Destination Branding For Small Cities

A review of Bill Baker’s latest book

At AM:PM PR we like to keep a pulse on trends and thought leadership related to the public relations industry, especially in subjects that we find interesting. To this end we hold weekly meetings we call “PR 3.0” where we invite PR professionals, job seekers and business executives to join us to talk about the latest developments in social media technologies.

However, we take this interest to all aspects of our work and last week I purchased a book by local Portland author Bill Baker titled “Destination Branding for Small Cities.” In this book Mr. Baker draws upon over 30 years experience working in over 25 countries helping communities with their branding and marketing. His book illustrates the case for the destination branding and marketing of small cities and towns.

Interestingly, the book arrived into my possession around the same time The Oregonian published an article saying Bicycling contributes $400 million to Oregon tourism. Do you think this isn’t destination branding? If anything, it’s a warning shot to all bike-related businesses in the region, telling them that they’d better rope themselves into the branding language if they want to take advantage of this large portion of the local economy.

The bike piece comes after a piece from CNN that says Portland is America’s top beer town. Then in the Huffington Post, Portland was cited in a study by Intuit as a top city for female entrepreneurs.

This could all be crazy coincidence, but in reality it’s the result of a successful destination branding campaign that has consciously (and sometimes, subconsciously) been part of the collective marketing efforts of cities and businesses in the region during the past decade. Bike lanes, pet friendly hotels, famous bands, beer tours, distillery row and words like “artisan”, “craft”, “eco” and even our food carts are all under the umbrella of a successful destination branding campaign. It’s successful because the campaign comes from the top down and is adopted by other businesses and organizations looking to take advantage of the media limelight. Further, our regional campaign is based upon an authenticity that builds when families move to the area seeking a quality of life that we foster and encourage in Portland.

I found the book to be thought-provoking and a must read for anyone sitting on the board of a chamber of commerce or related tourism organization – even if you aren’t directly involved in the marketing, public relations or branding committee. It’s important for people to have a better understanding of the principles presented in this book so they act as a resource, team player, or in the case of small businesses – identify the greater destination branding at play, and use it to their advantage.

For more: “Destination Branding for Small Cities.”