Seven top ways to engage your citizens in your place brand strategies

During the pandemic, many places pivoted to focus their energies internally, and place brand organisations are increasingly focusing more on their time on their citizens in 2022. According to our 2022 survey, 21% of organisations will be spending more than half of their time on their citizens.

Graph showing an increase in time from place brand organisations is now focused on citizensWith more places looking to shift their energies towards engaging residents in their strategy, we wanted to dive deeper into how places around the world are refocusing their approach. From uncovering your place DNA, to advocating for your work, to amplifying the voices of your locals, here are some of our favourite citizen engagement strategies to inspire your own approach.

Opportunity Miami

Miami is at a pivotal moment, with an influx of residents and businesses relocating to the city during the pandemic. As the city looks to capitalise on their success to create lasting positive change, they’re also looking to directly involve their community in the city’s future success.

Opportunity Miami is a new model for how the city envisions their long-term economic future. The community-wide platform focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship, talent and inclusion, and sustainability and resilience. “We aim to raise a new question each month and tackle it publicly, through digital media and events, learning with the community as we go,” shared Matt Haggman, EVP at Opportunity Miami. “The approach is to elevate the best ideas, practices, research, and people addressing questions pivotal to our economic future, engage across Miami-Dade County, and share clear, actionable solutions to help our community make better decisions, faster.”

Matt will be joining us at City Nation Place Americas in May 11-12 to explore how Opportunity Miami is creating new opportunities to engage the community in the future of the city’s economy.

Be Tasmanian: the podcast series

For many residents, it can be hard to see the tangible impact of place branding, particularly if there are more immediate challenges that need addressing. By its nature, place branding is a long-term approach – so how can you engage your citizens in the importance of your place brand strategy?

Brand Tasmania interviewed over 400 Tasmanians one-on-one to identify the Tasmanian voice, but having unearthed their place DNA, the next step was to share the strategy with the community. To address this, they launched a podcast series that aimed to give an honest overview of the team’s work and vision, whilst exploring what is really meant by place branding. If any wants to know what the Brand Tasmania team do, they can listen to the podcast series to understand in two hours ‘why Tasmania,’ ‘why place branding,’ and ‘how can they work together to achieve something extraordinary.’

Changing behaviours with storytelling

Sweden was looking to engage stakeholders in their sustainable strategy. Their solution to changing behaviour? Storytelling with a local-centric twist. “Emotional engagement is necessary to get change going; we need people to be actively involved with this process,” explained Per Grankvist, Chief Storyteller for the government-funded initiative Viable Cities. “I’m heading our research for developing a method of storytelling to help people describe what it will feel like to be in a city in the future, and thus get the engagement of city officials and politicians to realise they can be bolder in their ambitions.”

The stories tell everyday stories with a futuristic slant to them. The protagonist in one has been home-working but before she leaves for lunch, a drone arrives with a package that should have been delivered earlier. The stories are all designed to be easy to grasp while still creating a positive vision of how the future could look. And they’re all adapted to feature locally specific details to ensure the stories resonate with their audience.

By focusing on quality of life – rooted in the specific, local everyday reality – Viable Cities is engaging stakeholders across Sweden in shaping a more sustainable future for the country.

The Sound of Eindhoven

Eindhoven had two goals: to give a platform to local musicians and to create an anthem for the city. The team launched a competition to encourage artists to record an anthem for Eindhoven and over a hundred songs were submitted, ranging from ballads to hard rock, from classical musicians to hard core rap. However, all the songs were united by the musicians’ love for the city.

As well as engaging local musicians, the campaign also encouraged residents to get involved in how they shared Eindhoven’s story by voting for their favourite songs. Throughout the competition, the project promoted local citizenship involvement and activation of creative communities of the city – and the winning song will continue to be used in future city promotion activities!

Discover Long Island’s locals first approach

During lockdown, Discover Long Island pivoted to communicate more directly with their local residents. Discover Long Island now have ten social media channels - including two TikTok channels, a weekly podcast, a bi-weekly YouTube video series, B2B and Consumer newsletters, blogs, and anything else they can come up with.

As they re-open to international and domestic visitors, the team are looking to balance their internal and external communications now their residents have become use to them being the voice of the region for all things Long Island. But by delivering dedicated streams of content created specifically for their residents, they’re able to keep citizens engaged in their strategies and build new ties with the community.

Kristen Jarnagin-Reynolds, President & CEO at Discover Long Island, will be joining us at City Nation Place Americas on May 11-12 to explore how they’re managing expectations around the new content strategy and how their partnership structure is evolving to match.

Uniting communities under a single place brand identity

Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo were looking to create a master story for the region – but it had to resonate with the residents to have any hope of succeeding. To achieve this, they started with in-depth interviews across the region which they then distilled into a place narrative. Before they launched it though, the team took it back to the community for feedback, and continued to refine the master story until the residents saw themselves reflected within it.

“That’s where it started – with story and with listening,” shared Andrea Haley, Director of Brand and Corporate Services for Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism. “And nuance! I can’t tell you the importance of nuance – words don’t mean the same thing to everyone, so listening was crucial to getting the right words.”

The result was a strategy that has been embraced by the locals and has given a voice to the region. As the strategy develops, the team at Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo continue to ensure that they local voice is front and centre of their communication strategy.

Tackling single-use plastic in Costa Rica

A few years back, Costa Rica was facing a challenge. They were often recognised as one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, but they were also producing 564 tons of plastic waste a day. To tackle the problem, Costa Ricans were invited to become part of the solution and to raise their voice against single-use plastics. Locals were encouraged to share pictures unnecessary plastic packaging on social media using the hashtag #PlasticoInnecesario [#RubbishRubbish] and give the brand simple ideas about how the packaging could be rethought through an environmental lens.

In total, there were around 200 new packaging solutions proposed, many of which were implemented. Within the first twenty weeks of the campaign, there were 249 million fewer plastic pieces, and 1,113 fewer tons of waste. The campaign encouraged citizens to take a stand against a global challenge and also identified Costa Rica as a global leader in sustainability.

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