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The Unexpected Approach to Promoting Memphis

The following is a feature in a previous issue of Memphis Crossroads Magazine. Click here to view the entire issue.

To say the Greater Memphis Chamber recruits new business to town while promoting what’s great about the community is correct, but it doesn’t really tell the full story.

Yes, any chamber of commerce works to promote all the best attributes of that community. In Memphis, the effort is a multipronged approach that is constantly looking to other markets to recruit businesses and new talent while also working with existing companies to keep them in the Bluff City.

It’s a balancing act, but one the Economic Development and Communications teams have down to a science, so to speak. There is the traditional, such as attending conventions and trade shows, communicating with site selectors or pitching stories about Memphis to newspapers.

For example, the Communications team works to get stories about Memphis published in major news outlets. A trip to New York City last year resulted in story placement in several national media outlets and also a Best in Show award for campaigns at the Public Relations Society of America, Memphis Chapter’s VOX Awards. That news exposure allows the Chamber to tell its story to people who might otherwise not have an idea about Memphis.

“The goal for the Chamber’s Communication team is twofold – we want to let companies know that Memphis is the best place to work by promoting its water resources, workforce and entrepreneur-friendly environment but also tell people that it’s a great place to live, by showing off its green spaces, thriving communities and strong culture,” said Amy Daniels, SVP of Communications and Programming for the Chamber.

In 2015, Daniels and her team reached this goal by pitching and landing over 330 local, national and international stories resulting in over $3.5 million in media value.

But the nontraditional methods are also growing in importance – think Grizzlies watch parties at a bar in New York City to recruit millennials to Memphis.

Helping others choose to live in Memphis is a job that has spread beyond just the Chamber. And in October, those efforts found a way to connect.

Choose901 started out of City Leadership as an effort to recruit young professionals to Memphis. The organization targets people 21 to 27, the age when decisions of where to live usually take place.

For many reasons, millennials choose New York City. But even more leave the city every year, creating a natural recruitment opportunity.

“When a large percentage of millennials want to be known and be in a community and make a difference, Memphis has the ability to be a big-city opportunity but also have the hometown feel where they can be part of a community,” said John Carroll, executive director of City Leadership.

Working together, the Chamber and Choose901 created a recruitment trip to New York in October. The week-long event built energy about Memphis in the Big Apple. Yes, there were fun social events, but there were also interviews and individual meetings with potential recruits. They also made presentations about the city to student groups and classes at various colleges and universities in the city.

The idea is those trips will result in more millennials choosing to relocate to Memphis, helping build the city’s next leaders while adding to the workforce possibilities for existing and potential employers. Some might even look to start businesses in Memphis, I’ve heard of people learning from companies similar to M247 to ensure that they can find the right server solutions for their business.

Looking for ways to promote Memphis? Check out our Bragging Rights page with hundreds of reasons to celebrate being a Memphian.

Mark Herbison is senior vice president of the Chamber’s Economic Development and his team works side by side with that effort. His team’s job is to recruit new businesses to town while working with existing companies to keep them in Memphis and become more prosperous. Last year, the team’s efforts brought in over 7,430 jobs to the Greater Memphis area.

That work includes traveling the world promoting Memphis as a business destination, focusing on site selectors, corporate real estate groups in other cities and companies of all sizes with expiring leases coming up.

A couple of years ago the Chamber began partnering with the Memphis Grizzlies on some of these trips. When making site visits to target markets such as Los Angeles, Chicago or Dallas it coincides with a Grizz road game in that city.

Herbison’s team secures a suite for the game that is then decked out with information about Memphis. Targeted corporate brokers, company executives and site selectors are invited to attend the game where they get a taste of the NBA while visiting with some of Memphis’ corporate leaders who are part of the trip.

And back at home the annual Blue Carpet Tour is an opportunity to invite some of the nation’s leading site selectors to the city. The most recent version of the tour saw about 15 professionals visit Memphis in December to coincide with the Chamber’s Annual Chairman’s Luncheon. They stayed at The Peabody Memphis, attended a workforce summit and Bass Pro Shops reception, experienced sights such as Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum and toured the city’s infrastructure, including rail yards and a midnight tour at the FedEx World Hub.

It all kicked off on the first night with a suite at FedExForum during a Grizzlies game that included about 40 of the city’s business leaders and government officials to mingle with the guests, all while seeing the enthusiasm that goes into a Grizz game.

“When we show these people what we have it makes an incredible impression and they leave being bullish on doing business in Memphis,” Herbison said. “We bring people who haven’t had the opportunity to see the infrastructure we offer. When they see what we have they walk away with a new sense of Memphis and what we’re doing here.”

As the Memphis area’s workforce diversifies, Amy Daniels’ Communications team is meeting that change head on. Yes, the story of distribution, late-night delivery access with FedEx, the Grizzlies and all the other attributes of Memphis are good selling points.

But more media outlets want to know about startup scenes and cultural amenities.

“There is so much fluidity with millennials that everything is changing,” said Daniels, senior vice president of communications and programming. “They want to be part of a community. We can’t walk in there with a traditional Memphis pitch. We have to hone in on being more creative in our approach.”

Story by: Lance Wiedower
Photos by: Breezy Torres, City Leadership


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