Attitude Matters in Place Branding

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about the role attitude can play in either enabling or derailing a community branding effort.  We talked about how attitude is key for high performance teams to exceed objectives and how difficult it can be to lead a place (or destination) branding effort when community leadership has a “glass half-empty” outlook.

We have all probably been involved in conversations where either private sector leaders or elected political officials focus on what is wrong with our community or bemoan the difficulty of creating an effective place brand to attract capital.  When leadership isn’t excited, it can be emotionally draining and is certainly a de-motivating for any team trying to position their community for capital attraction.  We’ve probably also all been involved in hosting a site visit where a bad impression is created because people in the community speak negatively about it to executive thinking about making a capital investment.

My colleague (who is an economic development professional) told me about an experience he had.  An old friend of his came to visit for a long weekend.  On his flight back home he happened to strike up a casual conversation with the passenger sitting next to him.  This person had nothing good to say about the community and in the course of a 10-minute discussion on everything that was wrong.  The stranger’s attitude was definitely “glass half empty”.  Upon arrival safely home my colleague’s friend called him, shared the discussion and empathized with the comment “You really have your work cut out for you.”  This random passenger’s attitude had created a lasting negative image about the community.

The story made me wonder – “How many times does this happen and at what cost to a community’s efforts to create a good impression?”  It also inspired me to try and compile a list of keys to creating positive attitudes in teams. So I did some online research and reflected on my 33-years in the private sector leading successful teams for Procter & Gamble.

TOP TEN TIPS TO CREATING A “GLASS HALF-FULL” ATTITUDE ON TEAMS

  1. Positivity leads to possibility thinking and is liberating.
  2. Personal ego and private agendas tend to derail a positive attitude on Teams.
  3. Inclusion is critical; people need to feel authentically involved.
  4. Genuine gratitude for contributions helps people want to contribute even more.
  5. Objectivity and willingness to challenge “sacred cow” assumptions creates trust.
  6. It is important to celebrate victories, no matter how small.
  7. Every problem presents an opportunity if you look for the learning.
  8. Putting people in positions where they can leverage their strengths creates confidence.
  9. Trust among team members (and supporters) is a foundation for success.
  10. Fun matters.

Then I found an absolutely remarkable story that not only succinctly summarized the keys to creating a positive attitude, but brought the principles to life in an unforgettable way.  I found the amazing story of Nick Vujicic. Please take a moment to watch the video about Nick before reading on. It will help put the lessons below in context.

LESSONS FROM NICK’S LIFE (and my translation for reapplication in economic development) –

Passion – Everybody involved need to believe that what you are doing will make a meaningful difference.  In my experience, understanding how the work will not only help make the local economy stronger today, but also create opportunities for the community’s children to succeed in the future helps stimulate passion.  This doesn’t happen automatically.  As a leader, you need to engage the community in a discussion about what success means to the future economic well being of the community.  And, you can’t simply have the conversation once.  You need to ensure everybody involved understands the potential impact of success, and you need to keep the vision alive by talking about it frequently.

Dream – You don’t want people simply building a wall brick-by-brick.  You want people building a cathedral.  The goal needs to be big and bold.  You know the goal is big when it feels just out of reach and will take work to achieve.  Putting a man on the moon is a great example of a dream that encouraged people to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to success.  You need to capture people’s heart not just their head.

Energy – Positive energy begets positive energy.  The saying “birds of a feather stick together” has merit.  People on your team with a positive attitude will attract other people to your project who bring a positive attitude.  Most important is that you set the example and keep a “glass half-full” attitude as well.  If you become negative, the team will begin to adopt a “glass half-empty” attitude and it will dramatically lower your probability of success.

Message – You need to be able to clearly and persuasively talk about your community’s brand promise and the benefits it provides capital investors who choose to evaluate your location for their business.  A good place (destination) branding exercise will lead to a differentiated, relevant, competitive and authentic message.  It is important everybody involved knows what the promise is and how to talk about it in a way that is both empowering and inspiring.

Motivation – Remember, it is not about you.  It’s about achieving the end result and doing what is right for your community.  Selfish motivations breed distrust and quickly erode attitude.  If decisions are focused on doing what is right and not just what is easy, then trust is enhanced.  Without a foundation of trust, nothing of significance can be accomplished.

Never Give Up – Leading a place (destination) branding effort is hard work.  So many things can go wrong.  So many people are involved.  How can you ever prevent somebody from speaking to a fellow passenger on a plane and unfairly trashing your community?  The fact is you can’t.  But, it is not a reason to give up.  There are plenty of positive things you can do to increase the probability your community brand promise will be heard and internalized by a potential capital investor.  Instead of having a “glass half-empty” attitude and complaining about what you can’t control, it is far better to have a “glass half-full” attitude and concentrate on making a difference on what you can influence.

Hopefully you watched the first video clip about Nick.  However, to really appreciate why I believe Nick’s story is an amazing demonstration of the power of a positive attitude, I encourage you to watch this second short video as well.  I am confident it will touch your heart and inspire your work.  Be forewarned, you are going to laugh and you may get a little misty eyed.  But, I guarantee you will conclude that no matter how challenging the work you are facing in branding your community, it is definitely an achievable objective.

Please leave a comment and share your perspective. By sharing, you help everybody get a better learning experience.

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6 Comments so far

  1. Lara William

    June 14, 2010

    Nice & informative article. Keep posting with best regards. Believe in short & Simple

  2. Amer Raja

    June 14, 2010

    Great post. Indeed, attitude is the real factor. Pessimism is cynicism while unrealistic optimism is delusion. Realistic optimism pays.

    Thanks for sharing Ed..

  3. Ray De Winkle

    June 17, 2010

    Excellent reminder – and Thank You for the video clips, they’re fantastic! We are often our own worst enemy regarding our communities. Why is it that it seems everyone’s favorite activity is thinking about the negatives in their community. It’s a free country – if your community is that bad, I challenge you to find the perfect community, and MOVE there! And, if you can’t find the perfect community, then please work to improve the one you live in, and look around for the positives. I guarantee you they are there. Look for them, recognize them, and talk about them to everyone.

  4. Carin Rockind

    July 13, 2010

    Ed, you’ve hit on a key point here. Attitude is EVERYTHING. People may not realize how much their POSITIVE attitude helps – and more so – how their negative attitude HURTS. I know dozens of examples like the one you mention in this story. They really, hurt, though when the negative attitude of one resident spoils the promise of a person moving to and/or investing in the area. I try to preach – when someone moves to your city, don’t ask “WHY???” – say “WELCOME – you’re going to love it here!” And if you can’t say that, then remember what Momma always said… If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.

    What is sad is that so many of the places which house negative residents don’t deserve it. I live in the Cleveland Plus region, a wonderful region with some of the nation’s top healthcare in the Cleveland Clinic and other insititutions, fastest growing medical device businesses with Phillips and others, the first proposed off-shore wind farm and the nation’s hub for fuel cell technology, with Rolls Royce. Plus, the nation’s second largest theater district, third most visited national park and one of the world’s best orchestras.

    Why would someone have a negative attitude about this place??

    Because it has changed – it is changing, and the national media dumps on it. Continuously. This public beating hurts these economies, and the residents’ attitudes, instead of helping. Communities that built this country – Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh – all led America to become the world power that it has enjoyed for so long. And then as the world shrunk and our nation’s economy diversified, these heroic legacy communities didn’t catch up as quickly. Now, they are working tirelessly to reinvent themselves. In the meantime, though, the national media beats them up – it’s like kicking your loyal, loving dog – kicking your best friend when he is already down.

    After enough kicking, someone – or a community – begins to feel defeated. People begin believing what others say and worse, they begin perpetuating that negative attitude.

    You are right, Ed, that positivity begets positivity… and negativity begets negativity. For all of those out there who continue to take negative digs on your own community, what what you get. But for those of you smart enough to have a positive attitude about your region and life – you watch what you get… and enjoy it because you deserve all the good that comes to you.

  5. Paul Scholar

    August 4, 2010

    I like Winston Churhhills quote “If you are going through hell, keep walking.”

  6. Susan Merryman

    August 17, 2010

    Ed – great post. I found it today when I needed some inspiration and positive thinking. Thank you!

6 Responses to “Attitude Matters in Place Branding”




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