3 Trends of the Best Economic Development Websites
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Every year I get the opportunity to work with economic development organizations across the country develop and execute their online communication strategies. It never fails to amaze me how quickly the trends and tools change, especially in an industry that doesn’t adjust to change quickly. With that said, there are always organizations ready to tread new ground and try new approaches to getting their message out to the businesses, site consultants and workforce they are targeting. Below are three trends I’ve seen coming from some of the best economic development websites.
Trend 1: Great Storytelling
One new trend that is continuing to grow is storytelling. It is still very important to have current economic development data on your website in order to play ball in this industry, but it is no longer enough to set your community apart. The communities with strong brands are the ones that can tell a great story. The types of stories that ring the strongest depends on your target audience. In all cases the stories that are closest to the vest have the most impact. For business owners it may be the testimonial of another CEO in the same industry that sticks in their mind. The talent you are looking to attract to your community may be most swayed by a resident sharing why they love living there.
The Yankton Area Development Corporation (http://www.greateryanktonliving.com/) in South Dakota built an entire website dedicated to workforce attraction and focused the content on success stories from residents thriving in the community. These stories ring true with the target talent they are looking to attract, and that authenticity combined with multi-media and a solid social media presence sets them way ahead of the curve.
Trend 2: Regional Connectivity
The internet has made our perception of the world smaller and our perspectives wider. We have learned no community is an island when it comes to economic development and regional collaboration is key to creating awareness. There has been a big shift away from competing with your county and city neighbors and instead rallying around a common goal, besting other regions in attracting business. This is most critical for rural regions, who often don’t have the assets or name recognition to be a significant voice alone, but combined with other communities in the region can make a stronger case for business attraction.
The Prairie Gateway portal (http://www.sdprairiegateway.org/) represents thirty counties in Northeast South Dakota and has over a dozen communities connected together. Not only do they share a political collaboration but also through technology with all of their websites connected together. This allows for the regional group to share important economic development news and data down to the respective communities and their websites. Just as important, the communities can share their success stories and assets with the regional website keeping the entire portal current and focused on a common goal of promoting the region.
Trend 3: Content, Content, Content
The new king of creating internet awareness and being found in search engines is high quality content. Websites are no longer designed to just wait for people to find them. Instead they are the vehicles for promoting content through news feeds and social media. There are many sources for quality content and the best is always local success stories. However local news does not happen every day and their are other good methods for having a consistent stream of high quality content to share. One option we focus on is writing original editorial content that ties to specific economic development goals. These articles are designed to not be date sensitive and to compliment current news, especially when there isn’t any to share. A third source is national economic development news, particularly the articles that are relevant to your community and stakeholders. We have worked closely with Site Selection Magazine to share articles weekly with communities we are supporting to compliment their current news and editorial content. Content takes time, and time is a precious commodity these days, so pre-writing editorial content and sharing national sources both can speed things up.
To see a great example of an organization that has mastered keeping high quality content flowing to their audiences, take a look at the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation (http://lakescorridor.com/). They have an excellent combination of content sources that they share with their target audiences. Not only has the website become a source of important news for stakeholders, but they have a strong social media presence as well. Beyond written content they have done a nice job incorporating videos and current events into their messaging winning them an impressive amount of website traffic and followers.
In future posts I will highlight other communication trends that are being implemented by the best economic development websites. Until then remember to share great stories, connect with your region and promote your community with high quality content. Your audiences are waiting to hear from you.
CEO at Golden Shovel Agency
Category: Blog, Economic Development