Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Community Image Isn't about Your Castles

I was asked recently by economic development colleagues about what influences image. Before I could comment, the chorus began about new developments, super-regional malls, a new theater, factories turned into office developments and residential etc.

The room stiffened a bit when I responded that, actually, the needle on image doesn't move around huge developments, although there are many other great reasons for those.

I couldn't think on my feet or I would have used an analogy. Community image isn't about your castles and cathedrals. If they are surrounded by weedy lots, unkempt medians, potholes, inadequate signage etc. they won't improve image.

Like a person, community image is about two things. One is the way you're perceived, and that may have nothing to do with reality and more about stereotyping, stigmatizing, gossip etc. You combat that with information and marketing... balanced perspective, not spin as it is used in the pejorative.

The other is about overall appearance, a sense of arrival, clean streets and sidewalks, absence of litter, well-kept medians and wayfinding etc.

Community image isn't just about castles and cathedrals. It is about "curb appeal." And you're right, you have to have both, but the latter is indispensable.

1 comment:

Bill Geist said...

I couldn't agree more. I'm on the road alot...and often in towns that don't have a true "attrac-tion." But, the ones that take pride in their streets, facades and neighborhoods are attrac-tive.

Big is cool...but clean is a feeling that trumps.