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Four Ways to Move the Rankings Needle

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One question that DCI often gets from economic development organizations (EDOs) and communities is what can be done to “move the rankings needle.” According to DCI’s most recent tri-annual “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing,” corporate executives and consultants with site selection responsibilities view rankings as one of the top five leading sources of information that influence their perceptions of an area’s business climate.

To answer this question, DCI has gone directly to the source, by talking to Forbes and CNBC editors in charge of the highly coveted “best places” rankings.  Below are some factors that come into play, but note that each ranking would have their own set of factors or methodology, so this list is not all inclusive:

  • Publicly Available Metrics and Hard Data: Most rankings rely on numerous types of data. Some examples of sources include U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Moody’s, National Association of Manufacturers and Council on Competitiveness.
  • Weighting: After the data has been collected, editors then weigh each point, with some factors having more weight than others. For example, with CNBC’s annual America’s Top States for Business ranking, the “Cost of Doing Business” factor is allotted a maximum of 450 points, while “Access to Capital” is allotted a maximum of 25 points.
  • Third Party Rankings: Given that most of the ”best places” rankings are essentially a compilation of several rankings that are then each weighted, often times top-tier rankings like Forbes take rankings from other third party organizations and use them as a source. For example, Forbes’ Best States for Business ranking uses several sources: Moody’s, Census, FBI, Bert Sperling and Pollina Corporate Real Estate .
  • Submission Based: Some rankings, such as SITE Selection’s Governor’s Cup, are submission based, where economic development organizations can write a submission for consideration.

So…What Can We Do?

While rankings are primarily driven by hard data, there are some ways EDOs and communities can proactively pursue rankings that they view as high priority, and to get their places more on the radars of editors and media outlets that publish these priority rankings.

  1. Have a Targeted Approach: Because each ranking has its own methodology and criteria used, it is important for EDOs to have a “laser focused” approach when it comes to pursuing rankings. Develop a target list of 15-20 rankings to follow and pursue.
  1. Meet with the People Behind the Rankings: After coming up with your rankings target list, reach out to the editors behind these rankings to gather in-depth intelligence on the types of rankings each outlet or organization does, the methodology involved and sources used. Media outlets are always looking to better their ranking methodologies, so these meetings will serve as an opportunity for the EDOs or communities to learn if the methodologies have changed and to offer to serve as a resource.
  1. Get to Know Third Party Sources: As mentioned above, often times an outlet like Forbes will use a plethora of sources to determine its rankings. Reach out to third party sources like Bert Sperling and Pollina Corporate Real Estate to learn more about how they come up with their rankings.
  1. Create Your Own Ranking: If you have a good idea for a ranking, then consider creating a ranking idea, and then pitch it to places that are receptive to receiving ideas. For example, Forbes and CNN Money are open to suggested ranking ideas. Depending on the type, some media will need hard data for the ranking, such as the “The 10 Most Compassionate Cities” ranking DCI pitched and was picked up by Forbes. Others, such as the “Seven Mayors Promoting Entrepreneurship,” do not need hard data. It was simply  an interesting idea that DCI pitched to Entrepreneur.
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