The Starting Line

I’ve spent the last 10 years working professionally as a “creative”, which is the advertising industry’s label for those who create things by direction, design or copywriting. To be a creative is a gift and a curse because you’re always reinventing your invention. The never-ending pursuit of the “wow” factor distracts you in everyday conversation and keeps you up at night. I have boxes of steno pads filled with chicken-scratched ideas. Getting the idea on paper is medicinal to a creative’s congested mind. From Fortune 500s to mom-and-pop shops, I’ve written and designed campaigns for organizations of all sizes and industry types. The most rewarding part of being a creative is pitching an idea and watching the client’s eyes conjure a look of amazement.

Recently, I left the ad agency realm to work in government for the City of Reno. Community service is in my nature. I’ve volunteered, donated time, and held board positions since high school. From 2006-2010, I served as a City of Reno commissioner and realized the opportunity a government has in regards to enhancing the atmosphere of a community. My best work as a creative always surfaced when working with non-profits and it became obvious that my passion for public service motivated my best work.

I am currently pursuing an MBA from the University of Nevada and have been challenged to create a blog that encompasses my professional value within my career field. Working in government has given me an opportunity to use my creative talent within the public service sector and that connection is the foundation of this blog. As a professional, I have the privilege of working with a team to help identify Reno and focus our pride for the Biggest Little City in the World in a comprehensible manner. Reno is a special place, for residents and visitors. I believe that if we can do a better job of communicating that, the community as a whole will thrive.

The brand of Reno will have more impact if it comes from its citizens and visitors. Therefore, in order to define the brand of Reno, let’s explore the overall image or set of perceptions and associations that resides in people’s minds. These types of insights are always an approximation and subjective. Therefore, reasonable people will thus disagree about the brand of Reno, which is expected and certainly meaningful. Over the next few months, this blog will capture opinion, research, evidence, and more as we walk along the branding path. In addition to you, I will talk to Reno’s leaders and innovators and collect feedback that will set a foundation of “feeling”, the affect Reno has as a place.

Welcome to the starting line. Let’s begin this adventure with describing what Reno means to us. To me, Reno is a wonderful anomaly. It’s a place where opposites attract. Where big meets small, cold meets hot, loud meets quiet. We’re a brightly colored gray area. We’re street festivals and football. We’re tech companies and kayakers. We’re golf courses and casinos. We’re fifteen minutes from a ski resort and a cow field. There’s no other place in the world like Reno. Its attributes are randomly appropriate. It’s a great place.

How would you describe Reno? What does Reno mean to you?

NOTE: The thoughts and opinions expressed by Paul Klein in this blog are personal and not that of the City of Reno.

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26 thoughts on “The Starting Line

  1. There is no place like Reno where the randomness we possess is so cohesive in a society. Being able to go to a top 10 spa in the world at the Atlantis, to the Cal Neva that may have the cheapest blinds in the world, then heading up to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, all in one day, is a thing of beauty! Bringing back “The Biggest Little City” tag line in full force is a necessity to help brand Reno; highlighting the important diversity in our businesses and community will continue to help Reno grow positively.

  2. Having worked in travel and tourism for this beautiful destination, I will always be advocate for Reno Tahoe. I like to describe it as friendly and eclectic. A great city with lots to offer but small enough where you’re likely to run into someone when you’re out on the town. It feels like a community.

  3. I often wonder why so many of us embrace the Reno Envy trailer logo. I am a proud Renoite and I like playing into the trailer image knowing that we are so much more than that. But does this give those not in on the joke a bad impression? Portland is playing on the “Weird” brand even though there is so much more human capital there. What is our brand? Remember we are not Portland and we are not Austin, we need to be Reno!

    1. To validate what you’re saying, Bryan, I’m formerly of Reno and now living in Austin. My team wore Reno Envy t-shirts in the Austin Gorilla Run. People didn’t get the joke, they thought it was a play on trailers and camping. I found myself being an Reno ambassador, talking about all of the things it has to offer. I was met with blank stares. One person said their aunt was there for a conference ten years ago and it was a bad experience.
      Outside of the west coast, perception is really negative about Reno. It’s suffered from an identity crisis for way too long. I’m hoping Paul’s involvement on the city council will put Reno on the map in a positive light instead of becoming a punchline again. (Again referring to that blogger who said it’s skippable.)

  4. When discussing his options between Denver or San Diego, former fictional first round draft pick Frank Cushman said “Hell, I’ll either surf or ski”. Well, if Cush lived in Reno he could do both-in the same day! What other city can claim that? Throw in a dress up pub crawl, a wolf pack football game and boom goes the dynamite you’ve got yourself on helluva town- Reno, Baby.

  5. The Reno Sparks area has more than just a river running through it! It is rich in all areas of life and lifestyles: food, arts, music, culture, both summer and winter out door entertainment & sports, religion &spirituality, shopping, technology, beautiful landscapes and don’t forget the history! The Reno-Sparks area offers an endless list of reasons to plant some roots here, and while your at it, plant a tree!

  6. I would love if the conversation could focus on the people that actually live in Reno. We’ve tried for decades to convince people how great Reno is through what it has to offer: Tahoe, golfing, skiing, kayaking, hiking- all in one day as Adam Lapidus points out. However, when you think about another city, the first thought that often comes to mind are the people LIVING in that city.

    Portland has hipsters, Austin has progressive southerners, Seattle has coffee-junky entrepreneurs, San Diego has laid-back surfers. What does Reno have? For me, it’s people you want to be around. We’re smart, we’re driven, we’re community-centered. We love to enjoy life, whether it’s at a casino’s $2 breakfast, or snowshoeing in the Mt. Rose meadows (which you can also do in one day, by the way). We have pride in our schools, our university, our neighborhoods and even our growing local restaurant and bar scene.

    Have you tried the delicious, locally owned Creme Cafe? Have you been to UNR basketball game on Saturday? Have you driven up to Tahoe just to watch the sunset? Have you walked into the new Chapel Bar and seen your coworkers, long-time friends and completely new faces look back at you? Oh yes, we all have, in some fashion or another. And the reason all of those things are great, is because they involve us, the people of the BLC, Reno, Nevada.

    In short, what Reno has to offer is me. And you too. We are all awesome, and why would awesome people live in a crappy place? Exactly. We don’t.

      1. I think the people is place idea is pretty common….the first step I would take as a journalist coming to do a story in or on a new town was talk to the people, find the patriarchs and matriarchs of the social fabric (and not the usual subjects)…then dig into the history of the people who made the place. Today’s Reno place-makers are dynamic, insightful, unexpected and very much organic, i.e. loyal/cognizant to their place and to the people before them. The imagery of Reno that we “brand” with are things — natural and manmade icons. I think the people are the new story of Reno.

  7. In the past Reno embraced the things they were known for at that time. Somewhere along the way Reno drifted away and now we need to embrace who we are again. The Reno of pub crawls, festivals, gambling and amazing outdoor play areas. Reno to me is a place where we really know how to have fun indoors and out and we just want to share it with rest of the world.

  8. I agree with you Paul. Reno is a naturally wonderful anomaly, thus all of its residents. Personally, I like Reno because it is small enough town to go from one end to another in 15 minutes, and at the same time, Reno has pretty much all the amenities of bigger cities.
    However; there is something else in Reno: big corporations mingled with small local businesses, and people from all over the nation and the world. Reno is the place where Cowboys ride along with Argentinean Gauchos, Indians and Bangladeshians get mixed up, Native Americans and Hispanics look alike….Reno is the place where urban meets suburban.
    Reno is the place where downtown casinos share blocks with financial institutions and the City Hall. Reno is the place where gentlemen’s clubs are businesses that are just across the street from Starbucks.
    Reno is the best city to live in. Its proximity to California, Ski Resorts, Lake Tahoe, the mountains, etc, etc., makes Reno very appealing for tourists and residents; however, the same tourists and residents are the ones that hurt Reno’s image as well. Many of them fall for the enchantments of the beauty of Reno, and they get caught in the vices of gambling and drinking (available 24/7 at the local casinos).
    People tend to emphasize the bad, and they forget about the good most of the time. Reno is beautiful. We are a unique city, not only geographically, demographically as well.
    What Reno needs to do is embrace its uniqueness and capitalize on it; we are the biggest little city in the world afterall. I believe that we are capable of doing anything we collectively decide.
    Do we want to be a tech-city? We could. There are plenty of techies in this city.
    Do we want to be an entrepreneurial city? Of course we could.
    We are the “Frankenstein” of all the other cities. We have different pieces and parts from other cities that we get compared to them a lot…”Reno is a small version of Las Vegas” but we are NOT Las Vegas and nor want to be Las Vegas. “Reno is so close to hell you can see Sparks”….Ok that was a bad joke, but Reno is nowhere near to hell. Reno is actually closer to heaven.
    I think that Reno residents need to realize what we are and the beauty and potential we have in order to find our identity….Reno is Reno, and I LOVE IT!
    I am looking forward your next post already…Great job!

  9. Some of those other communities (Boulder, Portland, Austin, Santa Fe, I could go on…) spend a lot of money and energy to very purposely build and then publicize an atmosphere of grooviness (or “interestingness,” to borrow a Flickr term) that just occurs naturally and unfunded in Reno. I think our biggest challenge is in finding the right tools and channels with which to find, shine a spotlight on, and then project those things outward a little bit better than we have in the past.

    I vote for keeping the Biggest Little City in the world slogan, but updating the image of what it means.

  10. When I think of what Reno means me it is the freedom to do almost anything I want. We just recently moved back to Reno from the Midwest. This is a place where you can go out at anytime and find food and entertainment. You can ski in the morning and work in the afternoon. Cruise up to Tahoe for dinner and sleep in your own bed that night. Go to the ocean in a couple hours drive. See wild horses and be on the playa in a couple hours if you drive the other way. You can gamble if you feel lucky, or catch a show downtown. It’s the freedom to do all that and more everyday that brought us back here.

    1. Justin- I totally dig that idea… we really are a community of diverse opportunity. From our outdoors to our nightlife- even our weather- there’s always something for everyone, if you just take a moment to look.

  11. Great conversation that needs to be had…

    I moved here from Alaska back in ’94 to finish out college… and then just never left. Reno has grown in many ways since then, but I honestly still really, really like the ‘Biggest Little City’ identity and soul. I find myself constantly being a brand ambassador for our lovely little community, and here are a few things that I like to mention:

    1. Centrally located – You can be anywhere on the West Coast in two hours by plane, or drive to the coast in a little more than 3 hours.

    2. Tahoe – Boom. There it is. One of the greatest places on earth, and it’s at our doorstep.

    3. Recreation – Hiking, biking, skiing, boarding, riding, kayaking, running, paddle boarding, off-roading, camping, boating, fishing, hunting, golfing… etc. If it’s outside and ends with an “ing”, you can do it here.

    4. Entertainment – 24/7 action is undeniably awesome. Gambling, big name acts, off-broadway shows, concerts, art, minor league baseball, NBADL, University of Nevada, Reno sports and a year round calendar of world-class events, speaking of…

    5. Events – We have to have more amazing events than other city our size, right?! I mean… Hot August Nights, Burning Man, Reno Air Races, Balloon Races, Camel Races, Art Town, Street Vibrations, Reno River Festival, Reno Tahoe Open, Reno Tahoe Odyssey, Shakespeare Festival, Reno Rodeo, Rib Cook Off, etc… will it ever stop, yo, I don’t know.

    6. Biggest Little City – True dat. All the amenities of of a much larger city, with the local community feel. And you can be out in the country in 15 minutes. Few other places can truly claim that. We can.

    7. We’re not Vegas – Sorry, had to.

  12. You can do anything you want to in Reno, be anyone you want to be and create change quickly if you so desire. Reno is full of passionate, excited and REAL people who care so deeply about this community and making it better. RENO is creating its own space and its own landscape. How lucky that we get to be part of it

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