Best of 2012 Report


Everybody publishes a “look back at 2012” type article at the start of a new year. At the risk of being cliché, I thought I would follow the herd and share the top 10 most read blog posts of 2012. If you haven’t read them, I hope you will. These are the posts that captured visitor’s attention. I am always surprised at what rises to the top each year, and genuinely humbled by the amazing reception.

This year I am implementing a corporate advertising sponsorship model. Advertising funding will help me make the Strengthening Brand America Project even more useful to you, and will allow me to invest in building awareness of the website within the economic development profession. One of the ways I will use to encourage companies to sponsor the site is to share feedback from visitors (like yourself) regarding the value of the information provided. If you get a moment, please visit THIS LINK and provide a comment.

Without further adieu, here are the Top Ten blog posts for 2012.


New e-Book on Strategic Planning  – Through my involvement as a founding Board member of the Nemacolin Energy Institute, I have the opportunity to discuss the development of shale energy with industry CEOs and academicians. From that vantage point, I became concerned that many of the communities being impacted by the shale energy industry were ill prepared to manage their economic development in a way that would minimize the risk of experiencing a boom:bust cycle. I took what I have learned about effective strategic planning and authored this eBook. While it is written with those communities in mind, any community can use the process described to create a strategic plan. If you are working on creating a strategic plan, consider downloading this eBook for some “how-to” insights.

Is Advertising a Waste of Money?  – I wrote this post because I was getting frustrated with the poor quality of advertising I was seeing when reading my favorite economic development journals. Having managed an EDO, I know how tight budgets are and investing in a poorly designed ad is a complete waste of money. The main message of this post is – “If you are going to advertise, do it right.” The reaction to this post has been great. I think it deals with a question that Boards of Directors ask frequently. If you are considering advertising as part of your 2013 promotional plan, consider reading this post.

Key Criteria of a Great Advertisement – It is one thing to say you need to create a good advertisement, and quite another to explain what good looks like. This post explores the question of – “What makes a good ad?” It can be used as a checklist to evaluate your current advertising or as a source of inspiration to create a new advertisement. I tried to share what I learned over my 33-year career as a private sector marketer and translated those learnings into the world of economic development. If you have an active effort underway to create an advertisement, this post will be helpful.

Gap Analysis – This post came out of a coffee conversation I had with an economic development professional colleague who was struggling with writing a strategic plan. She was drowning in data and could not figure out how to analyze the data to frame strategies. She was suffering from “analysis paralysis”. It got me wondering if more ED professionals were struggling with the same challenge. I shared with her (and describe in the post) the gap analysis process that has served me well my entire career. If you are having difficulty deciding how to determine what to do to improve your community’s competitiveness, this post will give you an easy to follow process that may help.

Articulating Your Brand Promise  – I am a big advocate of investing time in defining your brand promise and then using it to guide your strategic direction. But, a poorly written promise can often do more harm than good. I wrote this post to try and make writing a brand promise an easy exercise. In it there are tips on what a good brand promise looks like. If you cannot articulate your brand promise, or believe it is less than clear, this post may help.

Key Questions For Project Scope Definition  – As a manager, I learned the importance of being clear in delegating work. As a consultant, I appreciate the need to set appropriate expectations around project process and deliverables. I am amazed at how frequently a client (or manager) will change project parameters and not adjust the project scope and pricing. This post provides a set of power questions to ask when first taking on a project. You don’t need to be a consultant to use the information in this post. If you are expected to execute or delegate projects, this post provides you insights on how to ensure clarity around performance expectations.

Three Moments of Truth  – When I first got involved in place branding, I asked a number of economic development professionals to provide me an overview of the site selection decision process. Nobody was able to give me a reasonable end-to-end description. So, I created the Three Moments of Truth model to help me better understand how the decision is made. As an Executive Director of an EDO, I used this model to guide choices around promotional investment and set conversion targets for each key Moment of Truth. If you want a different way of looking at the way you are investing time and money, this post will give you some unique insights that may be helpful.

Ethics in Advertising and Promotion – I got frustrated with an emerging trend in economic development toward negative advertising. My experience in the private sector suggests this is a no-win spiral to the bottom and I wanted to do something to help curtail the practice. This led to a very productive conversation with IEDC leadership and a renewed emphasis on discussing the subject in the IEDC’s general course on ethics. If ethics are important to you, and you are interested in my take on the subject, this post is worth a read.

Don’t Confuse Brand Promise and Advertising Campaign – One of the observations I made from talking with a wide range of economic development professionals, was how often they said they wanted to engage an Agency to rebrand their community when in fact they simply wanted the Agency to create a new campaign. Rebranding is an exercise that involves revisiting and potentially rewriting your brand promise. It is predominantly a strategic exercise. Campaign development is a creative exercise focused on finding a heart and mind opening way to communicate your brand promise. When I explained the difference, I often saw the “light go on”. Consequently, I decided to write a post that addresses the difference so even more people might benefit. If you think you need to rebrand your community, read this posts before you spend any money.

Message Map – Keeping a focus on articulating your brand promise is always difficult. In my private sector career, I learned an easy process that helps you think through how to articulate your brand promise across different audiences and situations. You can also use this process to help align different organizations in your community to your key messages. If you have a problem speaking with one voice, this post may help you address it.


Thank you for being a faithful visitor to the website. I am often asked why I started and maintain the website. The answer is simple – I want to make a personal difference. Skeptics see it as my way to solicit RFPs. But, the truth is I only do project work for close friends. This website is all about creating a community of practice that will help improve the quality of local place branding across the United States.

Your words of encouragement are extremely gratifying and genuinely appreciated. They are what keep me moving forward to achieve the Strengthening Brand America mission.

I look forward to providing even greater educational value in 2013. Together I am absolutely confident we can Strengthen Brand America.

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