Increasing Regional Brand Identity through National Public Relations

By: John Sampson on February 1st, 2018

Wall Street Journal Article on Electric Works Positions Region as Bold Community

There we were, above the fold, page A2 in the Wall Street Journal on the second business day of the new year. The headline read, “Rust-Belt Relic Bets on New Vibe”.

“We”—the residents of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana—appeared in the Wall Street Journal as leaders making a bold move to redevelop a blight in our community. More than 43.5 million readers online and 1.3 million in print were exposed to reporter Shibani Mahtani’s digest of our effort to breathe life into the former General Electric facility with a bold development vision now called Electric Works.

Let’s review five observations from the Wall Street Journal’s article.

  1. Northeast Indiana is a Midwest community competing for business and talent. Our leaders are confronting the reality of an aging “rust belt relic.”
  2. The Electric Works project totals $440 million for a city population of 260,000. Shibani explained, “The project is one of the most ambitious efforts to convert industrial complexes into modern downtowns.” She sources other examples of this type of development project including American Tobacco Campus in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. and the Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis.
  3. The article remarked on the past progress and current revitalization of the urban core through downtown residential lofts, apartments, condominiums, restaurants and more.
  4. Shibani reported the region is “swimming upstream” to stem the tide on outbound domestic populations and accelerate international immigration.
  5. As an added bonus, the Wall Street Journal quote of the day featured CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Eric Doden saying, “What are your choices? To sit and look at this for 40 or 50 years as it crumbles?”

What This Means for the Region

No question, this is momentous publicity for our efforts to build a national brand reputation for Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana. According to a Nielsen report, research suggests that there is a higher degree of trust from consumers when they are reading content from credible, third party experts. It’s that national brand identity that is critical to our efforts to grow our region’s population faster.

As a seasoned journalist, Shibani spent several hours to determine if there was a story worthy of national press and discovering the elements necessary for publishing. Some local readers reacted that the article was not positive enough and presented less than a desirable view of our community. In the end, she presented a balanced perspective of our community and our gritty determination rooted in a courageous vision.

The exposure to the Electric Works endeavor and our city will create the national “buzz” we need to grow our business attraction momentum and strengthen talent attraction and retention.

What is not said in the article should be clear to us. These and other regional investments are writing a new future for Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana, distinguishing us from our peers. 

Imagine the audacity of a community and regional leadership stepping up to launch literally hundreds of millions of capital investment dollars in Electric Works and Road to One Million projects across Northeast Indiana. There is no question, this bold leadership staring in the face of adversity will draw attention to our efforts to build a globally competitive economy.

Results of a Long-Term Public Relations Strategy

This article was an outcome of years of intentional preparation and thoughtful strategies to brand our region. We have a consistent and compelling message and persist in telling our story.

We have been relentless in telling our story at a national level through media outlets and trade journals.  Northeast Indiana’s story of progress has been revealed in articles about advanced manufacturing, medical device firms, recreational vehicles, musical instruments, e-commerce and more. Over the past several years, numerous trade journalists and reporters have toured our region and heard our story.

This specific Wall Street Journal article, however, is the direct result of a proactive outreach trip to Chicago media outlets in November by the Regional Partnership with our partners at Greater Fort Wayne Inc. (GFW), RTM Ventures, Development Counsellors International (DCI) and Ferguson Advertising

The article also spurred additional national and local coverage. Several other media outlets picked up the story leveraging the impact, including Bloombergthe News-Sentinel and WOWO.

We are building a reputation, and we’re much more than just “fly-over” country. Yes, a new frontier is emerging from the outdated “rust-belt” moniker. 

Kate Virag, vice president of marketing and strategic communications for the Regional Partnership, says it this way, “Success looks like this: build relationships based on trust, tell an authentic, compelling story and become a dependable subject matter.” 

A Region Fully Invested in Opportunity

The point is this: we will never give up on building and sharing our story. It is a message of hope, purpose and increasing prosperity for the residents of a determined Midwest community.

Our message is direct. Our mission is clear. We have momentum. Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana are home to companies competing in the global marketplace because every sector of our region is aligned to anticipating and meeting the needs of our employers. From our elected officials and businesses to educators and non-profits, we are all in!

The team at the Regional Partnership is on a mission with sustained momentum in growing the Northeast Indiana economy through proactive collaboration to confront the region’s most difficult challenges. We know we have not arrived, but every ounce of our leadership and collaboration is aimed at building a region responsive to the needs of today’s employers and tomorrow’s skilled workforce. Electric Works is one of numerous national storylines playing out before our eyes. Without question, Electric Works is a huge opportunity worthy of our focus and national attention.

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