Five Mind-Blowing Content Marketing Tips for Economic Development

November 18, 2014

Hanna Porterfield and Ann Handley Economic Development Marketing SummitContent marketing is a hot topic in today’s digital world.  Even so, economic development marketers are often left on their own to translate tips for the masses into relevant ideas to attract talent, grab the attention of corporate executives and wow site selection consultants.

Ann Handley, bestselling author and Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, spoke to attendees at DCI’s annual Marketing Summit in New York City on September 19, 2014. Below are five “mind-blowing content marketing tips that work” from Handley’s presentation.

1. Have a mission

Sure, in economic development our main goal is to attract more companies or create more jobs. But when it comes to our marketing, we can’t just think that way, instead we need to think about: who you want to reach, what value you are going to give to them, how you will give them this information and what you want them to do next. This creates a path for conversation.

Montreal International does a great job filling sidebars with valuable content throughout its website. Touching on all the points Handley suggested, Montreal International’s calls-to-action get visitors involved – from contact information featuring photos of specific staff members who can help, to newsletter sign-up forms and publications to download. Enterprise Florida and Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership also have engaging calls-to-action in sidebars throughout their websites.

2. Have pathological empathy

In short, what will your readers thank you for? When creating content, it is always key to think about what would make your readers turn and say, “Now listen to this…”

A few years back, Dallas sent iPhones to CEOs in New York, California and other high-cost areas to encourage relocation to the city. The marketing plan was conceptualized after relocations of other large firms to Dallas; business recruiting efforts were focused directly to CEOs. Plus, who would forget a city gifting them Apple’s newest phone?

3. Tell stories about people

Quite simply, people want to read about other people. As humans we find it much more interesting to read about Mr. So-and-So, who got a job at X company that is doing X, Y and Z, rather than a paragraph about a building expansion.

WorkIT Nashville, a campaign from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, is a great example of this. Right away on their home page are photos of people; not photos of companies, offices or logos. The campaign’s blog consistently rotates content between interviews and personal stories, to showcase everyday Nashville living, from local eats to events. Imagine Pittsburgh also lets people tell their stories, bringing blog posts to life with a YouTube series called “Meet the Neighbors.

4. Use a subscription model

The purpose of gathering subscribers is to “build an audience, not just leads.” If your organization is creating useful content that gives insights and inspiration, it is crucial to build a base of supporters. By having readers simply sign up for a newsletter or email for each new blog post, you’ve created a community of followers and advocates of your content.

Not only does the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation blog regularly, but they actively promote signing up for their newsletters – yes, plural. The San Diego Regional EDC allows subscribers to pick and choose which content updates and news they want, making for a more loyal following that will get relevant information filtered directly to them.

5. Content is an ecosystem, not a campaign

New content is always needed to keep your organization fresh and exciting.  In order to do so, you must also be flexible. As a publisher, give yourself permission to relax. Rather than a strict content calendar, aim to publish five out of every six ideas, with overarching themes – that way, when breaking news hits, you aren’t stressed out about what to publish.

Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation has a content calendar that maps out upcoming reports, events and highlights evergreen stories to fit within the mix. The organization uses this merely as a guide and if breaking news happens, moves the evergreen stories to another week so that the idea is never lost.

Finally, Handley leaves the following, lasting tips:

  • Creating innovative content can be summed up in a straightforward formula:  Useful x Empathy x Inspired = Great Content
  •  Economic development marketers should think of industry tips as “inspiration, not prescription.”
  • Every day, we should be looking for opportunities to surprise and delight our audience.

To learn more content marketing tips, check out Handley’s books: Content Rules and Everybody Writes.  For more tips, takeaways and photos from the DCU Marketing Summit, scroll through the hashtag #dcisummit on Twitter.

Hanna Porterfield

Written by Hanna Porterfield

Hanna Porterfield is a Senior Account Executive in the Economic Development Division at DCI. With a passion for places since interning at the Michigan EDC (her home state), she now services clients including Choose New Jersey, the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, Brownsville Economic Development Council and more.

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