Actionable Municipal Marketing Strategies

As City of Miami Beach marketing manager Jenn Seoanes has said, “Municipal communications and marketing is critical to keeping the dialogue flowing between cities and their customers” (Smart Cities Dive, 2018).

As City of Miami Beach marketing manager Jenn Seoanes has said, “Municipal communications and marketing is critical to keeping the dialogue flowing between cities and their customers” (Smart Cities Dive, 2018).

At Town Web, we fully understand this reality. As a builder of accessible and easy-to-use municipal websites, we know what municipalities must do to reach potential visitors. 

We also recognize how localities can use the right strategies to brand and promote themselves effectively. Today, we’ll look at our ten favorite strategies for marketing and branding a municipality. But first, let’s look at what municipal marketing is.

What is municipal marketing?

Municipal marketing involves promoting a municipality to improve the local economy. Your strategies should take the interests of all stakeholders into account. 

These stakeholders refer to those with a vested interest in seeing successful municipal marketing campaigns. Examples include hotels, tour operators, city officials, restaurants, and museums. Municipal marketing is much like city marketing but on a smaller scale.

Municipal marketing is important for many reasons, including:

Strategies for attracting more visitors

Whether you are marketing a city or small town, certain strategies are useful across the board. Let’s explore

  1. Representative branding

One core challenge of successful municipal branding is how you best represent your locality. Summarizing your town or district in a few sentences or with a single logo is no easy feat. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Here are some considerations for representative branding:

  1. Branding that combines the new and the old

Your branding should represent the past and present of your municipality. On the one hand, you want to portray the traditions and heritage of your town/district. On the other hand, you should show what your municipality is today, and perhaps, even where it is going.

Helsinki, Finland took a similar approach when it launched a new logo in 2017.

The above logo achieves two things. It reflects the bottom of Helsinki’s coat of arms, reflecting the city’s heritage. Simultaneously we see a canoe heading forward (into the future). You may want your branding to make a more obvious statement about your municipality’s past and present. However, this is up to you. 

  1. Speak to all types of visitors

When marketing a municipality, you must consider a wide range of potential visitors. Who do you want, or even need, to visit your locality?

Here are some visitors you may wish to attract:

Your branding and marketing campaigns should consider those listed above and whoever else you want to attract. Keep these groups in mind when planning out any advertisement or re-branding effort. 

You may want to prioritize certain groups over others. For example, if your municipality has plenty of tourist accommodation and a thriving service sector, you should prioritize tourists. However, if your municipality has a strong business district with plenty of vacant office spaces, you may want to focus more on businesses.

We also recommend finding ways to differentiate your locality from others. Your marketing and branding should emphasize what makes your municipality so special.

  1. Re-branding your municipality’s image

Not every municipality has the best image in the eyes of outsiders. And even if your municipality has a great image, you may want to highlight underappreciated aspects of your district/town.

A great example of the latter, albeit on a city-scale, is Amsterdam. Mastercard ranks the Dutch capital as the 13th most popular city in the world in terms of overnight visitors. So it’s clearly popular. 

However, many people still associate Amsterdam with sex and drugs. Sure, many potential visitors may see this as a selling point. However, one campaign sought to express how Amsterdam has more to offer. The “Iamsterdam” slogan does just that. 

As Saffron Brand Consultants told the Smithsonian Magazine in 2012, “To those who visited the city, the letters made an indelible impression and nearly every single one of them has a photo with the city’s red and white logo.”

The “Iamsterdam” slogan represents a friendlier, more neutral version of the European city. Unfortunately, the city council removed the original letters in 2018, but the lesson still stands.

  1. Create a stand-out website

The online world is crucial to the success of modern municipal marketing. Before considering social media, you need a great website for your municipality.

Here are some key considerations for a municipal website:

Building municipal websites is what we know best. One happy customer of ours is the City of Glen Cove

Before we got on board, the city had a clunky and outdated site. Their website also lacked organization, and it was daunting to update.

We provided the City of Glen Cove with two mock-up designs. They preferred the bold/spicy edition. We tweaked the design based on their requests before our Projects Team produced the actual website. Lastly, we had our Data Entry Team transfer over content from the old website and add new content before putting everything together in an organized manner.

If you’d like a high-quality website for your municipality, get in touch with Town Web today to request a quote!

  1. Instagram marketing

Social media is a critical element of municipal marketing in the 2020s. And Instagram is particularly important. Naturally, you’ll want to use beautiful photography to promote your municipality on Instagram. Before you launch your account, however, you should hire an experienced photographer to capture great images.

Sharing photographs of beautiful landmarks and scenery

We recommend showing the aesthetic of your municipality at its best. After all, one of the key uses of Instagram is to share captivating images.

Here’s an example from the London Instagram account:

As you can see, this account uses various hashtags, such as #thisislondon. If your locality is not well known, you may decide to avoid using the actual name of your municipality in hashtags.

Another example of a locality’s beauty, as shared from the Tasmania Instagram account;

Arguably, capturing natural wonders can make for even more captivating imagery than man-made landmarks.

Capturing your municipality’s spirit and energy

Displaying your municipality’s landmarks and environment is important. However, you should also show off the people and character of your locality. 

Humans of New York pulls this off incredibly well. They are dedicated to sharing detailed stories of regular New Yorkers. They achieve this by combining a captioned quote with an image of the subject. You could take an approach similar to this by occasionally sharing images and quotes of regular people from your municipality. 

Below we see an example of Melbourne’s cuisine from Broadsheet_melb:

Show off the cuisine, culture, and stores of your municipality. Give visitors a sense of what they could enjoy if they came to town. You should also make intelligent use of the caption space, as shown in the examples above.

P.S. don’t forget to keep an eye on your Instagram Insights. This will give you a sense of which posts are performing well and which ones are flopping.

  1. Using other social media to your advantage

You should use a wide range of social media services to promote your municipality. Instagram is great for showing what your city has to offer, but sites like Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok can also reach many potential visitors. 

Our top tips for using social media effectively:

We also recommend influencer marketing. After all, 6 in 10 marketers believe that influencer marketing can bring a higher ROI than conventional online advertising.

Here are some influencer marketing scenarios:

  1. User-generated content

Of course, you’ll need to produce most of the content you share. With that said, user-generated content can offer incredible value. Images and videos from regular people can add authenticity and originality to your social media and marketing efforts. They would also reflect that you are in touch with ordinary citizens. 

  1. Partnership marketing

Last but not least, you should consider working with various organizations and groups in your municipality. By collaborating with others, you can reach more potential visitors, while they could reach more potential customers. It’s a win-win.

If you were to partner with a restaurant, for instance, your job would be to promote the restaurant through your social media and other marketing avenues. In turn, they could find ways to promote the municipality to a wider audience. 

Alternatively, you may simply choose to create a video feature of a business in your municipality as a way of showing off what your locality has to offer. They get exposure and you get valuable content.

  1. Offline promotion

The internet is a fantastic way of marketing, but you should not overlook offline promotion. Real-world marketing still has a place in the 21st century (at least for now). 

For example, magazine ads still reached almost 78 million Americans in 2021 alone. Based on the statistics, we imagine magazine and newspaper marketing will continue to offer a decent ROI for at least several years.

Examples of offline municipal marketing:

*You’ll want to consider the regions you advertise in carefully. This applies both offline and online. We recommend laying out a comprehensive list of regions you want to target (e.g., other districts in your state, cities, and towns in nearby states, etc.). 

Once you’ve done so, you’ll want to use data and brainstorming to determine which regions you should prioritize. 

Ensure you have an appropriate marketing fund before you finalize any plans. You need to know exactly what your budget is before advertising your locality. We suggest doing up a budget first and foremost.

Learn more through our blog

Today we explored the best strategies for marketing your municipality both online and in the real-world. 

If you’d like to learn more about promoting your municipality, check out our blog! We explore topics ranging from government chatbots to cyber security.

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