User-generated photos from Instagram tell Northeast Indiana’s story

November 7th, 2018

By Jaclyn Goldsborough | Input Fort Wayne

Do you know the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, in Northeast Indiana, regional marketers are using narrative imagery and social media influencers to tell the story of living and working in the 11-county region.

Enter the Northeast Indiana Lookbook. It’s a quality of life brochure, showcasing the region’s story of opportunity, exploration, doers, makers, neighbors, lake days, farm-to-fork food, sports, adventures, arts, culture, and more.

As Northeast Indiana works to increase its per capita personal income, grow its population to 1 million residents, and raise its educational and credential attainment to 60 percent by 2030, the Lookbook tells the region’s authentic story through the eyes of local Instagram users to help employers attract talent.

It also gives residents the chance to show off what they love about their hometowns.

Chicago transplant and Northeast Indiana resident Valerie Sheets has a photo featured in the marketing piece where she used the #NEIpride hashtag to represent her local spirit. Her photo shows the quintessential Indiana fall camping scene on a trip to Chain O’Lakes State Park in Noble County.

“Chain O'Lakes is a staple ‘staycation’ destination for my friends and I,” Sheets says. “Although it's just under 20 miles from Fort Wayne, the lakes, vast hiking trails, and rolling hills start to feel like you've traveled much further from home. Camping here in Indiana is one of our favorite things to do together and is a major summer and fall tradition for us every year. We're just a bunch of 30-somethings that love to be able to disconnect, unwind, and enjoy the outdoors together—even just for a short weekend."

It's this “quality of life” concept that makes regions like northeast Indiana increasingly appealing to young professionals who are seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

A powerful aspect of the Lookbook is that it offers viewers a sensory experience of the region and creates an emotional attachment for them. Sheets says that every time she thinks of camping with her friends here, she feels nostalgic.

“Even back when I lived in Chicago and would visit friends and loved ones here in Fort Wayne, the region's parks and lakes were a big-city escape that I looked forward to,” she says. “Travel is, of course, an enriching thing if you have the time and budget, but it's reassuring to know that we have parks and experiences close to home that can fulfill the love for the exploration and the outdoors.”

For the creators of the Northeast Indiana Lookbook, Britton Marketing + Design Group and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, the team thought there was no better way to tell the region’s story than by showcasing Instagram photos from Northeast Indiana residents and visitors who are the region’s true marketers.  

“When we first sat down to discuss the Lookbook, we wanted to help people outside of the region get a feeling about what life is like here—to help them picture themselves here,” says Meghan Britton-Gross, vice president of client strategy and brand development for Britton Marketing + Design Group. “We decided to use Instagram imagery because it is a glimpse of authentic, real life here. The end result was this great book, which shows not only the things to do and see in our region but also the personality of the people who live here.”

The Regional Partnership recently published the Lookbook as a tool for regional businesses, organizations, non-profits, universities, colleges, and other entities to use when recruiting people from outside the region to join their organizations and make the move to Northeast Indiana.

The target audience for the publication is young professionals living outside the region who have no perception of what the local community is really like. The goal of the piece is to create a sense of curiosity among them about the region and help them picture themselves here.

As businesses focus on telling their own stories to attract talent, this new material complements those efforts by telling the story of the region’s benefits, too. This helps employers and recruiters, like Jeff Rice, who are working to attract talent in a competitive job market.

As the manager of talent acquisition and student services at northeast Indiana’s largest employer, Parkview Health, Rice and his team recruit thousands of new co-workers every year—including a growing number from outside the region.

The Lookbook helps them show potential employees a glimpse of what makes northeast Indiana a great place to live and work.

“As recruiters, it has become just as important to share information about the region with our candidates as it is to share information about Parkview, so the Northeast Indiana Lookbook is incredibly helpful,” Rice says. “This tool allows us to give candidates an authentic glimpse of Northeast Indiana’s culture, which is an essential component of their decision to relocate.”

Find the Northeast Indiana Lookbook

If you would like a printed copy of the lookbook, please reach out to the Regional Partnership and request your free copy while supplies last. If you’d like to view the printed piece online, visit the website.