Making places and brands

The last few years have shown that we are in the era of place making, where any city can be turned into a destination for business and tourism alike.

This is the second in a series of three posts that will discuss what I see as a PR émigré managing in a world where evolution meets revolution.

Some cities always attract the limelight. New York and Paris have rich pasts full of historic events and interesting people that will always make them shine. But more recently, some under-the-radar cities have begun to work hard at building sparkling new personalities and reputations. The last few years have shown that we are in the era of place making, where any city can be turned into a destination for business and tourism alike.

Take a closer look at these cities, and you might notice a common denominator: It's not only the places themselves that attract this hype, but also the personalities behind them. Going back a few decades, Buddy Cianci had such a powerful presence that he managed to get reelected as mayor of Providence, RI, even after beating someone up with an ashtray. Thanks especially to him, Providence (where I studied decades ago, when the city's biggest bragging right was its Amtrak station) experienced a renaissance in many spheres. More recently, Cory Booker has achieved hero status and is certainly the core force behind the continuing renewal of Newark, NJ.

Both men have strong personal brands in additional to the brands they created for their places. Personal branding has become the norm in C-suites as well as capitols. Take Richard Branson, Martha Stewart, and Tony Hsieh, among many others. In communications, we've got Sir Martin Sorrell, John Wren, and my boss, David Jones of Havas, who led our company's dive into digital at the core a decade ago and more recently spearheaded a global effort to brand almost all of our corporate entities with the unifying Havas name.

What does all this mean for PR professionals? Because of today's transparency and the omnipresence of social media, we all have no choice but to actively work on developing how others view us (and our companies and our clients' companies and brands). The future will be about controlling and expanding whatever brands are important to us.

It's all part of a solutions mindset that we'll see as a commonality in numerous trends popping up in 2013 and the near future. Lone rangers trying to stay relevant for the next big project (and employer) will be in branding mode to ensure desirability. Innovative cities such as Pittsburgh, which reinjected itself with digitivity and is now thriving with modernity and energy (and I don't mean the steel kind), will keep believing in their place and helping it survive — and in the process making it more desirable for corporations, families, and even world leaders.

In Pittsburgh, our agency will host the One Young World global leadership summit next week, attracting more than 1,500 VIPs from President Clinton and the aforementioned Branson to delegates from Australia to Zambia.

What solutions will you generate to take these trends, help your clients read — and ride — the oncoming waves, and make news for their brands?

Marian Salzman is CEO of Havas PR North America.

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