In this day and age when everyone is trying to be more “buzz-worthy” than the next guy, it’s hard to get noticed with all the buzzing going on. I don’t happen to subscribe to the theory that any press is good press, I just want the good stuff thanks, but I do recognize the power of using advertising to influence perceptions — and in the public realm, perception is reality, so we better be paying attention to the impressions we leave on people as a city. To be honest, one of the things that drives me nuts about my profession is how little advertising we do. I’m not saying we should be spending $1 million in public dollars for a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl, but we darn well better be celebrating our successes, showcasing our product, and emotionally connecting with our citizens or we’re not doing our job as well as we could.
Traditionally, advertising was just for the private sector but today the lines are blurred and what I call a citizen also happens to be a consumer, so guess what, those customer-citizens expect their city to show them the value of their tax dollars, to pitch the product they’re buying.
But for whatever reasons, cities rarely do that. I’m all for humility but a very successful CEO once said that “you have to be able to toot your own horn without blowing it to succeed.” I think what he meant was part of the role of leadership is about accentuating the positive, being enthusiastic about the future, and rallying people for a good cause. That’s just a different form of what otherwise sounds to me a lot like advertising.
I have to be honest, I always get worked up when I see commercials that show a family safe in their home, or kids playing in a local park, or skateboarders cruising the sidewalks, or seniors out for a summer evening walk — (I could go on and on) — and some private company is using our products (the park, the sidewalk, the downtown, etc.) to sell their product.
Come on, it’s not the Nike shoe that makes the experience of jogging though the park great, it’s the great park that makes it great — and we, the city, are the one’s that supply the great park, yet we never bother to tell people. Again, I’m not promoting false advertising — we don’t want to make stuff up — but likewise if we don’t talk up all the good things the city does, how can we expect others to feel good about the city.
Word of mouth, or buzz marketing, really sounds like what my grandparents called gossip. But in this case, we want to use the power of gossip for good not evil.
Cities need to be in the mix competing for attention too. If you’re wondering what that might look like, here’s a few ways of putting city services in a different perspective:
House fire…heart attack…car accident…cat in the tree.
It doesn’t matter what the call is — your firemen and women race from the station and arrive on-the-scene of 14 emergency calls everyday in less time than it takes to brew a cup of coffee. They’re fast – and that’s good — because one of those calls may be for someone you love.
The call of duty.
Last year 42,000 people died in the United States in car accidents. Your police patrol officers are on-duty 24-7 and respond to 10 traffic accident calls everyday to do whatever they can to keep your streets safe and to make sure you never end up a statistic.
Ready when it counts.
Every couple of days your police K9 dogs are sent in to search, rescue and when necessary — catch criminals. In those times we are all reminded why they are considered man’s best friend.
Green means go. Red means stop.
With 500 miles of striping, 400 traffic signs and 2,400 signal bulbs working at 85 signalized intersections around the clock, city traffic crews are always on-call to respond to any problem in order to ensure that nothing jeopardizes the safety of motorists or pedestrians.
Kent … where green thumbs abound.
For 18 straight years Kent has been awarded the Tree City USA distinction for its top-notch tree care program. Each year city crews add nearly 200 trees and shrubs to make the expanding city landscape a brighter shade of green.
Clean living starts with clean streets.
Your street sweeping crews work before and after dawn to sweep trash and litter that gets tossed in our streets.
Behind the scenes.
Fresh cut grass, homerun fences, and soccer goals don’t just happen. Your recreation employees are busy working long before the first pitch to make sure that every game can go extra innings.
Fall and those wonderful leaves.
For every burnt orange leaf on the tree there is another brown leaf on the ground waiting to be raked away. The city crews collected vacuums 13,000 cubic yards of leaves every year – that’s the equivalent of 78,000 bags of leaves.
You get the idea.
Fortunately, the Kent Chamber has made promoting Kent on behalf of the business community a core function, and quite frankly we all benefit from their hard work. Here’s a few examples of some more traditional advertising outlets that the Chamber uses:
For just the 2nd time in history, the Chamber put together a series of television ads that ran 130 times in a 2 week period.
The Chamber sponsored a Kent Expo in May that showcased the best Kent has to offer.
The Chamber put together a special Kent Community insert into the Record Courier.
The Chamber published 20,000 Kent visitor’s guides.
It’s a bit ironic that during these times when we consider ourselves the most technically advanced society going, our mouths are still the most effective means of spreading good news. Put yours to good use, and buzz about Kent.