Future-fit measurement strategies for your place organisation

Measuring the success of your work is critical. It supports your bid for new funding, demonstrates the effect of your strategy to key stakeholders, and allows you to refine and pivot your strategy in response to where you’re creating the greatest impact.

The question, then, is what should we be measuring? Traditionally, place-based organisations have prioritised hard metrics around economic returns: heads in beds; tourism expenditure; investment deals landed; the number of new residents. These metrics deliver important information on the effectiveness of your strategy, but as places increasingly look towards their quality of life, the KPIs we use need to evolve as well.

Developing collaborative key performance indicators

Cities, regions, and nations, who are looking to make sure that their metrics will be ready for the future of destination marketing and economic development, need to think beyond the standard and add items that reflect where people want to live - and how they can collaborate with their counterparts more effectively.

"The last two years has been a gut check for tourism and economic development organisations," outlined Rich Overmoyer, President & CEO of Fourth Economy. "The two types of organisations suddenly realized how much they actually depended on one another for everything from business survival, to quality of place activation, to talent and investment retention and attraction."  Effective collaboration between destination marketing and economic development can open new opportunities for a place, but it also necessitates a re-thinking of what the key success metrics are for a city, nation, or place. 

Five quality of place KPIs for your organisation

Quality of place indicators are a natural meeting point between the responsibilities of both destination marketing and economic development teams, and they also demonstrate how your city or nation is performing against what the locals wish for. After all, a place that's great to live in is also one that's great to visit or work in.

Rob Hunden, CEO of Hunden Strategic Partners, highlighted five key areas for places looking to be future-ready to consider: quality of place; sports, parks, and recreation options; entertainment and events; variety of housing types / styles; pragmatic state/ local leadership and laws.

“What areas within the community or greater metro area have really created a strong place, with walkable neighbourhoods or mixed-use / entertainment districts?” Rob asked. “The more of these areas that exist with authentic design and local shops or restaurants, the more attractive the place is to companies and employees/spouses.”

Likewise, accessibility to recreational, sports, and entertainment opportunities offers your community new ways to easily engage with your city, creating an environment that is attractive for residents and visitors alike. “The hottest markets are those that offer extensive leisure time activities, music, recreation, and entertainment,” Rob continued. “Think Austin, Denver, and Nashville.”

Finally, as policy decisions become increasingly heated, this too has an impact on perceptions of your place. “Policy extremes on either side of the aisle polarise and turn off many potential employees and spouses / significant others,” explained Rob. While policy decisions fall out of the remit for most destination marketing or economic development organisation, tracking your political reputation will provide you with a more holistic understanding of your place. And it may also be an indicator for when your organisation can step in advocate in favour or against policies which will have a negative impact on the future development of your place.

Collaborating towards a joint vision for your place

We’ve already talked about the importance of collaboration between economic development and destination marketing, but the reality is that to be truly future-fit, place organisations will need to be working in tandem with many more of their key stakeholders. “[Partnerships] should straddle many categories and KPIs should capture the breadth and depth of relationships,” shared Jeannette Hanna, Chief Strategist for Trajectory, citing higher education, indigenous or historic, and environmental collaborations as three areas that are often under-developed.

Higher education collaborations

Talent is a major challenge for cities and nations around the world right now – and demonstrating your talent ‘pipeline’ is essential for your investment promotion strategy. “Being able to demonstrate how post-secondary institutions are open and responsive to meeting emerging skills and business expertise is a powerful advantage,” explains Jeannette, continuing that a local student population can also add youthful energy to the visitor experience and offer places to co-create engaging place activations.

Indigenous or historic cultural collaborations

Increasingly, destinations are working to ensure that all their communities are represented in the place experience, and to build a more inclusive, equitable, and authentic place. “Forging partnerships with communities that have felt marginalised in the past takes time, commitment, and a clear sense of shared goals with mutually agreed success metrics,” suggested Jeannette. Take the time to sit down with your community partners to understand what success looks like to them, and how they want to be represented. By listening, you can work to co-create a strategy that delivers positive benefits for all.

Environmental and sustainable collaborations

Climate action is needed now, and many businesses, visitors, and residents, are looking for a clear demonstration that a city or country is proactively and responsibly responding to the challenge. “Many places are exploring partnerships with retail and hospitality groups to enhance the visitor experience and reduce waste,” Jeannette highlighted. Tracking your carbon footprint and the success of your environmental partnerships with your partners is a powerful indicator of your intentions for a prospective investor or visitor.

Climate change is a global challenge, and one we must come together to tackle as well. New collaborative initiatives such as the Glasgow Declaration encourage tourism destinations to clearly define their ambitions and how they will track their progress against their environmental pledges – but they also prioritise knowledge sharing and partnership between participants. Joining an initiative such as the Glasgow Declaration provides destinations with the knowledge and resources to better implement their commitment and to track progress while providing international recognition and visibility.

“Destinations are everyone’s business,” Travel Foundation CEO, Jeremy Sampson, told us. “They are the enterprises, the communal spaces, the public infrastructure, the culture and history, and the people that we all rely on, and protecting them for the long-haul must be a shared responsibility and industry priority.”

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.