Back in 2012, when I was a new local government official in charge of trying to improve the image of the City of Spartanburg and encourage more investment and growth within its 20 square miles, I decided that there were no easy answers. (There also was not a lot of money in my budget.)
Starting pretty much from scratch, with an organization that had been slow to embrace social media and leverage its tools and reach, I put together a basic strategic communications plan that was heavy on digital. Traditional advertising — from television to print to outdoor — was not in the plan except in rare situations. Instead, we would build a digital persona through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in an attempt to connect and engage with city stakeholders and potential new residents and businesses.
The plan also included podcasting, something I had always been interested in trying. But I knew a straightforward city government podcast that focused on the bureaucratic machinery would never do much to elevate the city’s image or engage new people. It took about a year for us to hit our stride, but eventually we found a podcast formula that seemed to work: we would talk about what made the community different, go behind the scenes of some of the most high-profile projects and developments changing the face of the city, and, above all, not take ourselves too seriously and try to have fun. As we settled into that formula, the number of subscribers grew and grew, far beyond what a podcast produced by the government of a roughly 35,000-resident city should have reasonably expected.
The lesson? Creating engaging content is hard! Finding your voice and figuring out what you have to say that will connect with your audience takes time. It rarely, if ever, lands right away. But eventually, it will land and the payoff is worth it.
Of all the things we did at the city — from the occasional print and billboard ads to a new cutting-edge website to literally thousands of social media posts and videos — my interviews on a local sports talk show and our podcasts generated the most comments and compliments from people. Those two formats provide a connection to a real person, compared to the “person behind a curtain” feel of most organizations’ social media accounts and ad campaigns. Combined with a focus on providing truly useful information intended to help people understand the world around them better, the podcast and radio formats struck a chord with listeners and kept them coming back.
So, I will be trying that same approach with this blog — and maybe a new podcast, too. I won’t be writing about what you typically might expect from a strategic communications or marketing firm’s blog, although it will help you or your organization think about communication and marketing in a different way. It will sometimes be about my home community of Spartanburg. It will sometimes be funny. It will almost always be a quick, fun read, with ways for you to interact, ask questions, and let me know what you think.
I hope to hear from you. To encourage interaction, the first 10 people to leave a comment will receive an amazing! prize from me. ... So let me know what you’d like to read about or listen to. Inside scoop on local politics/races? Local development? Which campaigns (political and otherwise) are working and which ones aren’t?
I’ve got some decent sources and I’ve got more than a couple of good dang stories. So, let me know what piques your interest and we’ll go from there.