November 18, 2009 – Having spent a good amount of time over the last several years working in various regions of the US, we have become very aware of the need for professionals in economic and workforce development to enhance their outreach efforts. They need to do a better job of communicating to key stakeholders what they are doing, why they are doing it, and why stakeholders should get behind those efforts. It is not that these professionals are any less adept at figuring out what they want to communicate—it’s that the noise out in the “marketplace” has gotten much louder, the means of communicating have multiplied, and the time that those stakeholders have to devote to learning about or participating in worthwhile civic endeavors has diminished dramatically.
There has been a welcome trend over the past several years, exemplified by the US DOL’s WIRED grant program, to transform the way economic and workforce development are done in this country. Break down the silos, act in a coordinated fashion to achieve real regional impacts. All good. To make that work, in any region, requires the buy-in of a significant number of players, as well as the public who will benefit from these activities. Trying to communicate the details of the efforts, and the value, in a press release or a glossy brochure is simply not sufficient, though those may be important tools. A corporate executive already involved in numerous worthwhile civic ventures, not to mention fighting the effects of our troubled economy, needs to be persuaded that investing his or her time in a particular workforce initiative is the best possible use of their time or that of their staff.
Increasingly, making the case…building support for any particular workforce/economic development initiative…requires a sophisticated understanding of alternative marketing strategies; of online media; of both the economic and workforce development worlds, and of both the public and private sectors. We will address in upcoming blogs some specific issues that we know exist out there, including: engaging private sector representatives in regional workforce/economic development efforts; sustaining interest and involvement (and funding) in worthwhile initiatives; and building off the concept of “product placement” to build support for important ideas or initiatives.
J Street Consulting