Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is Community Pride A Given?

Some people mistakenly think it is like cheerleading…that you generate it with a lot of hoopla or jumping up and down.

Most just take it for granted. Some use qualitative measures, but only a very few, like Durham, are on the forefront of scientifically measuring community pride as a benchmark.

Community marketing is beginning to catch on to the importance though. You can’t succeed at drawing sustainable visitation to a community if the residents who live there don’t deliver on the brand promise…at least not for long.

So 86% of Durham residents are proud of their community but is that standard low or high?

In my personal experience, that is extremely high. Now, thanks to some information gleaned from a Gallup Poll of 26 metros of varying sizes across the country, a benchmark is beginning to emerge. Gallup is posing the question as part of a three year “Soul of the Community” survey to find what makes residents “attach” to a community.

It turns out that Durham is truly exceptional when it comes to community pride. Compared to 86% in Durham, the average pride level for the 26 metros is 38%. The average of the six metros most comparable to Durham is 42%. For Charlotte and its surrounding metro area, the average is 43%.

So community pride in Durham is roughly twice as prevalent as these benchmarks.

Turns out the remainder, on average, are largely split between those who are uncertain or “not proud,” four and five times respectively of the proportion of Durham residents giving those responses.

The reason Durham excels in this measure is certainly not because it gets preferential treatment from the news media or that there are better cheerleaders here or that officials impose it.

To me it is simple. Durham has a unique and readily apparent cultural identity. It draws visitors and newcomers for whom that identity and its related values, emotional benefits and core strengths are a good fit and then it delivers on the brand.

But Durham can’t take this for granted. If Durham doesn’t foster that unique identity and resist the strong forces that would homogenize it, it will get caught up in trying to be like everywhere else and lose what’s special here.

You may not be able to create or generate community pride per se, but you sure can destroy the things that stimulate it.

The incredible level of community pride in Durham which has stayed consistently high now for nearly two decades of measurement is a tremendous asset and one that deserves nurturing.

Just ask the nearly 40% who are newcomers to Durham over that span.

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