Thursday, December 27, 2007

Big Drought - No Water - Plenty of Tea?

Listening to initiatives proposed for the drought, I can’t help but be reminded of the knee-jerk security initiatives post-9/11.

The goal quickly became more about perception than reality, so initiatives that visibly impacted the most people won the day. So while tweezers were being confiscated from each and every passenger boarding an airplane, shipping containers coming into every port went largely unchecked.

And so go responses to the drought. Fill water glasses only when requested and then again for each refill, but order as much tea as you like. :-)

And before we lay it all on politicians, let’s remember one of the definitions of politics, “competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership.”

As in the “politics of fear.”

Friday, December 14, 2007


On a flight from Nashville back to Durham a couple of weeks ago, I sat next to a gentleman who was expressing how glad he was to have made it out of Cleveland that morning for a connection. It was snowing as he left, and the plane had to de-ice several times.

He asked where I was headed, and I said, “Durham,” and he said, “oh, Raleigh.” I said, “no, Durham,” and explained that Durham and Raleigh are distinct places that share an airport.

He said, “I know, I’m from Raleigh.” Herein lies a major threat to Durham’s brand. People from Raleigh, my friends, associates and counterparts there excepted, think centrically. Everything is about Raleigh, and they make little room for any place else to have an identity.

Believe me, little of this centrism has to do with “rivalry.” A lot has to do with overreaching references and failure to make distinctions in the news media there. Most has to do with “centric” thinking… kind of “I am the World.”

I’ve not found it as condescending as much as ill-informed.

Now do Durham residents go around assuming everyone near and far goes by the term Durham? Not that I’ve ever witnessed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Good News: Arts Groups Are Beginning to Deploy Economic Impact Studies

But depending on who computes the impact, the results can be grossly overvalued for several reasons. First of all, many do not use good methodology or they lump both resident and visitor spending into the impact (economists do not include resident spending as value added to the local economy).

Secondly, these studies generally make two key mistakes. They fail to deduct “leakage,” the word used for spending that immediately ricochets out of the local economy for goods and services purchased elsewhere. It is very unlikely that all supplies are purchased locally.

Equally significant, the studies nearly always assume all related spending was "prompted" by their facilities and events. Many fail to distinguish that much of the spending was generated by visitors who took in the facility or event on trips for other purposes. In other words, they would have been in that town at that time anyway, regardless of that facility or event, so it isn’t truly considered economic impact.

Depending on the type of cultural event, e.g., performing arts, museums, historic sites etc., anywhere from 3.9% to 4.9% of visitors take in the events. But only 5% up to 15% are prompted by the event or facility.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Authentic Brands Include All Character Traits

Just as our individual personalities are a combination of traits, so is a community’s overall brand. For instance, “fragmented” is part of Durham’s brand. As closely as we work together in Durham and as creative and colorful and genuine as the community is... we also tend to be fragmented.

Part of this may be an aspect of our innovative and entrepreneurial nature, e.g., better at start ups than follow through. Part of it is that people are so talented and involved with the community, it becomes hard to yield to someone else’s obvious expertise. Everyone becomes experts at everything.

Part of the appearance of fragmentation may be from the activist part of Durham’s brand. Activists, as Peter Sandman told me years ago, are in the “outrage” business. So that alone could give the impression of being fragmented.

But you are who you are, warts and all, and a community brand is likewise, a combination of characteristics, not just your “Sunday best.”