Fish Where the Fish Are

My Board Chairman introduced me to fly fishing a few years ago.  It is a fantastic sport that requires technical skills and field insight.  But, there are also lessons that can be learned from successful fly fishermen to make you a better economic development professional.

Fly Fishing

One of the first things you learn about in fly fishing is how to read the water.  It is all about learning where the fish are likely to be.  The reason for this is fairly intuitive.  If you want to successfully catch a fish you need to cast your fly to a location where there are fish.  Doing so doesn’t guarantee success, but it does set up possibility for success.  Casting to water where there are no fish obviously guarantees failure.  Bottom line, if you want to catch fish cast where the fish are.

In community branding, the same lesson holds true.  If you want to influence a capital investment decision, then you need to invest in communicating your brand promise in media channels where your target CEO is.  If you do, it doesn’t guarantee your community will be selected for due diligence review.  But, it does increase your odds of success for being considered as a location option.  Invest in telling your story in channels that your target CEO does not use is like casting where there are no fish.  It essentially guarantees failure.

I am hoping you are thinking “No-Duh”.  It honestly is that simple.  But, I have found that when the subject of social media comes up, people seem to lose their common sense.  Rather than assess the channel to see if their CEO target is engaged in sufficient numbers to warrant an investment, many economic development professionals will argue that they need to invest in the channel because either 1) the competition is, or 2) they believe they can’t afford not to.

I have written on this subject previously.  Here is a selection of prior posts –

Make up Your Own Mind About Social Media

Is Your Potential Capital Investor Participating In Social Media?

Creating an Effective Online Presence

Does Your Social Media Effort Have a Sound Strategy


HubSpot is one of my favorite resources for information on website and social media management.  Here are three charts the people at HubSpot put together to provide some insight into the world of social media.

I believe communicating with CEOs looks more like B2B than B2C.  In the world of social media, LinkedIn is the clear leader in reaching the business community.  Chances are that you will find more potential capital investors on LinkedIn than other social media channels.

Hubspot Referral Chart

LinkedIn also seems to be the most effective channel for generating B2B conversions.  So, if your strategic objective is to impact the CEO perception of your community, then LinkedIn feels like a channel you will want to explore carefully.

HubSpot B2B Conversion Chart

If your strategic intent is to mobilize the citizens of your community, then the data would suggest Facebook and Twitter are potentially great channel choices to communicate with that audience.

HubSpot B2C Conversion Chart


Fish where the fish are.  If you are going to use social media as part of your communication mix, have a clear target audience in mind and select the channel that does the best job of providing you the most reach.  Get a sound strategic foundation in place and then make appropriate tactical choices that are supported by your strategic plan.

And yes, it honestly is that simple.


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4 Comments so far

  1. paska nayden

    May 28, 2011

    I love the eloquence of fly fishing – great way saying the same as when I tell clients – go where the eye balls are. If your clients are on Facebook or reading the wall street journal – you must have presence to be found and sought after with relevant and useful information in the space your client is spending time. Thanks for posting the stats.

  2. David Goldfarb

    May 29, 2011

    The analogy is wonderful. That’s exactly what media usually do: gather an audience and offer them to marketers as eager eyes and ears.

    But there’s another element that’s close to my heart: the message itself. One of my mentors, John Straiton, offered the observation that, “If the research is shared equally and if the media departments do their job professionally, the only difference between one ad agency and another is the creative department.” Needless to say, John was a very good copywriter and creative director.

    So, applying this to the stream analogy let me inject this: the use of social media can be rationalized but the open question is the messaging. The successful fly fisherman not only finds an active stream, he (or she) reads the water surface to see what’s hatching on the day. He then ties on exactly what’s making them bite. And then if he doesn’t have one in inventory, he creates the appropriate fly that exactly matches the circumstances right on the spot. Not only that, he presents the fly to the target in the most natural and appetizing way possible so the fish leaps to the lure on its own.

    My concern is the maintenance of brand identity through social media messaging. The target should not have one experience in social media and another in traditional media. There’s only one brand. It’s up to us to make sure its impression is clear and consistent.

    I’m willing to wager that if one brook trout is offered two different flies, it bites on neither.

  3. admin

    May 31, 2011

    @ David – It is clear that you know your way around both fly fishing and effective communication 🙂

  4. Debrah

    July 6, 2011

    Superbly illuminating data here, thanks!

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