Reno must strike while the iron is hot

Imagine Reno 12 years ago. There are 50,000 fewer people, no baseball stadium and no kayak park. We accounted for train-crossing delays in our daily commutes. It was a different looking town.

Through these years our population leaped by 30 percent. In response, we increased our capacity and added more urban anchor points. Then we were hit with a devastating recession. We had too much capacity, economic opportunity was scarce and once again the City had to readdress its scale of infrastructure.

I owned two small businesses through these years and know firsthand that the only thing that keeps your doors open in a volatile market is how you adjust your business model.

It takes a lot of fortitude to lead a city through an economic roller coaster that lasted a decade and Reno’s City Council did just that. Half of that Council termed out in 2012 and the other half will term out on November 4. Their shoes will be difficult to fill. The right leadership at the right time is everything in sustaining momentum. This is why it’s important that Reno votes on November 4. We elected some good leaders in 2012 and we need to do that again this year and again in 2016. That is how Reno can strike while the iron is hot. Drones, manufacturing and supply chain, tech, education and research are magnetizing toward the #BiggestLittleCity. The market is giving Reno an incredible window of economic opportunity and we need leaders who understand that. We need to innovate now in order to sustain a competitive advantage for the next decade. Vote.

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Change the way you look at a city and the city you look at changes

Eighteen months ago, Reno was used as a punchline across pop-culture. Today, it is used in business strategy conversations. CEOs are asking manufacturing and distribution leads to get in on this ‘thing’ happening in Reno. This ‘thing’ is fashioning global brands like Amazon, Tesla, and Microsoft to shout from Mount Rose that they are in Reno and that’s what’s up.

The big idea behind the BiggestLittleCity brand was to give the community a stage to showcase the way they look at Reno. This gives the rest of the world an authentic representation of the region and changes perception. An effect like this branches out into all kinds of areas of development from tourism to employment. After all, social content is the most powerful component of a brand.

For example, searching the hashtag #BiggestLittleCity on Instagram will populate over 12K posts. These moments are real. They aren’t crafted by a corporation, but rather shared by a community that wants the world to see their BiggestLittleCity. Here is a screen shot of what people were posting on August 15.

PaulKlein_biggestlittlecity_Sunsets

 August 22 was a rainbow day in Reno and several people wanted to share it with the world.

PaulKlein_biggestlittlecity_Rainbow

On August 26, during Burning Man, the community shared these.

PaulKlein_biggestlittlecity_BurningMan

Last weekend, the sky was filled with balloons and the community posted these.

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Back in June, before the hashtag reached 11K posts, I grabbed this screen shot. Arts, food, music, and goodness.

PaulKlein_biggestlittlecity_Reno

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Poetry’s not lame

When I was in high school I wrote a poem about an evil commander of the Schutzstaffel during WWII. The story builds and swivels like an episode of the Twilight Zone. After years of imposing fear upon the innocent, the commander wakes up one day to find that he has switched places with his victims. The poem was published in a young-writer’s book and maybe someone somewhere enjoyed it. I learned the dramatics of story by trying to create it. Poetry isn’t lame; it unfolds the imagination.

The City of Reno is restoring the Poet Laureate office. This is a person appointed to promote poetry as both an art form and a means of inspirational public commentary. I know what you’re thinking…and yes, it does seem a bit silly for the City’s Charter to designate such a role. But, it’s unique traditions like these that frame a City’s culture, its brand.

My favorite Robin Williams movie is Dead Poets Society. Williams played an english teacher named John Keating. I think he describes the brilliance of poetry best when he said, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

If you’re interested in applying for Reno’s Poet Laureate, click here with a barbaric yawp!

Bravely branding

To be brave is to be bold. To take a leap toward something special that will surely be criticized. On average, people and certainly companies are more risk averse. We prefer to play it safe. For instance, the most popular wall colors are white and off-white. Neutral and safe. The Circus Circus has a bunch of these walls downtown in an area that is in desperate need of some liveliness. When you’re trying to change the energy of a City, boring does not work.

Last weekend, the Circus Circus offered a few of these walls as canvases to local artists. With paintbrushes to paneling and stencils to stucco, vanilla walls suddenly became infused with flavor. For a long-standing casino property, this was brave..and bold..and awesome for Reno’s brand. For me, the effort alone is worth a virtual standing ovation. The Circus Circus is no small fish and they did something creative to help change the face of downtown.  Who’s going to be brave next?

before

after

mural5

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a Year Since the Launch

This June will be a full year since we launched the #BiggestLittleCity movement. That first year was chaos and I loved it. We didn’t know what we were doing, just why we were doing it and that was a really fun space to work in. There’s a lot of theater in creating a movement purely fueled by passion for the place we call home. We did that so well that businesses started supporting us with checks and ad space. We had to get organized to manage all that and take the movement to the next level.

In the last few months we established a board of directors and filled for nonprofit status. We also crafted a formal mission statement: “The Biggest Little City movement is a nonprofit, grassroots community pride project. Our mission is to cultivate and share positive stories of northern Nevada residents, provide tools to businesses that wish to show their city pride, and to serve as an unbiased bridge between regional, public and governmental organizations and the community.

We now hold monthly board meetings and continue to work on helping the #BiggestLittleCity movement grow. The story count is in the hundreds, the social media hashtag count is in the hundred-of-thousands. Instagram alone is approaching 9,000. The more times the hashtag is used to link beautiful captures of the region, the stronger the brand becomes. We need to continue to align the area with the great things that draw people here.

Our latest story features a Nevada grad, Veteran, and themed pub crawl enthusiast. This is Lawrence Tam’s story.

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Objections become objectives

Here’s the thing about people: We think that complaining is how you change something. We lean toward this premise because it’s much easier to gripe about something than it is to offer a solution. After all, problem solving is hard. It takes a forward-thinking mindset to look beyond how the problem made you feel in order to discover a way to fix it.

Working in public service, if you encourage the community to share aspirations and be involved in the process you can start to build an atmosphere of innovation. This changes the dynamic of everything in government. Objections become objectives, resentments become resolutions. We improve.

Creating this effect is not as easy as ABC. So, keep it simple. We started asking people what they #ThinkReno can be. People said things like “the most innovative city in the west” and “an arts destination.” Several people shared short but profound concepts like “cleaner” and “inviting.” In one month (April 2014), we collected hundreds of these and combined them all together into a wordcloud to check the pulse of what our community is thinking. It was a small sample size, but this is what came back:

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The City of Reno communications team will be collecting these each month. We’ll compare the data and look for trends. Most importantly, we’ll share this stuff with people who move money and make policy. So, tell us what you #ThinkReno can be. Post it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and hashtag #ThinkReno. If you’re an overachiever, click here to download a #ThinkReno sign. Print it, write on it, take a picture and post it online. We’re listening.

PaulKlein_ThinkRenoCampaign

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How To Inspire Grassroots Change In Your City

paulklein:

Rebranding a City: How a community is changing perception with pride for their home.

Originally posted on Online Executive MBA:

Two of our recent MBA graduates, Kristin Stith and Paul Klein, gave an excellent talk at TEDxUniversityofNevada 2014 about being part of the Biggest Little City rebranding effort. This was a group of talented citizens that organized to volunteer time and effort to change the image of Reno, Nevada. The results of the rebranding and grassroots marketing campaign have been impressive.

This is also a great example of a well rehearsed TEDx talk. Kristin and Paul participated in all three of the rehearsals we organized for local speakers starting 3 months before the event. We watched as their talk went from an outline to a script and from nervous reading of lines to a confident performance. The audience loved their talk and if you take the time to watch it, I think you will too. After watch the video, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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a Community of Hackers

There’s an aura of creativity in the breeze; a wind of innovation that is changing the makeup of the #BiggestLittleCity. Builders, inventors, and makers-of-things-that-inspire-us are abounding. In the last three years, the community has played host to dozens of hack-a-thons , start-up competitions, and TEDx events. Worthy ideas are indeed spreading.

While our vigorous arts community continually designates the area as a creative venue, it’s the recent inclusion of tech, planning, and “hacking“ that are creating an innovation evolution. You, me, all of us are a part of this metamorphosis. Relevance comes from being engaged and adaptive, and eventually becoming cutting-edge enough to drive positive change. This is happening and we’re all driving it.

At last year’s TEDx University of Nevada, a local teenager gave a talk on the concept of hacking. While he references education as his example, the idea of innovation and creativity is what shines through. The hacking concept is about inventing new methods to increase productivity and efficiency. Whether it’s a singular artist, a team of coders, or a government agency, the Biggest Little City is innovating like never before and we’re becoming smarter. In a sense, we’re a community of hackers.

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Public Art vs. Pollution, Round 1

Take a few seconds and count the number of logos and slogans that are within eyeshot. From my desk without swiveling, I counted 32. Imagine how many marketing messages we’re exposed to in a single day.  It’s everywhere and on everything and we hardly notice it anymore. We’ve becoming numb to it. This is why it’s ineffective to drown consumers in ads hoping they’ll buy what you’re selling. If you want to make an impact, you have to move people with emotion and creativity.

A few weeks ago, we were approached by a small group of engineers looking for ways to educate Renoans about the importance of keeping our storm drains pollutant free. The storm drains collect rain water and funnels it to the river. We need this infrastructure so our homes and streets don’t flood. It’s a simple system and entirely different from our sewage pipes. The issue is the oil, radiator fluid, glass and the like, that get’s swept into the storm drains. It all ends up in the river.

We examined the engineer’s education content and thought it was very intuitive. There’s a ton of good tips and even an interactive map illustrating the path of the water at tmstormwater.com. The problem wasn’t the content; it was the appeal of it to the everyday person. The subject is boring and a pamphlet or PSA isn’t going to make people pay attention. So…we proposed we use the one medium that has moved people since the beginning of mankind…art.

This is what we did:

We’re placing posters throughout town as well, they look like this:

Octopus

Storm Drain Fish

Stormwater3

Stormwater2

Stormwater

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The Current is What’s Current

It’s been a whirlwind experience since the BiggestLittleCity.org launched. To date: we have over 100 stories; we’ve presented to about 1,000 people; and 25 businesses have joined the effort by supporting the movement with shares, shirts, hats, donations, and more.

In June, we received $100K donation from the Peppermill and $25K in air waves from local media. We are using these donations to spread the message even farther through ads, outreach, direct mail, and event materials. We need to get into the neighborhoods and rally the community to share their stories or support the movement however they can. The goal is to reach 1,000 stories by the fall.

On Tuesday, July 16th, we’re presenting the movement to the American Marketing Association (AMA-Reno) at the Atlantis. The event starts at 11:30am and ticket details can be found by clicking here.

We’re an ocean current gaining momentum. Jump in, the water is nice.

Recently, blogger Tiffany Brown wrote about the Biggest Little City movement and her words put the campaign into perspective quite nicely. Check it out by clicking here.

The BLC is the spark to the flame that’s propelling this region to unification. If you haven’t already, share your story, share the website, like the Facebook page, post something and tag it with #BiggestLittleCity, or add an icon to your Facebook, Twitter, G+, or email signature. This movement is yours, have fun with it.

BiggestLittleCity.org

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