Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Project Management Requires a Lot of Trust

Experts say that 50% of all jobs are project management, and to me, in destination marketing, it may be even higher.

But beyond the steps, good concept description, list of stakeholders, steps, timeline, milestones and deadline, project management requires a lot of trust.

Trust first of all that, when you send an email with a question, the other person will respond in a timely manner, either with the information requested or an alternative if that isn’t possible.

Trust that people will pay attention to the “wrangler,” or person keeping everyone on track.

Trust that people will bring up issues in time to seek alternative solutions.

This all breaks down way too often but rarely out of negligence or bad faith. The culprit is failure to communicate and either hoping for the best until it's too late to make a change or telling ourselves a story that we’ll somehow get to it... or being hesitant to share bad news. It all ends up in breakdowns.

Oh, there is one other culprit. People by nature don’t like deadlines. And without deadlines, project management doesn’t exist.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


With many civic and business leaders, there is a big disconnect when it comes to perceptions of economic development.

Oh, for a good run now, anything "economic development" has been embraced. But the term still labors under the narrow constraints of the old “industrial development” model, popular in the middle of the last century. This type of economic development focused on what is often called buffalo or big game hunting to recruit companies willing to relocate from other communities. The measurements were jobs (often jobs relocated not created) and expanded property taxes from capital investment.

Visitor-related economic development is still an enigma for many, because it is “demand based,” but can be equally potent. Instead of going after the business to relocate, it focuses on recruiting the consumer. Those consumer visitors then generate new hotels, new restaurants, new retail opportunities and new entertainment venues, while at the same time making existing ones sustainable.

These facilities also generate property taxes through capital construction. In 2001, for example, surveys showed the costs of developing and constructing a typical hotel room ranged from $49,000 for economy all the way up to $376,000 for luxury. That means that currently in Durham, from hotels alone, there is $102 million in capital construction occurring over just the next few years.

But at a cost of far less infrastructure, visitor-generated economic development also yields significant amounts of sales tax revenue.

My guess is that people will finally let go of the narrow “industrial” definition of economic development when taxation practices are truly reformed. That may take a bit. Local governments in particular are still wedded to property taxes, even though that model dates back to when economies were mostly agrarian and businesses were manufacturing-based.

The new service and creative economies mean that tax policy needs to be reformed, and when that happens, voila—it will likely be that getting people to see the equal value of visitor-related economic development will be much, much easier.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mixed Messages on Research

I got a nice compliment from someone the other day at KPMG, a global firm doing feasibility work among other things. “You guys have the most incredible website and research about your visitors that I’ve ever seen,” she volunteered. Now that’s praise indeed.

But here at home, I often get statements from a vocal few that “you do too much research; just place some ads.” That’s a blast from the past. Remember the old “ready, fire, aim” approach to marketing. Ugh! Actually for many CVB’s, we’re still in the old days. ;-)

The comment is even more anachronistic, though, in Durham, the home of Research Triangle Park, Duke University, North Carolina Central University and Duke University Health System, all strongly research-driven.

My theory on why someone would be pejorative about research in this day and age is that (1) very few organizations in a community do marketing, let alone understand the value-added benefit of good market research and (2) they feel trapped or threatened by a research-driven formula because it thwarts marketing by “who’s asking” or “special interests,” or “politics,” which is a combination of the first two.

Market research is worth every penny. A study done recently by a university indicated that, on average, 10% of a marketing budget is market research. That varied greatly by type of business or organization. In destination marketing, the best practice is nearing 4%, and that is rapidly increasing, as people understand just how much more effective research can make other marketing tactics and strategies.

Another reason people may be pejorative about market research is they don’t realize that it's one of the few DCVB marketing activities that is truly visible at the local level. Locals probably don’t see all of the advertising or direct sales or publicity etc., because that is targeted to external audiences. But to empower local stakeholders, including all visitor-related organizations, to embrace the community’s brand, DCVB distributes as much research as possible, so it can be used to inform decisions beyond our efforts to market the community.

Actually, thanks go to the foresight of the State Legislature, which inserted market research as a component of promotion and marketing in DCVB’s charter legislation, and just as much to the people who founded DCVB and believed that a CVB in the home of RTP, Duke, DUHS and NCCU, should definitely be “information-driven” in its decision-making.

And thanks to Dave Palmer, then with Alaska Airlines, and Tim Skoog with Northwest Airlines, who during my time in Anchorage, helped us pioneer an in-flight visitor survey and to Dave Dittman, who schooled me in opinion research. I’m sure there was a time when I was caught in the paradigm of “let's just place some ads.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Instructions for Adding the Durham Brand to Email Signatures

The first link below includes instructions on how to add the Durham brand signature to your email signature. The second link is the brand signature itself (image file).



Friday, November 03, 2006

A Glimmer of Hope on Airport Greetings

Managing Durham’s brand is a key responsibility of DCVB. One of the things that undermines the Durham brand the most is how the community is positioned by airlines. Tickets, credit card receipts, listings of cities serviced, gate listings and onboard announcements often create havoc.

But I was very impressed on a US Airways flight Sunday afternoon from the airport in Philadelphia to RDU. The gate listing read “Raleigh-Durham,” which is much better than some airports, e.g., DFW where it is truncated to just Raleigh or Raleigh-Dur because the gate readers aren’t long enough.

The ticket receipt read “Raleigh,” so there is still work to do with US Airways’ Accounting Department, and the website listed “cities served,” although it was really only a listing of airports, so someone looking to see if US Airways serves Durham had to look down under the “Rs.”

But the flight crew was nearly flawless. Departure announcements were careful to refer to Raleigh-Durham Airport rather than treating the name of the airport like it was an actual city or, worse, truncating to the name of one particular city.

The weather announcements reverted back to “Raleigh,” but that is probably because the FAA beacon recording for the pilots is mistaken.

On arrival, the crew referred to Raleigh and Durham, so passengers understood that, while the plane landed at RDU, an airport, the owner communities are separate and distinct brands.

It's only one crew, one flight, so we still need to work with RDU and other destinations it serves to come up with a holistic solution.

But kudos to this crew for the respect it paid to the airline’s brand, the airport’s brand and the destination brands.