The Strength Of Grounding Your Work In Your Town
Your work gains depth when it identifies with the place you live.
It becomes a powerful connection that echoes your values and identity. It also helps people make that association with you and what you do.
The association with the place you call home is something not many people highlight.
It’s not just about a place that provides a service or sells a product, it’s about creating a connection that becomes an indelible part of the community. This invites others to join in where it helps where you have already nurtured that physical space for people to become familiar.
When your work becomes a reflection of where you live, it helps create impact, fosters a sense of community and contributes to the the collective identity of the place you call home.
The Proof From Poole
My hometown is Poole and to me a source of pride. I was born here, I moved away when I was 18 and then I saw the place differently when I returned as an adult in their late 20s.
The majority of live YATM events happen within Poole.
Whether that is the regular Lunch Club events, the annual YATM Creator Day in the theatre, or the Friday sea swims, these gatherings happen in the different places where I like the idea of having a canvas to play with.
Sharing this allegiance makes it easier for others to connect. It is also an open invitation for people from other towns and cities to feel welcome and join the narrative.
We recently welcomed over from Australia, Trevor Young, who was a special guest for a Lunch Club and delivered a workshop the following day. It was important for Trevor to feel a part of the whole space, not just the moments he was required.
Trevor’s life on the other side of the world, also makes me realise that positive feelings associated with a place stay with people for a long time. Similarly, when your work is intertwined with a town, it becomes a memorable part of people’s experience. You create the space, you welcome people into the space and in turn, this builds rapport, fosters relationships and takes people on a journey with you.
Your work has an opportunity to be deeply connected to where you come from. Mark Schaefer, in his book Marketing Rebellion, aptly puts it, ‘Don’t be in a city. Be of the city.’ It’s about taking a step back, putting up a signpost that says, ‘I am here.’
Wherever you live and do business can help create a sense of place. It can become your differentiator.
Playing Local Advantage
When you push what you do to anyone and everyone, you are broadcasting to a vast sea.
When you actively participate in the place you call home, you create a ripple effect where you attract the right people who want to join in. They make a commitment, you reward that commitment.
You don’t shout, you actively make your town an extension of who you are, so when people arrive, they feel at home.
Consider the resonance of familiarity. I share all the activity we do, in Poole (or as Gordon Fong coined it #InPoole), deliberately making it inviting to others. For anyone who travels down, I want it to be the highlight of their week. We use the town around us to our advantage. This also highlights that smaller towns can have a significant place alongside bigger cities.
I treat where I live as a playground. It’s an active place to experiment, be visible and show what happens when people join in.
Our Friday swimming ritual is an example of showing what happens when a group of people support each other and that heading into the sea on a cold winter morning, can be done when we all thought that it would be a ridiculous activity to participate in. No matter where you live, viewing the world around you as a playground to test out ideas is a mindset that doesn’t confine itself to the digital realm.
The annual YATM Creator Day is located in the theatre in the town, The Lighthouse. I want to prove that reputable national events don’t have to be reserved for larger cities. We have what cities don’t have, the seaside. I recognise that living by the sea, has a unique advantage and for people visiting for the first time, it can conjure up that bucket and spade childlike reflection. Being a kid again is good for all of us. The seaside has a more emotive pull than generic terms such as ‘the south coast’ or ‘Dorset,’ or even worse, ‘a business event.’
This familiarity is not unique to Poole, it’s a thread that runs throughout the country. Having something that has meaning from a physical or emotional aspect that others can connect with is a powerful way to create a shared identity.
All activity in Poole becomes a part of the seaside and also a reflection of my values. When people come to the seaside, book their stay and experience the events, it puts the onus on making people feel welcome, appreciated, included, safe and at home. To make a difference it helps when people are welcomed with open arms.
Some Simple Ideas For You
If you want to start to lean into your home as an extension of who you are, here are some tips to make an impact.
Link your town to your story. A big sense of bonding for YATM has been the sea swimming, but for you, it could be a walk through a loved place or gathering people around a place that resonates with you. It could be peaceful, it could be lively. Share the unique aspects that make it special to you.
Find ways to bring in other people from your town and they become a part of the overall story. The intention is to make a connection with the wider community. It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are and the people who join in within the context of your town.
Are there ways to extend a helping hand in simple ways. It could be promoting someone else, it could be an event in another business premises that isn’t a national chain. You can create a sense of camaraderie and openness.
You have to find ways to introduce each other and build connections between you and others. Social media also becomes a tool to bring people together and not just self-promote. Unlock new conversions, create hashtags (we have #InPoole) and bind the community.
A Cultural Embrace
Make connecting and helping people a core aspect of your whole approach, both online and offline. What happens is that you embrace the cultural richness and relevance of your town.
Embracing Your Sense Of Place
Developing a sense of place and integrating into the fabric of a town extends far beyond the transactional goal of converting someone into a customer. It’s about committing to a longer game where a physical space gives you a grounding.
Having an initiative rooted (and being vocal) in a town signifies:
Unique Ways To Be Familiar
You have to innovate in a way that stands out in a community. If you are planning a networking event, it has to step aside from just another networking event. For instance, at YATM Lunch Club events we attempt to break World Records. We do this as icebreakers. You have to avoid direct competition with commonplace events. There is a place for everyone.
Sustain Genuine Engagement, Not Just Lead Generation
Activities designed to bring people together should remain true to their purpose. If you bring people together and it becomes a mere lead magnet exercise, its essence is diluted. Consistent engagement and people knowing it feels right for them are important. The activity is also there to convince onlookers that joining in is going to be worthwhile and that it won’t fizzle out after a brief surge of interest. When you keep going and recognise your audience, it builds.
Fostering a Connection Between People and Place
Beyond being a location where events occur, a community is about shared identity. An affinity to a place can contribute to long-term success. Where our lives are surrounded by digital interactions, bringing people together within everyday places creates a tangible and lasting landscape. Importantly, this drive towards localism doesn’t necessitate grandiosity; it can thrive in the simplicity of everyday places. We have YATM Lunch Club in a pizza restaurant. People don’t need to attend business lunches with three courses at a heavy cost in a chain of hotels, just to put on their business persona.
Welcoming People Into The Fold
When a message comes from a central place with defined values or a worthwhile initiative, it becomes an open invitation for those from other towns and cities to join in. The affiliation of the place with the message creates a judgment-free space that feels inherently good. This opens the door for others to connect, join in and actively participate.
Prioritise Care And Commerce
The driving force helps when there is a sense of pride and a desire for people to look around and think ‘this place is great.’ This is far more rewarding where you rent a space, people attend a space and never look around and we all move on. A proud town, nurtured by genuine care, is more likely to be a happy and desirable place to feel a part of.
Weaving your narrative into the town’s fabric is what gives longevity to your efforts. It’s about building, growing, and collectively benefiting from the unique tapestry that emerges when you are not just in a place but truly of the place.
Connecting people to a place not only fosters loyalty but also aids in audience growth. This has been evident in the progress of You Are The Media over the past ten years.
When you embody what you advocate in your own space, vocalising connections and activities, you create belonging within the towns and cities you are part of. This strength is pivotal for talent retention, attractiveness to others, and overall economic health within the community.
In the words of Seth Godin, “The internet is a place great for discovery – but it is not a place where you will get discovered.” In a world where online visibility is crucial, grounding your work in the local landscape is a powerful strategy.
When you market your place alongside what you market, other people join forces. This is how you build, this is how you can grow, and everyone, from individuals to businesses, can benefit.
Embrace the strength of being not just in a place but truly of the place, weaving your narrative into the town’s fabric, building, growing, and collectively benefiting from the opportunity that is integral to people’s lives.