 high-paying jobs to a building formerly used by an energy provider. In The Raleigh Convention Center is credited in part with boosting the downtown district’s turnaround. 2012, Citrix announced plans to move its headquarters to an empty brick warehouse downtown. The technology company is renovating the space now and plans to hire more than 300 people over the next three to four years. Downtown Raleigh is home to new startups, some of which are products of HQ Raleigh, an incubator of sorts that aims to provide working space and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs. The American Underground, which already has a successful track record in nearby downtown Durham, is opening a downtown Raleigh office in late 2013. Allyson Sutton, communications and events manager for startup incubator, HQ Raleigh, attended high school and college in the region before landing a job downtown. She says the difference is noticeable: “A lot of locals and city officials have done a great job putting more of a focus on that creative community downtown and bringing living spaces to the downtown area,” she said. “I think 10 years ago there was more of a focus on suburban lifestyle, and now you see condos and townhouses and apartments popping up every other block downtown.” BEGIN WITH BRANDING Let’s begin by discussing branding. Before you can craft a communication strategy, you need to determine exactly what you want to be known for. A downtown community’s message is more important than its medium. Simply stated, a community’s brand is the embodiment of what people
think about it. That’s why any downtown district first should determine what sets it apart from its competitors. While marketing a commercial product brand is certainly different than marketing a downtown area, there are some similarities. For example, think about your favorite car: Volvo represents safety. Mercedes’ represents luxury. Honda is known for reliability and high resale value. Product marketers have used branding for generations to differentiate and position their products. What Distinguishes Your Downtown Community? A downtown can determine its brand successfully only after its leadership has carefully considered its strengths and weakness, captured input from residents and businesses and determined its unique role. Casey Steinbacher, President and CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, emphasizes that branding before communicating is key. “Take a step back and figure out who you really are and what it is you really can be,” she said. “Then use digital media as a way to let people know that you are the cutting edge of that thing because you’re using digital media in a way that relates to the thing you want to be, and people feel like whatever that is - foodie town, corporate town, college town, entrepreneur town - you can use digital media to help you An old “Lucky Strike” smokestack, once used for tobacco become the state-of-the-art of that.” production, overlooks businesses in downtown Durham.
Downtown Durham’s brand is positioned as entrepreneurial, non-corporate and home to a pipeline of talented workers. The city’s downtown leadership didn’t create the brand; it recognized and leveraged the community attitude that already existed and embraced it. Today, its historic downtown buildings are full of residential and business spaces. Entrepreneur startups are a crucial audience there. “What (entrepreneurs) liked about Durham was the space was original, it was gritty,” she said. “They don’t need tricked out office space. They need a building with high speed internet access and something to put their laptop on.” Now that the downtown Durham brand has been accepted both by leadership and local merchants, ambassadors for the district are sharing that brand consistently throughout their paid and owned media outlets.
Raleigh’s downtown brand also saw great improvement from 2000-2013. In the early 2000s, many considered downtown Raleigh a little bland and certainly not energetic. After the city re-opened its main downtown street to vehicle traffic, storefronts that were newly accessible began to fill up again. A new convention center downtown guaranteed an additional group of consumers who wanted food and hotel rooms during their stay. David Diaz of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance says the change has been huge. “In the past 10 years, we’ve had three billion dollars’ worth of construction. Before that, downtown was truly considered dead and not worth investing in.” Re-opening the street created a ripple effect that Downtown Raleigh Ambassadors ensure the district is changed perceptions of residents, businesses and clean and safe. investors. “To the extent that your ‘Main Street’ is dead, your whole downtown is perceived as dead and sometimes, your whole city is perceived as not as lively if the Main Street is not strong,” Diaz said. “Our Main Street now is thriving.” Be Authentic As you begin to craft your strategy for disseminating your marketing message, be sure you avoid a common advertising pitfall. While hyperbole may be common in some forms of marketing (“…sale prices so low we’re not allowed to say them on the radio!”), it’s a deal killer for some forms of digital media, especially social media. Remember, the balance of power has shifted. When you post your message you’re not done; you’re inviting others to take part in a conversation. They might want to respond to your message positively or negatively, and their contacts can see the conversation. People on social media sites are talking to each other. Any efforts to mislead or sugar coat a community’s strengths and weaknesses may cripple your mission. “Authenticity is critical,” said Derrick Minor, Raleigh’s manager of innovation and entrepreneurship. “Sooner or later, you’re going to meet these people, and if you’re a completely different person than you are behind a computer screen or behind a mobile device, you’re going to lose credibility based on that.”
INCORPORATING DIGITAL MEDIA INTO THE MEDIA MIX Now that you know your brand, it’s time to decide how to convey it in digital as well as traditional channels. Americans continue to flock toward the online world. According to several studies conducted by Pew Research in 2012 and 2013:
Half of all Americans access some news coverage from the Internet. 70% of adults have a broadband connection for their home computer and/or tablet. One in five cell phone owners accesses the Internet primarily through their phone. Thirty-five percent of Americans age 16 and older own a tablet computer. Only 15% of adults are completely disconnected from the Internet.
Because people search for information and interact with one another online, organizations involved in the marketing of downtown districts need to consider how best to use digital media, including websites, blogs, online video, social media platforms, paid search ads and image ads on third-party websites. As a result, chambers of commerce, downtown developers, city managers and others involved in economic development need to ask some important strategic questions: What do they hope to gain from adding digital media to their marketing mix? Who are they trying to reach? How will they measure success? With answers to these questions in hand, they can begin to craft actionable digital media strategies and tactics. It’s never too late to begin; digital media platforms are changing constantly. The social networking sites that are popular today will change tomorrow; they’ll either adapt and mature or succumb to a neverending advance of newer specialized sites. The Hub and Spoke Marketing Model Successful marketers often use a “hub and spoke” model that uses a website as a central content hub; the site essentially acts as a portal to and from other media platforms (please see graphic on next page). Nearly every piece of communication that leaves an organization links back to the website. The hub and spoke marketing model is based on a model the aviation industry uses to move planes full of people or freight from place to place. Instead of direct routes that connect every airport, the airlines have designated some larger airports as hubs. A traveler from Charlotte has a good chance of flying into Atlanta in route to Phoenix, for example. The creation of hubs with spokes to other destinations makes the network more efficient. This model is a great example of the synergy created by the paid, owned and earned model. Remember the days of pitching your best story to the local paper and hoping for a mention? In the digital world, you own the website. You listen to your customer’s needs and put together a design filled with rich content that helps to fill his or her needs. Your website is an “alwayson” storefront that informs and educates anyone, anywhere, 24 hours a day.
Earned media complement this owned content. Using social media platforms you can spread the website’s message to a new audience by sending links through social media. This amplifies your content to a group of potential customers who don’t visit your site often. If the message is strategic and well communicated, there’s a good chance your social media audience will help repeat the message to their social circles. See what just happened? You listened to the customer, created a great content hub, and then provided an easy way for them to find it. They liked it so much they told their friends about it, boosting your message at zero cost. Like a good movie or a great restaurant experience, your content can inform and excite your customer base. It may be a good time to take a fresh look at your website. Is it intuitive? Is it easy to navigate? Make sure the flow of information is designed around your user’s needs more than your own. “Most government and chamber and downtown sites are so complicated and hard to use and hard to find, it ends up being frustrating,” said Matthew Coppedge of Downtown Durham, Inc. Paid media is also an important part of this model. Two digital formats that work especially well are online display advertising and paid search advertising. Online display ads can be placed on portals or third-party sites much an ad placed in a magazine or newspaper. The beauty of online display ads lies in their function. Unlike print ads, they’re dynamic; one click links back to your site. These are popular on websites and some social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. These ads can also be tracked. You can gauge the success of which words worked, which images attracted the most clicks and which target audience was most responsive. Paid digital ads are dynamic in a way that static ads simply can’t match. Paid search ads are often lines of text that show up in or near search results. There’s a good chance you’ve seen these on Google and Bing. Let’s say you’re considering a cruise to the Caribbean. You fire up your favorite search engine and look for the words “cruise, vacation, tropical and discount”. As you click to see the results, you notice several lines of text on the screen about cruises. The cruise companies paid the search engine to put them in front of you when you searched for their key words. Like the display ads, you can click on the paid search ads and end up at an owned content hub. For traditional paid advertising, you should include your website address in most, if not all, of your ads. A simple name should be easy to remember (much easier than the phone numbers of yesteryear) and intuitive. The paid advertising is then just a conduit to get them back to your owned content.
David Diaz of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance says the website is by far the most important tool in his organization’s digital media kit. “We have the most complete listing of indoor and outdoor events in downtown of anybody,” he said. “Our events calendar on our website gets tons of hits. It’s our main portal for consumers.” He then uses social media to link back to the website, with careful attention to various audiences: “We tend to use Twitter for promotions that target young professionals. We tend to do more family-oriented promotions on Facebook.” The hub and spoke model works hand in glove with paid, owned and earned media to carry your message to the consumer then bring them back to your content. The result is a dynamic, synchronous and even interactive path that carries and amplifies your marketing message. Some Popular Media Platforms A quick disclaimer: social media sites are changing constantly, and there’s a good chance that the next big platform is already under development in a garage or dorm room. The sites on the following list are doing well right now, but are subject to change. With that in mind, one or two strategic platforms should be enough to get you started. For most downtown organizations, Twitter and Facebook are the first choice. There is no charge to join either site, and all you need to get started is an email address. Each has its pros and cons. Facebook Facebook is the grandfather of social media. Images, links and comments are posted to your digital “wall”. Only your “friends” (people you allow to see your content) can access what you’re saying and showing for the most part, though they can “share” or repeat your content on their own walls. Pros: Just about everyone you want to reach has an account; it’s very easy to use, including for scheduling events; the older, potentially more affluent members of your audience are likely to be active. Cons: Many younger people have abandoned Facebook or rarely check it. Twitter If words were water, then Twitter would be a river – a big one. The company says its active users create and send more than 500-million short messages or “tweets” per day. The site is constantly updating with these short bits of text. Each tweet can be no more than 140 characters, including spaces, punctuation and hyperlinks. Twitter is especially busy during big news or sporting events. All tweets are public. Because content is so easy to share, A tweet can go anywhere. Pros: Fast, growing fan base, concise communication. People can very easily share content from others. Most likely to reach young users (40s and younger).
Cons: Your message may be shorter than you’d like and many members of your audience might be turned off by the rapid-fire nature of the platform. In 2013, Twitter claimed about 200-million users while Facebook claimed more than a billion. In terms of raw numbers, Facebook would seem to be more beneficial; however, tweets tend to travel farther than Facebook posts because of Twitter’s open format. Some active users interact with thousands of people on Twitter, many of whom they’ve never met. They’re much more likely to know their Facebook followers, so the potential reach may be smaller. Facebook relationships are driven largely by people you’ve met; Twitter is driven largely by interest.
Others to consider Instagram
Eight Tips for Using Social Media
Instagram allows users to easily share photos and short videos (15 seconds or less) with their followers. They can also share through Twitter and Facebook. Instagram includes filters that can make even the most mediocre images look good, and the site allows for categorization of information through hashtags, a simple tool to categorize content (see inset for more).
1. Listen before speaking. Create a free account and follow people or organizations that are important to the district. After you’ve seen how they interact, you’ll be better prepared to do your own.
Vine Vine allows for easy sharing of six-second video loops that can also be posted to Twitter. Six seconds sounds like it would be too short to be helpful, but the boundaries have forced Vine users to be creative. A 15-year old in Charlotte with more than a million followers told The Charlotte Observer that his only secret is to be original and upbeat and make people laugh. YouTube YouTube is still the king of online video sites; the site says users upload 100 new hours of video every minute. The site is easy to user and can be accessed across multiple devices. If you upload original content, keep it short. Users are more likely to watch your entire video if it’s no longer than about two minutes. Google+ Pronounced “Google Plus”, Google+ allows users to share photos, endorse search results, make video calls and hold private meetings in “hangouts”. In 2013, the site had more users than Twitter, about 390-million. Because it started a little later than Facebook and Twitter, some consider Google+ to be a work in progress, but with a company like Google behind it, this
2. Keep it positive. Don’t get drawn into debates about personal opinions. Remember, you’re representing a group. 3. Ask Others to Help Carry the Message Successful business owners can reach more people than you and their endorsement is likely to carry more weight. 4. Know your Audience Your online persona should be a reflection of the community. Have a vibrant arts presence? Include images and video. 5. Be Comfortable with Informality Your area’s social media presence should be professional, but not stuffy. 6. Don’t try to Use Every Platform A few select platforms will reach most of your target audience . It’s better to do one or two well than to have several dormant accounts. 7. Make the Most of Hashtags Hashtags help categorize content. They’re formatted as one word with a ‘#’ sign at the beginning, like this: #downtown. They make sorting through content faster and simpler. 8. Be Ready to Respond Social media facilitates a conversation. If someone asks a question, offer a helpful reply.
platform is probably going to be around a while. Foursquare This site depends heavily on smartphone users who “check in” to places and tell their friends. Foursquare is especially popular with concerts, festivals and social events, but you also see people checking in to brick-and-mortar establishments a lot. Coffee shops and pubs show up regularly. You can create an account for your location pretty easily and include tips for people who check in. The tips should be helpful; parking locations, office hours work well here. Pinterest This is the online version of a scrapbook. Pinterest users “pin” images they like to their sections of the site, known as boards (picture someone pinning notes to a bulletin board). Each board represents a collection of images such as “recipes” or “fashion”. The site is attractive and relatively easy to navigate. Women are more likely to be active users, but, of course, everyone is welcome. Watch What Local Businesses are Doing Online Once you have your social media presence established, search for local businesses online and follow them to learn what’s important to them. This is a great way to conduct real-time research and uncover trends. “One way we built our (media) following was to have our research staff follow the largest companies that are here,” said James Sauls of Raleigh Economic Development. “As we build relationships with people, we start to put together a strategic plan. Part of that plan to help them grow their business includes our interlacing social media.” Following these accounts also gives you a chance to amplify their message through your own media channels, reinforcing the community’s brand and building good will with some of your larger employers. For example, consider using paid ads or social media to post others’ job announcements, volunteer opportunities or positive coverage in traditional media.
The influence of digital media is likely to continue its exponential growth. Consider the hub-and-spoke model of integrating paid, owned and earned media. Pick one or two social media accounts and do them well. There’s time to add more later. Follow social media accounts of local business to learn their strategic priorities.
USING DIGITAL MEDIA TO ATTRACT BUSINESS With the right strategies in place, digital media can play a part an important role in attracting businesses to your downtown district. There are two specific ways digital media can help: 1) by creating an online atmosphere that’s attractive to prospects; and 2) by highlighting the district’s unique strengths, particularly those that differentiate it from other downtowns. Both Durham and Raleigh have used digital media extensively in these ways. To the right are screenshots of messages (tweets) posted to Twitter by Downtown Durham, Inc. and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance in autumn, 2013. Raleigh is trumpeting a new business opening, street closures and parking options. Durham describes an award for a business with a local presence, an upcoming public meeting and a distinction the city won from a third party organization. As you look at the information these successful organizations push to their followers, you’ll notice that several trends repeatedly bubble to the surface:
The content is simple. The messages are positive. The content is useful. The messages apply directly to their communities.
Positive messages and helpful content play a key role in creation of an attractive atmosphere. You want to convey an image of your downtown that is uplifting and optimistic. Be careful to avoid negativity and the latest controversy of the day. Derrick Minor with the city of Raleigh puts it this way: “The last thing I want to do is disseminate poisonous messages that are going to plant seeds because at the end of the day, what can we do? If we complain about it, does that make it better? Or, if we’re positive, does that potentially create relationships and solutions that can help overcome?” Be aware that online communication never truly goes away. Savvy web users can find archives of old sites easily and the Library of Congress archives every tweet; as of early 2013 some 170-billion tweets had been saved in the library for future generations. Though a rash comment or poorly considered post
can be quickly deleted, it may live on in another place you don’t even know. Be authentic and think twice about what you say before you say it. Reading it out loud is also a good idea. Atmosphere Digital media certainly isn’t the lone reason for Raleigh and Durham’s recent successes, but it has a significant role to play in both attracting and retaining new business, especially those led by entrepreneurs. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook create “chatter” about an area that can be a deciding factor for businesses who are considering a move. James Goodmon, the media visionary who is a catalyst in downtown Durham’s success, says the online atmosphere created by paid, owned and earned media is attractive to management, future employees and the all-important trailing spouses. Because of the synergy created by these media, prospects can find you and learn about your downtown’s strengths by following social media interactions (earned media). “You need to convince the companies that this is a place they would really want to live, that this is a thriving area that is going to grow and that they would like to raise their kids here,” Goodmon said. “Education is key. They want to know about schools, arts, infrastructure and quality of life. Will they be happy here, and will their families be happy here? You may have zero control over the arts, infrastructure and quality of life in your community, but you can certainly talk about it. Has your local high school won an award lately? Do you have a new greenway or park under construction in the area? Has the community recently earned any accolades for being a great place to live or work? Use digital media to tell that message, and ask influential followers to help spread the word. Remember, social media can be accessed anywhere. “It’s important to understand the brand of your community,” said Adam Klein of the American Underground. “If you have a downtown that has a really heavy arts component to it, you should have really rich social media. You should have really rich photo and video content. Things like that that are going to play to a beautiful sort of aesthetic.” Recruit Help to Amplify the Message David Diaz of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance says strategic communication outside of your organization can go a long way toward influencing potential newcomers: “A CEO is going to get a certain kind of attention. Let’s enlist them to send out tweets,” he said. “There are many of us who get paid to do this, but I think a best practice is getting others outside the economic developers to embrace Downtown Raleigh’s business development brand and say, ‘Downtown Raleigh is such an amenity-rich environment. You should locate here.’” Again, using paid, owned and earned media isn’t always sufficient on its own, but it strengthens traditional economic development efforts and paints a positive picture of the area.
“One thing we’ve learned from the talent side is that people are most influenced by friends, family and rankings,” said Jenn Bosser, assistant executive director for Wake County Economic Development. “If you can educate locally what your advantages are, then you have a sales force of ambassadors who are out there helping to tell your story. You never know who they’re going to be talking to.” “You're much more likely to go to a restaurant based on friend’s recommendation and suggestion than the restaurant’s,” said Derrick Minor. “I’m going to talk how great Raleigh is and all the cool stuff that’s happening downtown, but if you have other peers who are doing that on your behalf, that’s much more powerful.” Know your Audience Although digital media are essential tools for attracting some businesses, it’s important to determine when their format doesn’t matter…at least not as much. David Diaz of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance emphasizes that the face-to-face meeting is still the way to go to in some cases: “For a storefront, digital media is not as important. Lots of storefront customers still aren’t that tech savvy. We find more success in meeting with them one on one and really doing other things beyond the social media when we’re trying to recruit a business.” How can you tell the difference? Know your audience by listening to their needs. All the social media savvy in the world won’t make up for missing the target with key stakeholders. “There are lots of nuances,” said Steinbacher with the Durham Chamber. “In a chamber of commerce, even though we have an incredibly savvy tech community, I still have 700 members that are your pizza shop on the corner, your printer on the corner; you’ve got to be careful not to get too far in front of your audience.” Place before Job To market your community effectively to potential newcomers, you should understand a paradigm shift that’s occurring quietly in some parts of the country. Many of us have moved to communities we didn’t like very much because of a job. If the job was good, we were willing to move to it – especially if we needed the experience. The model has changed for many young professionals. They are willing to move to a new location without a job if they perceive the place to be desirable enough. They want to live in a vibrant community that offers plenty of amenities, lots of networking and social activities, even chances to volunteer. In many cases, all they need for work is web access; they’re not limited to a certain area. David Minor of Raleigh put it this way: “High skill talent, top talent, they can pretty much go anywhere. Usually, they’re going to think, ‘I want to live and work in a place I would just want to be. I’ll move there and then make employment decisions based on that.’”
Consider Reaching Out to Other Cities and Towns Some of the people interviewed pointed out what can be a systematic weakness among advocates for specific towns or districts: the inability to work together to carry the message. Because communities often compete with each other for jobs and new residents they can forget about the benefits regional marketing partnerships can offer. For example, James Goodmon, Jr. of Capitol Broadcasting Company says that narrow thinking can be a problem for some in the Raleigh and Durham metro region, two places that have experienced tremendous growth and diversity in recent years. “We still have that mindset from a lot of different entities,” said Goodmon. “It’s one of the biggest mistakes. The region needs one centralized message that we deliver to everyone.” Your community or region could benefit from communicating collective strengths rather than treating each place like a bubble, isolated from outside sources. Some communities might even want to pool resources to land the right talent, says Adam Klein of the American Underground. “Consider having several communities band together and hiring one digital media director who can write and keep content fresh for three or four small towns,” Klein said. Takeaways
Use digital media to highlight a positive atmosphere in your community. Pay careful attention to public schools, infrastructure, the arts and quality-of-life successes. These are important to people who might move to your community. Ask influential stakeholders to help spread your message to their followers. Know your audience. Traditional storefront businesses may not see the value of digital media. Don’t give up on face-to-face meetings. Many of the most sought after professionals are willing to move to a great community before seeking employment. Consider a regional approach that pools the resources of several communities and presents a unified message.
USING DIGITAL MEDIA TO RETAIN BUSINESS You can also use digital media to help retain business, be it large or small. The paid, owned and earned model can help sustain a positive atmosphere for your district, providing a draw that helps attract and keep top talent.
Large Business and Industry Larger employers need a talent pipeline that allows for workforce renewal when people move away or retire. As we referenced in the previous section, many of the best employees are drawn to great places first, even if they have to move there without a job. Many are looking for attractive communities with lots of amenities such as restaurants, unique shops, bars and coffee shops. “If you ask the companies why they’re locating in downtown, it’s because it’s a place where talent wants to work,” said James Sauls of Raleigh Economic Development. “Talent wants access to the amenities that are being offered and they don’t want to necessarily drive to a suburban office park and have to drive to a café to eat lunch.” The positive ecosphere created by paid, owned and earned media can be part of an overall effort to make your community the perfect place to put down roots. Creating and nurturing a positive chatter goes hand in glove with your efforts to create a pleasant, safe and energetic atmosphere. Software company Red Hat recently moved its
“Businesses in general like to be around places that have headquarters to downtown Raleigh. energy and activity and success tied with it,” said Raleigh’s Derrick Minor. “The more active you are on social media…not even the organizations that represent the downtown or represent the city, but just citizens and residents themselves being active on social media and talking about the great restaurants and festivals and parades, I think that in itself is the icing on the cake. (A company like) Red Hat is not going to say, ‘There was a great twitter feed for downtown Raleigh last night so we’re going to make a decision to invest 30-million dollars and bring 1500 employees to downtown’, but it definitely doesn’t hurt.” Consider using paid, owned and earned media to highlight festivals, live music and volunteer opportunities and ask your more influential supporters to do the same. “The companies might think, ‘I could be in other parts of the county or in a more suburban setting or location, but what if my competitor is in downtown that has the amenities, that has the close proximity to where they live, are they going to win out on that opportunity?’” said Minor. Small Business For smaller businesses, your impact is often more direct. Your media channels can become a value-added proposition for a small business that lacks the financial resources or expertise to do so on its own.
Owned and earned media work well together to help local small businesses with:
Sales, promotions and coupon codes Job openings (“#jobs” is a consistently popular hashtag on Twitter) Upcoming events Praising recent successes
How do you know what to promote from local employers? Ask them. Try to learn what sales events have been most productive in the past and what they’d like to do. Once you have a good idea what they’re looking for, you can challenge them to add owned and earned media to the mix, then commit your own digital resources to the cause. For example, maybe a pizza place offers $5 pizzas on Tuesdays. The owner takes out the occasional ad in the local paper and promotes on-site with posters. You could help increase his odds of success by tweeting the special price to your followers and posting the message to Facebook. With some coordination, other storefronts who don’t directly compete could repeat the message through their own social media channels. No one pays any advertising costs, and the message has reached an entirely new group of potential customers. It’s also a good idea to follow the social media accounts of local businesses just like you do for the larger ones. You can quickly learn about sales and promotions there (assuming they have a social media presence) and determine what’s important to the person in charge. It takes just a few seconds to “retweet” (repeat) the business’s message to your followers. This helps spread the marketing message while building goodwill with the owner and manager.
Storefronts are busy along Main Street in downtown Durham.
Just look at Raleigh Economic Development’s efforts to promote local businesses using Twitter, blogs and websites to extend the reach of clients.
“It’s amplifying their message and their stories, promoting the companies, their job openings, promoting who they are in the community,” said James Sauls, Raleigh Economic Development Director. “The companies appreciate that you’re amplifying, that you’re giving them earned media. Their stories are what make us who we are.” Finding those stories is a big part of promoting business. People are wired to appreciate and empathize with stories, and your local businesses probably have great ones to tell. Launching and running a successful business isn’t easy, and owners are probably more than happy to talk about their humble starts. Do your best to work those stories into the narrative of your community.
TWO SUCCESSFUL DIGITAL MARKETING CAMPAIGNS The Startup Stampede Launched just a few months apart, Durham’s Startup Stampede and the Smoffice campaigns have brought new business and international accolades to town. The community’s leadership was convinced that entrepreneurs who took a good look at downtown Durham would fall in love with it. Each campaign was designed to attract attention and was promoted entirely through digital media. The Startup Stampede offered 60 days of free space in an old bank building plus lots of networking opportunities to 12 startups. The collaborative effort included the Chamber, Downtown Durham, Inc., and the American Underground. Chamber director Casey Steinbacher remembers the campaign’s beginnings: “We rented that space at a discounted rate thanks to [the local credit union] and we transformed it. We painted a few things, got tables and chairs, high speed internet. We went to Goodwill, bought some couches and chairs, some old pinball machines and set it up.” The group created a very simple website to explain what was available. Once the space was set up, the group met at a coffee shop with successful entrepreneurs who used their email lists and social media connections to spread the word. Matthew Coppedge of Downtown Durham The Startup Stampede included a simple website created Inc., says the contacts of experts was key in specifically for the project. carrying the message. “When you have people who are respected in those industries and they’re willing to send the message out, that means much more coming from him than coming from us,” said Coppedge. “We’ve been able to leverage other people’s social media contacts and connections through them because they trust what we do. It’s not just your own followers that you can capitalize on. “At the end of two hours we had talked to 10-thousand people and had 3,000 hits on our webpage,” said Steinbacher. “We were up for three weeks and we had hits from 352 cities. We had 120 applications for 12 spots in three weeks.” The campaign was so successful that they held two more the same way. Of the 36 startups that won the contests, 22 are still operating in downtown Durham. The Smoffice The Smoffice (small office) was borne during a short drive one afternoon. Coppedge and American Underground chief strategist, Adam Klein, wanted to draw more attention to downtown Durham. To attract the attention of entrepreneurs, they acknowledged a truth the community embraces, that office
space can be simple and small as long as it includes easy access to networking and the internet. The Smoffice became a symbol of this attitude; an office space of just 25-square feet in the front window of a downtown coffee shop. They chose to market the Smoffice the same way they marketed the Startup Stampede. They created a very simple website and used the connections of an established, successful entrepreneur to request video applications for six months of free rent through personal emails, Facebook and Twitter. “Him saying, ‘Hey, this is important. You guys should apply for this or spread the news’, really got the drumbeat going and got lots of entrepreneurs aware of the initiative and communicating it to their fellow entrepreneurs,” said Klein. The simple idea won the 2013 award for “Best Unconventional Project” at the International Chamber of Commerce World Chambers Federation competition. The announcement also led to a tremendous amount of positive press and an untold number of Facebook posts and tweets, none of which cost the community a penny. The company that won the contest, a team of three sisters, is still operating in downtown Durham. Each of these campaigns used owned and earned media to market their message and remained true to the district’s brand of a great place for entrepreneurs. Economic developers must also acknowledge a critical truth as they begin to consider new ways to spread their marketing message: digital media represent a great tool with which to begin and advance personal relationships, but they aren’t a substitute for them. The Smoffice sits in the front window of a downtown Durham business.
A NOTE ABOUT ENTREPRENEURS As we learned from our interviews in Durham and Raleigh it became clear that startups and entrepreneurs, especially those that were related to technology, were important to both economies. While both downtown districts have had success with tech startups, the job growth isn’t unique to them. According to a 2013 Kauffman Foundation report, births of high-tech startups in the U.S. jumped 69% from 1980 to 2011 while business creation in other private sector starts dropped nine percent. Kauffman says these new startups are also more likely to create jobs than other small businesses are and typically have a more diverse makeup of employees. To bring news and networking opportunities to startups in the Raleigh Durham metro region, serial entrepreneur Joe Procopio founded ExitEvent. He started the website as a hobby and was surprised by
the response from readers: tens of thousands of people read the site each day and the monthly gatherings (promoted through Twitter) consistently attract 100-250 people. He says startups have specific needs that don’t necessarily apply to large businesses. “Startups don’t need huge tax breaks because they’re not that worried about taxes, they’re worried about the next day,” Procopio said. “If you give them the space, you give them the opportunity, you introduce them to a few people, they will do the rest themselves. They will take that and move with it and go farther than you would ever think possible as long as they aren’t constricted.” Digital media can enhance these efforts. Local chambers of commerce and downtown managers can use their paid, owned and earned sources to highlight startup success stories. Startups are so focused on businesses, he says, they don’t always promote themselves very well to traditional media outlets. “I think the best thing that someone like a chamber of commerce could do would be to develop relationships between local, regional and national media and their best and brightest talent and sort of turn on the megaphone where that’s concerned,” Procopio said. “At the end of the day, entrepreneurs and startups don’t do press that well. The good ones are more focused on the product and the customer and things like that.” James Goodmon, Jr. played a pivotal role in creating the American Underground, the tech startup hub in downtown Durham that’s opening a separate facility in Raleigh in 2013. “You get a bunch of entrepreneurs together, you give them great, cool space, and they’ll create a community of entrepreneurs,” Goodmon said. “Then they’ll start spreading the word via social media, not because they want everybody to know about it, but because that’s the natural evolution of things.” Adam Klein, Chief Strategist for the American Underground, says digital media can play a direct role in connecting entrepreneurs with the space and support they need. “Say that their youth are graduating high school or finishing college (the organization could) stay in communication with them through social media to let them know about interesting things that are happening back home,” said Klein. “They could also say, ‘Hey, if you want to start a company, come home, we’ll get behind you. Let’s take over an old house downtown and get really great internet in there and let’s get five or 10 entrepreneurs together who grew up here and want to come back to the community to start a company. We’re here, we’re behind you.” Business Incubators Capitol Broadcasting Company owns the American Underground space in downtown Durham. If your community is thinking of creating an incubator for startups, CBC President and CEO James Goodmon says to make sure the offline environment is also up to speed. There are distinct roles for investors, nonprofits and government. “While the private sector needs to do this, there are two or three really important things that the public sector has to do,” Goodmon said. “Any time you’re developing anything anywhere, the first thing you
have to talk about is parking. You’ve got to have to have roads and parking. It also has to be a safe environment. In that regard it needs to be a partnership with the cities and the counties.” Goodmon says it shouldn’t take long to see indicators of success or failure with a downtown incubator: “Things have sped up; they’re faster now,” he said. “It used to be that you would have an incubator and you’d spend a year or so trying to figure out if you have anything. Now they have what they call accelerators, and you might spend 90 days before you decide whether you have something that’s good enough to work on.” Goodmon also says there is value in offering free internet in public areas and facilitating live music. Each contributes to the positive atmosphere you work so hard to build online and offline. WHAT’S NEXT? No one knows exactly what digital media will look like in five or 10 years, but we asked our interviewees to predict what their future strategies might include. Short Online Video Video topped the list for many of them. The thought of creating an original video may be overwhelming, but technology has made it easier. New tools make creating and distributing video much simpler, faster and less expensive than it used to be. Newer cameras upload the tapeless video footage directly to your computer where you can use editing software to put everything together. “When I was working on an older PC it would take me a whole day to edit a video, and we’re talking about a six minute video,” said Matthew Coppedge of Downtown Durham, Inc. “With newer technology I can do it in an hour or so.” Don’t assume that your creation has to be perfect. Viewers are pretty forgiving about technical imperfections as long as the message is genuine. And don’t worry about creating a full 30-minute program. Shorter messages are popular right now and will likely attract more views than a longer version would. With social media platforms like Vine and Instagram, your original video content can be posted to the web within seconds. Your owned content will be easy for others to share with their friends. “When you post video on the social media sites, the view rates are so much higher as opposed to just links,” Coppedge said. If your budget allows, you might buy an ad through Google or Bing that links to your video. Once again, this is an example of your message being amplified through paid, owned and earned channels. The trick is coming up with useful content. Maybe you could highlight a local business success story or offer an inside look at an available vacant storefront. Keep it short and make sure the message is simple.
“Somebody is much more willing to sit down and watch a one or even a two-minute long video than they are to read a 15-page paper on what you think is right,” said Derrick Minor with the city of Raleigh. “It might take you four hours to record interviews and festivals… but you’re taking extended lengths of time and essentially consolidating them into a short video that can communicate a very strong message.” Crowdsourcing Contests You don’t have to do all the work yourself. Crowdsourcing, a fancy term for getting input from lots of other people, will continue to grow in popularity. Crowdsourcing allows you to make the most of rich content that your audience is probably creating even now. Some examples might include photo contests for public events such as festivals and parades. You could ask people to submit their best images for your organization’s use. In return, you tell everyone who created the image when you use it. Some organizations have asked amateur photographers to upload their images to Instagram or Twitter using a unique hashtag created especially for the event. That makes it easy for you to sort through the entries, and the hashtags draw attention to the event. Actionable Insights Changes in technology have led us to share more information about ourselves – where we like to eat, what shows we attend and where we vacation. That information makes it easier for marketers to tailor their message specifically for people who like certain things. If money were no object, David Diaz of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance says he’d like to learn more about what data are available. “I think that we need to spend money on hiring the companies that are at the forefront of using data for digital advertising to help create the strategy for whatever we want to do,” Diaz said. Many, if not most of your downtown business could probably use some help spreading the word about what they offer consumers. As downtown advocates learn to create new paid, owned and earned channels, some may look outside their walls to enhance their area’s brand. “I would not be surprised if in three years Durham has a Durham business brand office that offers technology platforms to its businesses and organizations to help them make sure that they’re telling their story…using digital media,” said Casey Steinbacher with the Durham Chamber. “We can not only help them reach their audience, but continue to build the brand.”
CONCLUSION Marketers have less control over their messages than they did just a few years ago. Online conversations have democratized communication, enabling the consumer to shape the discussion. These empowered consumers can help reinforce and amplify your marketing efforts. The first, and perhaps most important, thing you can do as a marketer is to figure out what differentiates your downtown district from all the others. Is its location exceptional? Does the local culture allow for a specific type of business to thrive? Take a step back, do some research and determine what your town does better than any other. Before you can use the new digital tools to spread your message, you need to define exactly what the message will be. With this brand in place, it’s time to strategize. Who am I trying to target with my message? Which media are they most likely to consume? How do I reach him/her? Once you’ve determined where your consumer is most likely to be, take advantage of paid, owned and earned media to target them. Begin with a great website that is intuitive and attractive. Using the hub and spoke marketing model, you can use other media to bring consumers to your website. Like an airport hub that has planes coming and going throughout the day, your website is the “home” for all marketing messages. Paid media include digital versions of traditional advertising such as online display ads and paid search ads that deliver visitors to your website. Owned media includes digital sites you own and control such as your website and messages sent through email. Earned media is the electronic version of word-ofmouth advertising. Not only is it free, it’s usually more valuable than ads. An objective third party simply has more influence over his/her circle of friends than you do. The tools will continue to evolve as new platforms become available. With your message and strategy in place, you’ll be ready to incorporate the changing media landscape into your marketing efforts. We’re living in an age of disruption: the media that ruled the marketing landscape for decades have been disrupted by new media that are more nimble, targeted and cost-effective. We have greater access to communication tools than we ever have. Paid, owned and earned media can’t build a downtown on their own, but they can contribute to a positive atmosphere of innovation and sustained growth. Listen to your consumers, tailor your message to reach them and position your downtown to meet their needs. Managed strategically, digital media relationships can provide you one more advantage as you look to make your downtown the best it can be.
APPENDIX A: Bios Jenn Bosser is Assistant Executive Director at Wake County Economic Development. She oversees dayto-day operations, manages overall strategic initiatives and leads the recruitment and retention of life science companies in Wake County. She recently earned the “Top 40 under 40” distinction from Development Counsellors International. Matthew Coppedge is Chief Operating Officer for Downtown Durham, Inc. He joined the company in 2004 as Director of Marketing and Communications. Prior to his work with DDI, he was a business and computer consultant. He has written guest columns for Durham-area publications and written contributions for national publications such as US Airways Magazine and Landscape Architect. David Diaz is President and Chief Executive Officer for Downtown Raleigh Alliance. He emphasizes safety and cleanliness downtown, strategic branding, economic development, public space management and advocacy and strategic planning. Diaz is the Large Cities Director for the North Carolina Downtown Development Association. Diaz also served as Vice Chairman of the International Downtown Association. James Goodmon is recognized as one of North Carolina’s best-known business leaders, visionaries and philanthropists. Goodmon has served as President and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Company since 1979. He was crucial to development of the American Tobacco Historic District and improvements to the Durham Bulls minor league baseball franchise. Goodmon also serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, an organization that helps address social and community problems in North Carolina. James Goodmon, Jr. is Vice President and General Manager of the Capitol Broadcasting Company New Media Group, which includes news delivery over several digital platforms, including the award-winning WRAL.com. His role with the company also includes oversight of startup projects and strategic acquisitions. Goodmon also serves on the Board of Directors for the A.J. Fletcher Foundation and on the Advisory Board for the Salvation Army of Wake County. Adam Klein is Chief Strategist for the American Underground, a startup hub owned by Capital Broadcasting Company with facilities in Durham and Raleigh. His role includes leading the development and expansion of the new organization. He is also responsible for developing strategic partnerships, marketing, programming and leasing. Prior to taking on the new role in 2012, Klein was a startup strategist for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce. Derrick Minor is the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager with the city of Raleigh. The first one to take the new role, his duties include identifying potential startups and growth companies, connecting them to resources and people who can help them grow and raising awareness about opportunities in Raleigh. He serves on the Boards of Advisors for HQ Raleigh and the North Carolina State University Technology Incubator.
Joe Procopio is a serial entrepreneur and founder and publisher of ExitEvent, a fast-growing online hub for entrepreneurs. He is a contributor for TechJournal, the News & Observer, WRAL Techwire and other tech publications. Procopio is also Vice President of Product Engineering for Automated Insights. James Sauls is Executive Director for Raleigh Economic Development, a partnership between the city of Raleigh and the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. His duties include recruiting new businesses to the area and marketing the community. Successes include industries involved with smart grid, electric vehicles, information technology and software development, among others. Casey Steinbacher is President and CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce. She takes great pride in describing the organization as “not your father’s chamber of commerce”. She has served the organization since 2007. Prior to her start there, Steinbacher served as President and CEO of the North Palm Beach County (Florida) Chamber of Commerce. Allyson Sutton is Communications and Events Manager at HQ Raleigh, a hub that provides co-working space and networking opportunities to startups. Prior to her service at HQ Raleigh, Sutton managed a small business in nearby Chapel Hill, NC, and served as the Marketing Director for a Raleigh startup.