Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Like Durham Making The Cover of The Rolling Stone!

Jump-starting a community’s destination or community marketing organization from scratch, as some of us did for Durham more than two decades ago, includes overcoming a lot of obstacles in order to scrub up the community’s identity and brand.  Sometimes it seems like taking “friendly fire” because without an organization responsible for safeguarding a community’s identity, that identity can become not just diluted and polluted but these conditions become entrenched rendering them even more difficult to rectify.Division Cover

Today’s announcement that an image of Durham’s Historic Brightleaf Square, the bellwether for part of this community’s iconic sense of place,  will grace the cover of the State’s 2011 official travel guide is another illustration of just how far Durham has come.

Back when the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau was founded and we rolled up our sleeves, one of the first challenges was to clean up databases and references and listings in publications such as NC’s official travel guide and among other North Carolina tourism officials.  All of that work makes today’s announcement seem comparable to making the proverbial cover of The Rolling Stone. (watch this video if you’re too young to recall the county rock anthem by Dr. Hook)

No matter how skillfully the requests are made, it takes a lot of persistence.  We found a third of Durham’s assets listed under other communities and the co-owned airport was almost always truncated to just “Raleigh” in both print and verbal references.  The misinformation was so entrenched that we frequently found ourselves having to provide “proof” of the obvious to get many things corrected.

I can’t tell you how many times we endured heavy sighs and rolled eyes and near excommunication when intervening to correct mis-references.  The personalities are long gone and Durham has emerged with the help of other communities and the state as a leading destination, or so the performance measures and visitor sector accolades indicate, including today’s announcement.

Destination marketing, practiced as it should be, isn’t for the timid.  There are times when one has to speak up repeatedly to protect a community’s brand, identity and place-based assets.  “Going along to get along” just isn’t ever going to cut it.  It takes stamina and determination,  but ultimately people will respect you for staying the course, remaining committed, speaking up and if you’re lucky your destination just might make the cover of Rolling Stone.

Many thanks to Lynn Minges, assistant state secretary of commerce for tourism, marketing and global branding, who has stuck up Durham and for accurate and fair representation of all of North Carolina’s destinations her entire career and is arguably the most effective head of a tourism for whom any state could hope.

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