When many people think of a city’s public spaces or downtown area, they probably focus on the variety of shops, parks, and possible tourist excursions. While these destinations can certainly draw a crowd, these public areas can be so much more. In fact, the city itself can be the perfect gateway to your audience.
Public spaces can be significant for all types of business. They are the heart of your community, and the events that occur there can bring an immediate audience to your brand. By understanding your community, you can better understand your business’s role in strengthening these ties for your company’s benefit.
The idea of placemaking is more than just event planning. It’s how communities and organizations collectively shape the public realm to maximize shared value. How can you get involved?
The Benefits of Placemaking
There’s a common misunderstanding that placemaking events are all funded by the city, but that’s often not the case. Many organizations focused on placemaking need outside funding, whether they’re located in big cities or small towns.
Leaders in business can gain insight into their communities and take advantage of a variety of marketing opportunities through their involvement in placemaking. Getting involved also allows you to showcase your company as a driving force behind maintaining or revitalizing your community.
There are several ways to assist with placemaking events. The most direct route might be a simple sponsorship, but you can also offer your unique services. Anything from landscaping to providing traditional business assistance can be a huge help for organizers. Filling that void can help your company in several ways:
- It enhances public relations.
Placemaking events stimulate the improvement of public spaces, public discourse, and urban beauty. They enhance civic pride, connect people to their own neighborhoods, and encourage economic development. Getting your name on these events is fantastic PR and an easy way to communicate to potential customers, clients, and employees that you have civic pride and work to make your community even better.
- It gives you invaluable marketing opportunities.
Participating in placemaking can be an incredibly valuable marketing strategy. Your defined involvement in the community effectively develops your brand and helps you reach a larger audience almost instantly. Most community events are fun, artsy, and family-friendly. These qualities appeal to customers, job seekers, and investors alike. Your company can use these opportunities to set up booths, distribute information, answer questions, or work to create an even more memorable site for visitors.
An example of this creative contribution is when Zipcar became a sponsor of our organization’s placemaking activities for an entire season. For a series of community events, a local artist painted and wrapped a Zipcar in intricate and eye-catching illustrations. We then drove this car around for the duration of the events. It was a moving art display, and it added a creative and exciting factor, rather than being overly intrusive.
Businesses have a variety of options in their approaches to marketing and gaining exposure during these events. The more creative a business can be, the more memorable that splash will be with the event’s audience. If visitors go home afterward and talk to their friends or family about a great, inspiring sight, then the means of the message was successful.
- It builds relationships.
Every company needs to network; it may sometimes be difficult to forge new relationships. Placemaking creates natural situations for you to meet other leaders in your city as you work together to create meaningful projects. If you are new to a location, just launching your startup, or looking to expand, you can introduce your business to people who love the city and, most likely, already have existing networks that you can begin integrating yourself into as you become more familiar with your peers.
One of our sponsors, Craft Brew Alliance, wants to expand to the Midwest market. We showcase its product at every opportunity and introduce the business to catering and restaurant managers. Craft Brew Alliance helps make our events exciting and memorable, and we help it to market to diverse audiences and expand in ways that feel natural. This mutually beneficial relationship helps foster an even greater sense of unity and opportunity.
- It develops your civic involvement.
Partnering in placemaking events enhances your contributions to real civic improvement. As the community improves, your organization will, too. As a member of your community, you also get to enjoy the public spaces you enrich. Placemaking helps make your community a place you want to live. Encouraging the development of art, business, and cultural events within a community helps deliver on the promise and brand of your city. With the growth of local arts, businesses, and successful real estate, you help create the bedrock of future endeavors.
If you haven’t been approached for sponsorship in the past, be proactive and communicate with the event organizers who work on city beautification and community projects. If you don’t know where to start in your city, seek those who help establish the business improvement districts. They should be able to help you or put you in touch with the resources that can.
Brilliantly designed public spaces take the mundane and transform it into something that nurtures a community and helps businesses thrive. The organizations that plan and produce placemaking events often need funding. These organizations are made up of passionate people who collaborate with businesses to gain mutual benefits. Capitalize on this simple, powerful avenue for incredible marketing, and improve your community in the process.
Michael Edwards is the Executive Director for Chicago Loop Alliance, a business organization that represents Chicago’s most dynamic mixed-use district, the Chicago Loop. Chicago Loop Alliance creates, manages, and promotes high-performing urban experiences, attracting people and investment to the Loop. The Loop area boasts some of the nation’s favorite attractions, a rising residential population, and the second largest commercial district in the United States. In addition, 21 higher education institutions and multiple modes of public transportation make the Loop area a vibrant global business center and a world-class downtown destination.
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