[Originally posted on PRWeek.com.]
For a long time, the thing to do was “Go global.”
It wasn’t that hard, and got increasingly easier, with the evolution of technology and the availability of goods and services from pretty much anywhere. Compared with previous generations, we are all more globally connected and aware, and more affected by global events.
What is localism? In short: global awareness with a local focus. Havas PR North America has been tracking this trend we spotted at least eight years ago and using it to great success in the way we approach business, for both our clients and ourselves. We have gone hyperlocal in our strategic PR programming, and we have been living the trend in our offices in Pittsburgh, Phoenix and Providence. All are flourishing in their markets with an emphasis on local accounts. With so many factors converging to carry localism to new heights, Havas PR commissioned a nationwide study to determine who has become more interested in what’s local and to what degree. Download the resulting report, “Localism: The New American Mindset” (and individual reports from the four states where we have offices), on our White Papers page.
[Originally posted on Forbes.com.]
In my last post, I wrote about how new concepts are being crowdsourced and incubated, new people are creating new business models, new apps are changing every facet of life, new places are hot, the old is being reinvented to be relevant again, and some simple pleasures are more pleasurable than ever—all the reasons that my work as a trendspotter didn’t ease up after I released a flurry of trend reports for 2015. Already my notebooks and digital files are filling up with ideas of what might be next. Not all of this will make it onto next year’s official lists, of course. Some may fizzle out while others go viral. But since transparency has long since gone from being a trend to being an incontrovertible fact of life, it’s time to share a little work in progress.
Although the Steelers are on the skids, the Pittsburgh office of Havas PR keeps scoring. Last Thursday, they won six Golden Triangles from the International Association of Business Communicators’ local chapter: two Awards of Excellence, for writing (a bylined article for Bayer MaterialScience) and media relations (for the One Young World summit in Pittsburgh last year), and four Awards of Honor, for poster design (the “Checklist for Access” for the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association), communication management (for One Young World), speech writing (Transitions Optical’s North America Marketing keynote at Transitions Academy) and employee/member communication (also for Transitions Optical, our 20th award for work for our longtime client in the past four years alone, for the “Vision and Values” statement we developed for the company).
[Originally posted on Forbes.com.]
I’ve written a lot about how places make us and we make places—cities like San Antonio, Providence and Pittsburgh reinventing themselves and becoming newly trendy. But then there are those places that have been trendy for decades. Or rather, are just so plain cool that they transcend trendy.
I’m thinking about Austin, which has remained true to its “Keep Austin Weird” bumper sticker spirit for years and years, but which suddenly seems to be having a moment. It’s not just the Texas capital of cool; it’s a national epicenter of aspiration. We’re in the grips of Austin envy.
Case in point, the series finale of “The Office,” a show many of us could relate to if no one actually aspired to it. Pam and Jim finally stop pushing paper, get out of the Dunder Mifflin office in Scranton and move to their version of Oz: Austin. They’re following Jim’s business partner Darryl, who describes his new home as “incredible … it’s hot, the music is awesome and the tacos are for real.” Dwight later makes a crack about the art, music and “incredible nightlife.”
“Austin’s Chamber of Commerce couldn’t ask for a better TV plug!” quipped one Texas blogger (who expressed envy of her own, wishing the love had been heaped on her San Antonio instead).
The quirky quality of life is hard to argue with (August temperatures notwithstanding)—a food truck especially for dogs and scads of pet photographers landed it on one recent top 10 list of cities for dogs, and the “colorful people-watching” at its swimming holes is one thing that earned Austin a spot on Travel + Leisure’s Best U.S. Cities for Affordable Getaways. But the city’s appeal goes far deeper than warm winters and good Mexican food.
It’s home to techies and hippies. The culture is laid-back but successful. Industry flourishes, but it’s not a one-industry town. The business climate is friendly. It attracts smart people who don’t want to be slaves to the grind. And its innovation power is only growing: It was No. 51 on the Innovation Cities Global Index in 2011 and moved up to 43 in 2012-13.
If you took the best qualities of Palo Alto and Berkeley and put them together—minus the former’s overambitious striving and exorbitant cost of living, and the latter’s business-unfriendliness and occasional burnout factor—you’d end up with a place like Austin. It has kept itself weird.
And weird has cachet. Austin has characteristics that don’t quite add up but somehow work together. The city is a lefty oasis in one of the reddest states in the union. The liberals who define the culture and ethos—quite a few of them grads of the University of Texas (and brainiacs from the engineering schools at Rice who didn’t care for Houston politics)—kept their progressive sensibilities after they left the quad. UT is, in fact, a big factor itself, a massive institution that has marketed itself well and drawn ambitious students from around the state and beyond.
Austin also draws ambitious graduates. I’d argue it’s the No. 1 place college graduates want to live. The Atlantic placed it at No. 3 a couple of years ago, thanks to very respectable unemployment stats; the percentage of people in technical, professional, management or creative jobs; and the percentage of people with a college degree. It was No. 1 in percentage of young people between ages 25 and 34. But that metrics-based analysis didn’t take into consideration Austin’s appealing weirdness—the dog food carts and hippie swimming holes—or its relative affordability and quality of life.
Despite the glow of mecca for new grads and millennials, though, truth be told, there aren’t an abundant number of jobs in Austin, and lots who flock there do so for the joy that comes from being semi-employed in a place where quality of life has been so well promoted. The reality: Top employers are a mix of government, university, high-tech, blue-collar, music and business—and not an abundance of the latter, more the halo from development centers for tech companies and the “Austin City Limits” mystique that Willie Nelson’s very essence keeps alive. And in this age of green, it doesn’t hurt that Whole Foods is headquartered in this clean-air city. (Yin meet yang: So strict about how it “polices” air quality, Austin is also Texas’s most liberal city on lots of other counts.)
If there’s anything that symbolizes Austin envy, it’s SXSW. The festival, which ran for the 27th time this past March, has managed to remain cool while becoming commercial. What started out as a scruffy festival attended largely by college kids and music fans has grown to having a reputation as “the biggest and most anticipated convergence of all things music” (as the conference’s website puts it), but the music is arguably secondary now. The real glamour is at SXSW Interactive, a must-make stop on the global digerati circuit.
Like SXSW, Austin (nicknamed Silicon Hills) is an incubator of creativity, a place where people know they can find like-minded collaborators and where an appearance can make a reputation. It’s a party that’s not to be missed.
I’ve had countess conversations with placemakers in other cities recently (Tucson and Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, to name two), and we’re still trying to decode the Austin secret sauce—barbecue sauce, if you will—that has made it desirable, trendy and magical but ensured that demand outpaces supply.
[photo: creativecommons.org/Delwin Steven Campbell]
We’ve always said that we’re grounded in media, strategy, client service and community (it’s right at the bottom of this page), and our latest award triumphs wrap up that phrase in neat little packages. In Bulldog Reporter’s Media Relations Awards competition, we won silver for PR Innovation of the Year for our work in bringing the One Young World global summit to Pittsburgh, then galvanizing a massive, cohesive, collaborative effort from the city’s business, government and nonprofit leaders. @havaspr was also honored with two Bronze awards: Best Issue/Cause Advocacy Campaign for our 2012 work as agency of record for Ford’s Warriors in Pink breast cancer initiative, and Best Campaign Under $10,000 for our media strategy for the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s annual Stand Up for Heroes fundraiser and related events.
Where in the world was Havas PR Senior Account Executive Angela Mineo last Friday evening? Meeting youth leaders from the ICPD Global Youth Forum while being entertained by Justin Timberlake, Timbaland and others at the pre-Grammys mPowering Action launch party. Those young leaders and the United Nations Foundation co-hosted the event. Mineo was an instrumental part of the @havaspr team that won and hosted the One Young World youth leadership summit in Pittsburgh last September; ICPD’s forum has a similar mission to empower young people to take positive action on important global topics. All in a night’s work.
[Originally posted on the Huffington Post.]
This is the ninth in a series of 14 posts expanding on Salzman’s forecasts for 2013 in her annual trends report, a program of global communications group Havas Worldwide. This year’s book, What’s Next? What to Expect in 2013, was published on 12/12/12 and is available at 120MBooks.com. Salzman is CEO of Havas PR North America and an internationally respected trendspotter.
If you had been offered a trip to Bilbao in the early 1990s, you probably would have asked, “Where is it?” and “What’s there?” It’s in northern Spain and, until 1997, with the launch of the legendary $228 million Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Museum, the best answer to that second question might’ve been “Good food.”
With Gehry’s building acting as a magnetic branding device, the city attracted almost 800,000 new overnight stays annually in the 10 years since its opening, and the trend has continued through the gloomy global economy. More than just a visitor attraction, the museum was part of a bigger plan to regenerate a fading industrial port city. It worked. It’s a case study that has prompted governments and investors around the world to hope there’s a magic formula for putting their place on the map—a variation on the line in Field of Dreams: If you build a great new building, they will come.
Now, architects are global superstars tasked to work magic with dazzling creations. Every time a city commissions the likes of Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Sir Norman Foster, Daniel Liebeskind, Zaha Hadid or Santiago Calatrava, it’s longing for the next Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Sydney Opera House. Dubai, for one, has invested heavily in architecture to become a desirable destination; its Burj Al Arab hotel is one of the most distinctive new buildings in the world. For a study in contrasts, check out the Eden Project. Located in an abandoned clay pit in the sparsely populated English county of Cornwall, it’s a complex of geodesic domes that serves as tourist attraction/charity and social enterprise; the venture has attracted almost 13 million visitors since its 2001 opening and added more than $1 billion to the local economy.
It doesn’t always take a new signature building to put a place on the map. The three-part epic movie Lord of the Rings did more to make faraway New Zealand a tourist destination than the most creative new building ever could have. Cult-hit TV crime drama “The Killing” has boosted international interest in Copenhagen, which is much appreciated by the Danish tourist board.
There’s nothing new in the need for places to grow their appeal and maintain it. Throughout history, attractive locations have acted as a magnet for people, economic activity and cultural life, which all boosted their power and attractiveness. What has changed is that globalization has increased the speed, geographical range and intensity of competition among locations. Cheap flights have made it easy for footloose tourists to go anywhere that takes their fancy, so growing numbers of places are trying to create and communicate (more) reasons for visitors to choose them. Powerful global communications links make it possible for businesses and employees to move wherever they find conditions most favorable.
Anywhere, Nowhere or Somewhere
The name of the game is placemaking—building the unique identity and appeal of a location. It’s about the transformation of a nowhere place that’s off the beaten track, or an anywhere place that’s superficially like thousands of others, into a somewhere—a distinctive place with its own attractive personality. The stakes can be high, but the payoff can make it well worth the price; the cost of not playing can be a city or even a whole country that languishes.
Austin could have been just another nice little town in Texas. But a dedicated local music joint sowed seeds that sprouted into more venues, attracted more musicians and turned Austin into the Live Music Capital of the World. A local festival organized in 1987 morphed into SXSW, one of the world’s premier annual events encompassing film, interactive and music festivals and conferences. Now for millions of people, Austin is the biggest star in the Lone Star State.
Savannah was on its way to becoming just another steamy Southern town whose genteel decline was being hastened by careless development. Then, in 1994, a nonfiction novel about the city, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, became a best-seller and a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Savannah spotted its chance, visitors discovered its attractive architecture and climate, and the city has become home to young artists and young-at-heart retirees.
Pittsburgh has transformed steep industrial decline into a post-industrial renaissance. Once simultaneously lit up and darkened by steel mills, the city became a rusting hulk of unemployment after the industry departed and left more than 1,000 acres of abandoned, blighted industrial land. Then a commitment to redevelopment and renewal gave it new open-air amenities; new jobs in healthcare, technology, finance, research, hospitality and tourism; and a thriving cultural scene. A famous place has been remade: The Steel City ranked as the most livable in the United States for 2011.
Even before the economic crisis, plenty of places were keen to turn their fortunes around and were taking steps to make it happen, from Detroit and Omaha, Neb., to Richmond, Va., and Charleston, S.C. The past five years have given the process added urgency.
It’s not just under-the-radar cities driving the placemaking trend; previously déclassé areas of big cities are creating their own identities. Brooklyn, for one, is stepping out of the shadow of Manhattan to take its place in the sun as an area for hip young professionals, and the 2012 Olympics gave new impetus to the rise of happening East London.
The last few years have shown that we are in the era of placemaking, where any city can be turned into a destination for business and tourism alike.
In this season of giving thanks, the Pittsburgh office of Havas PR is celebrating the 12 Days of Havas by reaching out to express our enormous gratitude to so many people who contributed countless hours to the success of the 2012 One Young World summit in Pittsburgh in October.
One Young World, a nonprofit founded by Havas Worldwide Global CEO David Jones and U.K. Group Chairman Kate Robertson, convenes the world’s best and brightest next generation of leaders in their 20s at an annual summit, where they examine the most pressing global issues and are motivated to take action toward overcoming them in their communities and places of business. Though One Young World (OYW) is young, having just completed its third summit, it is modeled after the long renowned World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where today’s reigning leaders in business, government, philanthropy and academia meet to find solutions to the challenges plaguing our global society.
Pittsburgh business and nonprofit leaders worked very hard to have the city selected to host the 2012 OYW summit. Then they rolled out the red carpet to ensure that the 1,300 young leader delegates from 187 countries enjoyed a rich, welcoming and inspiring four-day experience.
There are literally thousands of people to thank for their efforts in letting Pittsburgh shine on the world stage. This week, as part of the 12 Days of Havas, we are beginning to write letters of thanks to everyone, including:
So much heavy lifting was needed for this summit. But thousands of Pittsburghers couldn’t have been happier to do it. The response from our international guests? Pure joy and enlightenment! Pittsburgh is not traditionally a celebrated world city. But it is now. During this celebratory season, we know the positive word about Pittsburgh has traveled to all ends of the globe. And here in our city, we’re grateful for the thousands who welcomed the world and showed them everything Pittsburgh has to offer.
You can thank Pittsburgh, too, with your special note to #oyw.
[Originally posted on Forbes.com.]
In our ever more digitized and virtual world, the centers of power are shifting. It’s not about establishment capitals anymore but innovative up-and-comers, where a critical mass of creativity is bringing about rapid-fire change, along with a good quality of life and a sense of like-minded community.
Some cities have been smoking hot for a while now; others are just recently catching fire. They share a lot of DNA, generally having universities, an investment-friendly culture and political will to support innovation. But perhaps most important is the human factor.
Palo Alto, Calif., is aflame, partly because of Stanford University, but let’s also count the Steve Jobs factor; Apple mania (led by Jobs) was what really stoked the fire, as did the arrival of the face of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, in 2004. Even now that Jobs is deceased and Zuckerberg married and IPO’ed, young tech entrepreneurs still move to the town Jobs called home since the mid-1990s in hopes of living the same dream: making a corporate brand and a name in a place (population: 65,000) where everyone comes to know your name.
What really strikes me about this trend of people making places, though, is the new crop of cities that have made it thanks to leaders whose names remain unknown. These leaders have succeeded in juicing their city’s brand without really enhancing their own—at least not yet.
Pittsburgh shook off its rusty old steel-town identity and became a center of youthful hipness and digital cool, no doubt a reflection of its 32-year-old mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, who first became mayor when he was 26—one of the youngest mayors of a major city in American history. But that certainly didn’t stop him from launching ambitious, innovative endeavors right from the start.
The first was the Pittsburgh Promise, a program created to revitalize the city by making higher education accessible to all public school students regardless of income or need. As of June, the scholarship fund had grown to $160 million in four years. Then Ravenstahl trained his sights on technical, environmental and economic innovation—and did it so well that in 2009 the Obama administration opted to host the G-20 in Pittsburgh, citing its “industries that are creating the jobs of the future.” It’s a place with “world-class culture,” says Forbes, that transformed itself after the collapse of the steel industry. And that was before Ravenstahl embarked on his 11-point plan to solidify Pittsburgh’s Third Renaissance, which includes initiatives to boost the healthcare and education industries, use the best technology to improve government, finish riverfront development and enhance public education.
Perhaps because of his millennial mindset, Ravenstahl focused on community and collaboration throughout. A prime example is his servePGH initiative, designed to help achieve the goals of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Its goal is making the most of human capital by focusing on volunteerism around his top priorities: neighborhood revitalization and youth.
Ravenstahl had precedent. As mayor of Providence, R.I., for 21 years starting in 1975, when he was 33, Buddy Cianci turned the boarded-up city into a mecca for entrepreneurs and weekend tourists—so much so that it was named Best Place to Live in the Northeast by Money and Cianci was reelected five times and voted Most Innovative Mayor by the Association of Government Officials.
Cianci couldn’t focus on high-tech back in the ’70s, so his emphasis was on historic preservation and neighborhood revitalization. He gave new life to the downtown area with the ambitious River Relocation Project, which uncovered and redirected three rivers to form Water Place Park. This renaissance, in turn, led to the development of fashionable hotels, a high-end shopping center, a convention center and a sports venue (with a new hockey team inside); once things reached a tipping point, they took on a life of their own. Cianci’s revitalization extended to the zoo and to neighborhoods, with new schools, recreation facilities and beautification projects. Even after stepping down as mayor (and into a radio host chair and onto the lecture circuit), he remains a towering figure in city history.
San Antonio is newly on my radar—partly because it’s one of those midsize cities in a warm climate that boomers are flocking to in order to reinvent themselves and embark on second (slightly slower) acts—but also because of its mayor, Julián Castro, who turned heads as a speaker at this year’s Democratic National Convention (the next Obama?). He has injected personality and verve into a city that never used to command much attention. His vision includes making the power-hungry Sun Belt city into a leader in the new energy economy through initiatives like the largest municipally owned mega solar project and the Decade of Downtown inner-city revitalization program. It’s probably not a coincidence that he’s also under 40. (Nor this: Castro and his brother were both educated in Palo Alto at Stanford, where Steve Jobs’ son Reed is now a junior and his widow Laurene serves as a trustee.)
Of course, it’s not just the rising stars and wunderkinds who are masters at place making. It’s undeniable that California took on a certain swagger with the Governator in the Capitol (notwithstanding how the state’s—and his own—fortunes turned out). And related, in Providence: How much did the city benefit from a congressman with the golden last name of Kennedy, and would its Brown University have gone prime time without John F. Kennedy Jr. following his older cousins there?
Innovation, creativity and power shift around the country because of so many factors, but we can’t deny that city brands could not be made without the ever important human element: the people brands who make the place brands.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since our Pittsburgh team had confetti and glitter raining down on them at One Young World 2011 in Zurich. The groundbreaking strategy and award-winning bid they created (and the community they formed) to bring OYW to Pittsburgh was just the beginning of this massive effort to gather 1,500 young leaders from 190 countries around the globe. With only five weeks to go, and with new news breaking daily about what delegates can expect—such as addresses from Bill Clinton and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey—our excitement about the next “Young Davos” just keeps building.