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Telling the Authentic Story of Your Community

What does it mean for economic development professionals to “tell their story” more effectively? This was the question posed to professionals throughout the state at the recent Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA) Annual Conference.

The conference theme was “Telling Your Story” and it permeated throughout three days of sessions, where panelists and guest speakers discussed the ways in which economic development organizations could break through the noise, and craft unique messaging for difference audiences.

Monday morning opened with keynote speaker, Ron Kitchens, CEcD, who took the theme to heart as he delved into the ways in which economic developers can make a long-term, impactful difference, and engage with their communities.

“We know that jobs don’t just happen, it takes preeminent economic developers to change lives and communities,” said Kitchens“it takes people with extraordinary excellence that make it the standard of performance. That’s who you all are.”

There were a series of break-out panels that addressed how to find your unique story, tools and techniques to tell those stories, how to measure success, and changing your messaging to reach site selectors – a full spectrum of insights for the state’s top organizational leaders and economic developers.

The “Finding Your Unique Story” panel discussed how to identify your unique story, and spread it to the masses. Three key areas focused were: identifying your audience; understanding what differentiates you; and collecting data.

“Baltimore has a great story. We’ve got great arts, we’ve got the water, we’ve got great history…but we really wanted to get the ‘real Baltimore feel’ to tell the story,” said Al Hutchinson, President & CEO of Visit Baltimore, about their #MyBmore video campaign. “It’s a part of storytelling where you want to be authentic.”

What had initially started as a campaign to include various famous Baltimoreans was eventually scrapped in an effort to bring a true sense of authenticity to #MyBmore. No one can represent Baltimore as well as its residents; no one can shape the narrative better than those who live and work here. Visit Baltimore eventually collaborated with local talent to bring the video campaign to fruition, creating a story that is both relatable and impactful.

Interesting insights from the Site Selection session was that the “Live. Work. Play.” campaigns are tired and generic at this point. Companies looking at your community want to see transparency of process, with government systems are efficient and easy to work with.

Presenter Scott Pollock, Senior Vice President, Juniper Solutions suggested showcasing your community’s unique character and highlighting the local quality of life. Make an emotional connection about why a company’s employees might want to put down roots in your community.

The final day of conference featured keynote speaker, Melanie Spring, who spoke about how to tell great stories with heart and authenticity—two words that had surfaced throughout the event and were clearly the center of MEDA’s 2018 central theme. Following Spring’s address came two final panels that focused on the progression of innovative storytelling through the use of technology. Expanding upon Spring’s keynote on integrating authenticity into your narrative, the two panels discussed how rapidly advancing technology is giving organizations more creative—and widespread—platforms to share their missions and successes.

The Annual Conference, held April 29 to May 1 at the Hyatt Regency, Chesapeake Bay, was an opportunity for Maryland’s economic influencers to discuss the responsibilities and progress of local economic development organizations, while also celebrating success stories from across the state. This year’s agenda left attendees feeling contemplative and excited for the future of their counties, their organizations, and looking forward to next year’s event.

Read more about the conference and a re-cap of the sessions that were presented here: <>.

Michele Whelley - President & CEO

"We want you to be informed about Greater Baltimore. Don't be shy; please ask."

Michele Whelley
President & CEO

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