Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Edmonton needs a PR makeover

June 27, 2007: Edmonton is still having problems promoting itself to the rest of Canada. A Toronto PR firm has been hired at a cost of $175,000. Council says Edmonton needs more exposure. Mayor Mandel says in the past we haven’t done as good a job as we should have done to promote the city. Between 2002 and 2004 according to the city, Edmonton appeared 25,000 times fewer than Calgary in National newspapers. Global Edm.

Last night I attended a forum put on by Next Gen re: Edmonton's image in the media. It was pretty interesting, especially from the view of someone who wasn't raised here. Panelists included Bridget Ryan from City TV; Mari Sasano from the Edmonton Journal (‘8 ½ Things to Do’ every Saturday in ED Magazine); Jason Manning, Music Director from Sonic Radio, 102.9 FM; and Ted Kerr, freelance photographer and writer.

I found myself nodding quite a bit to what Jason Manning had to say (as someone who also flocked here for opportunity and is astounded by how great a city this is). Edmontonians kind of brush off pride and put down the city a little bit as Redmonton/Deadmonton/etc. They tend to focus on the negative effects of the boom and what has come of the city's rapid growth versus the positives the city holds.

Bridget Ryan talked about a recent trip to NYC, where her cab driver's eyes lit up to hear she was from Edmonton because he was moving himself and his family here in a couple weeks.

Edmonton does have an image, we need to focus on not hiding the negatives, but also on promoting the good. We have an awesome arts/music scene that is fairly unique from that of Toronto/Vancouver. We have the river valley, which is one of the largest greenspaces in North America. We are a quietly diverse city which doesn't exploit our multiculturalism and segment our population into ghettos and stereotypes (though these surely exist to an extent). We have Whyte Ave, a bustling little community... and downtown, which is getting there. On the flip side, the city has a drug problem which needs to be tackled before it can truely flourish.

Ted Kerr talked about the importance of story telling versus marketing, which I do think is a great idea... focus on the lives and stories of individuals rather than "come to Edmonton because it's the land of milk and honey". Make it real for people. Which also means not lying. Yeah, we have a housing problem. Yeah, infrastructure needs work. Yeah, winter is pretty damn cold (but there are plenty of cool things to do even with the temperature at -40).

I've said it about a million times, and I'll say it a million more. One of the things that I noticed about Edmonton pretty early on is how many successful young people there are. There is a great opportunity for success here, and success early on in life. Which is quite different from the scene in Toronto where you need to know people to get anywhere. For me, as a recent graduate and young professional, I find this incredibly inspiring.

One of the other interesting things that was mentioned is that a lot of great things in Edmonton get overlooked because they don't have "Edmonton" in the name... they opt for using "Capital" whatever or "Alberta" whatever. These are the instances where people automatically assume that these things are based in Calgary (for example, University of Alberta, Royal Alberta Museum, Capital Heath). It's going to take change on a larger scale to change the views of people across the country and around the world. Many people do think that Calgary is the capital since it's bigger and gets more attention.

What do you think? What makes Edmonton great? What can the city do to get this message out?

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