At BRAC’s August 1 Monthly Lunch, Rebecca Gehman shared the powerful impact of storytelling and how it can be used to firmly establish a community’s reputation.  

Gehman, who recently moved to Baton Rouge, is an account manager for Development Counsellors International (DCI), a New York-headquartered “place marketing” firm that specializes in economic development and tourism marketing. DCI works with cities, states, regions and countries to develop tailored branding strategies with the goal of attracting businesses, residents and visitors to a destination.  

BRAC, in partnership with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Visit Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, will work with DCI over the next year on an earned-media strategy to elevate Baton Rouge’s external image – to share the region’s story with those who may not be familiar.

Why Storytelling?

When it comes to what corporate executives look for in locations, articles in newspapers and magazines consistently beat out advertising efforts, and remain among the most important sources when it comes to perception management.  

“Stories stick with us more than numbers or faces,” Gehman says.  

DCI has worked with communities like Charleston, “the silicon south,” Orlando, “imagination fueled by innovation,” and Chattanooga, “the gig city,” getting stories published in traditional media giants including USA Today, the New York Times and the Finance Times, as well as new media leaders like Thrillist and Twitter.

What’s Baton Rouge’s Story?

Gehman notes that in a survey of best places to live in the South, Baton Rouge didn’t make the cut. The most significant conclusion of the data, however, was a direct correlation between familiarity and favorability — people tend to favor what they know. And people don’t seem to know much about Baton Rouge. 

“Baton Rouge is not a blank slate,” Gehman says. “We just haven’t told its story.” Although there’s a lot happening in the Capital Region, there’s a disconnect between what active community members know exists here and what outsiders think is going on.  

Baton Rouge locals recognize its food, views, history and people are what gives the Capital Region its character. But also, Baton Rouge’s low cost of living beats out neighboring economic centers like Houston and Atlanta. Capital Region housing costs clock in at 15 percent lower than the national average.

How Can Residents and Businesses Help?

Residents and businesses can help tell Baton Rouge’s story by showing their pride for Baton Rouge, emphasizing the city’s name in online mentions, conversations and job postings, and bragging about Baton Rouge on social media.  

The things that make Baton Rouge unique comprise the key messages to use when telling Baton Rouge’s story: 

  • Baton Rouge offers the best of Louisiana. It’s home to the state’s flagship university and the State Capitol. It’s not New Orleans, nor is it Cajun Country — Baton Rouge has its own personality, with something for everyone. 
  • Baton Rouge is Louisiana’s economic engine. Home to thriving businesses like IBM, Coca-Cola and EA, the region continues to drive economic growth for the state. 
  • Baton Rouge keeps the country moving. The Port of Greater Baton Rouge, one of the largest ports in the U.S., is strategically placed at the mouth of the Mississippi River, connecting the rest of the country to intermodal transportation. 
  • Baton Rouge is solving the world’s biggest problems. From Pennington’s groundbreaking research on chronic disease to the Water Campus’s innovative study of rising waters. 
  • Baton Rouge welcomes big ideas with open doors. Entrepreneurs and young professionals choose the Capital Region because of its supportive community. 
  • Baton Rouge has a culture of celebration. With its annual festivals, tailgating and events almost every weekend — many of which are free — Baton Rouge is known for food, fun and entertainment. 

Know a person or business with the potential to be a national news story? BRAC and DCI are always looking for ideas. Contact us at info@brac.org.

Written by Chelsea Rainwater

Chelsea Rainwater is the marketing and communications intern at BRAC. She is responsible for providing support for marketing team programs and projects.