Thoughts on Leading a Successful Place Branding Initiative

Ed BurghardBroad based support and enrollment of both public and private sector leaders is important to the sustainable success of any place branding initiative. In many respects, this can be the toughest part of the process because local leaders will have a strong emotional connection with your place and a heartfelt opinion of how it should be positioned to others. Your skill in managing the process is critical to ensuring enthusiastic alignment with and successful funding/execution of the place branding initiative.

Here are some thoughts based on my experience you may find helpful.

  1. Get to know your community thought leaders as individuals. Group meetings are great for providing updates and getting work done. But meeting one-on-one with people helps you better understand their personal point of view and expectations. This information can be critical for initiative success. But, it takes time.
  2. Be consistent. It is hard to put trust in somebody who is constantly changing his or her mind or position. Focus on communicating the principles underpinning the project choices and people will be more open to a change in direction because it will be easier for them to understand the underlying rationale.
  3. Make sure you are authentic. Walk the talk or don’t speak.
  4. Be a servant leader. You need to give credit to others. It is okay to accept credit occasionally, but never “take” credit. Place branding is a team activity.
  5. Minimize politics. Be open and honest about everything. There is no such thing as a hidden agenda, everything becomes public sooner or later and people resent feeling manipulated. If you stay focused on delivering the mission your motives will be transparent and appreciated.
  6. Listen for cries of help. Successful place branding requires a lot of volunteer participation. It is important to keep track of activities and when timetables begin to slip you need to step in and help ensure the resources required are available for success. Many times this means you will have to help your volunteers secure those resources. You need to embrace enabling success as your job.

Here are some references that provide a deeper understanding of how to successfully lead complex initiatives.

http://www.leader-values.com/Content/detail.asp?ContentDetailID=783

http://www.leadersdirect.com/servant.html

http://managementhelp.org/grp_skll/grp_cnfl/grp_cnfl.htm

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