Client: City of Tacoma Economic Development Department
PR Team: Development Counselors Intl. (New York)
Campaign: Tacoma: America's #1 Wired City
Time Frame: November 1999-March 2001
Budget: Less than $150,000
Tacoma, WA was once known for its high crime rate and the nasty odor
nicknamed "the Tacoma aroma." But perception hadn't kept up with
reality. By late 1999, tech companies dotted the city, and Tacoma had
built its first light rail system, an $88 million waterfront
area, and a $100 million retail/office/housing development in the
heart of downtown. But public perception was still stuck in the "Tacoma
Since attitudes needed to catch up with the facts, Development
Counselors International's (DCI) plan of action centered mainly around
The agency set a goal of generating at least 20 positive local articles
about Tacoma's turnaround. Using the tagline "America's #1 Wired City,"
the agency set the wider-reaching goal of generating at least 10
positive placements in Seattle about Tacoma's tech climate and
reputation. The national goal was five articles featuring successful
Tacoma CEOs in national and international publications.
DCI kicked off the campaign with a local news conference, unveiling the
"#1 Wired City" theme and logo. The agency created ambassador cards and
asked local businesses and community leaders to help tell the story,
offering a b-to-b endorsement. The logo was placed on city employee
business cards, and city e-mail addresses were changed to "wiredcityusa.
com." DCI also created a "Wired City Millionaire's Club."
The DCI team continued by organizing a Seattle media day. The agency
targeted Seattle bureaus of national outlets, monitored editorial
calendars, and also pitched the story to national outlets, including
Business 2.0, The Industry Standard, and Inc magazine.
The city backed up the "America's #1 Wired City" image by supporting
local tech events - such as the community's first e-Business Day - in
cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development
Board, and local tech groups.
From May through September 2000, Tacoma hosted more than 20 national,
regional, and trade journalists. The campaign generated articles in
national and international publications, including Inc (a cover story),
Business Week, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas
Morning News, Area Development, Site Selection, Global Business,
Business 2.0, and Site Selection Online. Other hits included The Wall
Street Journal, The Boston Globe, American City & County, and
GlobeSt.com. Foreign hits included Die Welt (Germany), Asahi Shimbun
(Japan), and Agence France Presse (France).
The News Tribune of Tacoma wrote, "A well-crafted marketing/PR campaign
has succeeded in giving Tacoma an entirely new image - 'America's #1
Wired City.' This is the kind of publicity that money cannot buy."
The city says it is meeting its goal of turning around Tacoma's image
and bringing new businesses to town. More than 100 tech companies have
opened their doors or expanded in Tacoma in the past 18 months. The
"America's #1 Wired City" tagline and logo is on the websites of many
The number of corporate inquiries into moving to the city has increased
five-fold, and city officials are being invited to speak at national
conferences about the program's success.
DCI continues to work with the city of Tacoma on various PR activities.