Why You Need To Be Part Of The Town. Not Just Exist In The Town.
The work you create can have further meaning when it becomes a part of the town or city you live in.
This way it becomes easier for others to get involved and the bat signal travelling wider.
This article is not just about selling the products and services that make you a living but being an active participant where you live. That way, you strike a chord between what you do and where you are.
This is nothing to do with giving back to the community with charity work or giving more hours to something else, but your work related to where you come from.
Let’s start things with a great quote that resonated from Mark Schaefer in his latest book, Marketing Rebellion, ‘Don’t be in a city. Be of the city.’
I am giving Mark Schaefer full credit for planting the seed that grew, for this article. This was inspired by him.
It is easy to push what we do to everyone and anyone, but how about taking a step back and put up a signpost that says, ‘I am here?’. Ok I live by the sea, so there is an advantage there, but where you live and where you do business can help create a sense of place.
It also can start to become your differentiator.
Rather than living as a bystander and just putting something out there, when you are an active participant in the place called home, everyone can benefit.
This is about marketing the places and homes we are part of, not just shouting about the things that we do.
This is what helps build a sense of community (read the difference between audience and community).
Sharing The Proof With You
When you share with others your alliance to the place you create, it makes it easier for others to make a connection. This is also about promoting self-sufficiency when people rally around an approach and then others are invited to come in and feel welcome from other towns.
Assisting familiarity to create self-sufficiency is important.
Let me share with you what I mean.
When I had the idea for the You Are The Media Conference in 2017, I believed that to have some form of credibility, it had to be held in London. I realised I was very wrong. For someone who is not based in London and to curate an event in London I recognise that comes down to i) ego or ii) increase a client base.
By having the conference in Bournemouth, I realised the differential that people who created events in London didn’t have, the seaside. This becomes the thing I lean into, with the intention to have that emotional pang to being a kid again. The seaside has a more emotive pull to it than using the words ‘the south coast,’ ‘Dorset,’ or ‘coastal location.’
This is what I mean by having familiarity with something that others can connect with. This is prevalent throughout the whole country, by having something historic of something emotional that others can feel a part of.
By becoming self-sufficient is when money comes into an area from a central point (in my case, the conference). For instance, last years You Are The Media Conference, generated £12,000 for other businesses within the town. This included hotels, bars, catering and venues.
It feels good to help other businesses where there is an all-around sense of affiliation and connection.
The You Are The Media conference is part of Bournemouth. At the end of 2018, I was asked if I would replicate the conference in another city. Whilst it was very flattering, it just wouldn’t feel right. It would feel like I was being unfaithful to a girlfriend. There is still a lot to do without watering down the intention by creating carbon copies in other places.
For now, all live activity is part of the seaside. To have people coming to the area and booking their stay, puts the onus on making everyone feel appreciated, safe and at home.
By having a sense of place at a local level, this creates interesting places for others to come to who are welcomed with open arms.
Others Who Are Part Of The Town
There are many people who are very much a part of a town, not just work within a town.
Stewart Gilbert has started his Stories From Bournemouth project. This is a collection of short film’s (and a podcast) from an insiders perspective, that highlights a place called home.
Stewart shares why he took this project on board. “The locations tends to get labelled solely as a tourist destination, but look behind the curtain and there’s an amazing underbelly of creatives thinkers, entrepreneurs and digital philanthropist’s, each one with a story and a deep routed love for our town. That’s what makes this place a bit special and I feel it’s something worth shouting about.”
Stewart firmly believes that every town has a story to tell from the people who are a part of it, “As a society I feel we tend to look up less, talk less and sometimes care less about our communities.”
“In every town you’ll find amazing individuals inspiring others, entrepreneurs that have grown a sustainable business or someone that decides to do something a little different from the norm, all you have to do is start with ‘Hello’ and see where it takes you, you’ll find the stories.”
Kelly Butler, is one of the key members behind the annual BOMO Festival. This is an amalgamation of events and conferences that happen in Bournemouth during September and October.
It was a way to connect the town to a wider audience and show a sense of togetherness that this seaside space can be a place for annual conferences, activity and learning.
Kelly shared why she wanted to drive this project, “Before BOMO had an official identity or a brand, it was simply a collaboration of creative, digital and tech-focused minds joining around a table to build a concept purely for the good of Bournemouth.
“Each of these members were already running successful conferences, exhibitions and festivals within Bournemouth, but with the help of Ruth Spencer from Bournemouth Council, they could all see how the success of each individual event could pull together to be a much greater force.
“As well as showcasing the digital, creative and tech cluster in Bournemouth we could also help to attract new talent to the area, increase visitor numbers and extend the summer season for local businesses.”
The activity is continuing in 2019. What are the intentions for 2019? Kelly explains, “This year is now about expanding our reach across Bournemouth and Dorset to educate the public, local institutions and local businesses about the BOMO season. We’ll be really upping our game on awareness and activity to give this a real boost ready to expand outside of Dorset and attract people into the town.”
What Can We Take From This?
Having a sense of place and being a part of a town, has to go beyond the quickest way to convert someone to a customer.
It is all about having a presence, where you stick around and be here for the long game.
Having a business or an initiative that is also part of a town represents:
Creating something different in a place that breeds familiarity.
If you have an idea to create a networking event, it better be a good networking event. Whatever is in abundance, you have to turn the other way. If it starts to work, people become familiar with a different approach. For instance, there is now a wave of interview-based events. Hands up, You Are The Media Lunch Club falls into that. Which is why this has to be two steps ahead of everyone else. That way you are not competing with everyone else. For instance, the February, You Are The Media Lunch Club is going to be practical with a TV for a live demonstration for getting SEO basics right.
Recognising as businesses fail, our homes do not.
As businesses become fragile and may not last the distance, the homes that we create and nurture should become attractive to others. When you welcome others with open arms and create belonging, people make that connection to a sense of spirit, togetherness and collaboration. This can create longevity. For instance, You Are The Media has shown up for the past three years since May 2016.
Feeding the activity, not the activity just being a lead magnet.
When people see something with the intention to bring others together, if the message changes and becomes a lead generation tool, then people will see through it, instantly. The activity you proceed with has to keep going, in order to convince those who are looking in that what they see has the guts to keep going and not just fizzle out, just because a few people turned up over a six month period.
Connecting people to place.
This is about creating a shared identity. A community is more than a place where things happen. An affinity to a place can help long term success. As we become more connected to mobile and live behind screens, bringing people together, within everyday places helps to create a clear landscape. It doesn’t have to be grand. Activity doesn’t have to be within the confines of a national park or an expensive hotel. This is a drive towards localism.
Other people from further towns and cities, get it, come in and have a sense of connection.
When a message feeds out from a central place that has core values or an initiative that others find interesting, the door is open for them to join in. When the place has an affiliation with the message, it becomes easier to make a judgement that it all feels good. For instance, the You Are The Media 2019 kick-off event in January, was purposely put at a restaurant on the beach as there a number of people travelling from beyond a 20-mile radius.
Connecting people to place helps support loyalty as well as help you grow your audience. This has certainly happened with the You Are The Media project and also with the examples highlighted in this article.
When you practice what you preach in your own space and become vocal in joining up activity, you create belonging and meaning within the towns and cities we are part of. That is a strong place to be. This is what helps retain talent, be seen as attractive to others and is healthy for other businesses within a community (people come in and spend money in different places).
As Stewart Gilbert highlights, “Around the country and here in Bournemouth there are some interesting souls who have washed up on our shores either by accident or design with the potential to make it extraordinary. It is the people who create a real commercial and domestic sense of community.”
When you market your place, alongside what you market, other people join forces.
It is important to be of the places you represent, not just sell things from a town. This is how you build, this is how you can grow and everyone can benefit.