Back to the Mar-Apr 2022 issue

If Your City’s in the Spotlight, Make Sure It Shines

By Ben Hayle

Every city, no matter how large or small, has something that is uniquely its own. Often it is a special event that puts a city in the spotlight. Your communications around the event can help make sure the city shines.

Blaine’s experience

In Blaine, the spotlight rarely fades, as the city and its 70,000 residents welcome over 7 million visitors per year. Two major international events take place in Blaine each summer. The Target USA Cup and the 3M Open put Blaine on a stage that many suburbs never experience. With that attention comes opportunity.

The 3M Open attracts about 100,000 people to the City of Blaine every July. (Photo courtesy City of Blaine)

The Target USA Cup youth soccer tournament at the National Sports Center brings in 25,000 people per day for a 10-day run each July. In a typical year, this event brings in an average of 1,200 teams from 20 different countries and over 20 states across the nation.

Later in July, the annual 3M Open attracts about 100,000 people to the city. This PGA Tour event is broadcast in over 200 countries and brings the best golfers in the world to play on the course at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. The tournament also brings celebrities, business influencers, and media from around the globe. And it delivers a $50 million economic impact for the region.

These are not city-run events, but they are key to Blaine’s identity, and both rely on a partnership with the city to be successful. Our city communications team has learned to focus on three key areas as we plan the communication strategy around these and other events: public communications, media exposure, and marketing to businesses.

Public communications

Special events by their nature bring disruption to the daily routines of residents and businesses in the community. It’s important to start early to help prepare the community for the upcoming event.

Remind residents of such inconveniences as road closures and increased traffic. Acknowledge that this will change their normal routines, while also sharing the positive impact that the event will have on the community.

Many events have a charity or community involvement aspect that can be highlighted. This can help to instill a sense of community pride around the event.

Also make sure to use your communication platforms to welcome visitors to your community. Invite them to stop at local businesses before or after the event.

The final piece to the public communications focus is around public safety. As the lead public safety agency for both the Target USA Cup and 3M Open, the City of Blaine often has important messages to get out to both residents and visitors. Aside from any urgent safety messages, you can also use an event to highlight the good work being done by public safety personnel.

Media exposure

When you have an event of any size, capitalize on the opportunity for media coverage. Engage your local community television stations, newspapers, and radio stations. Work year-round to build relationships with larger regional media outlets, too, so when you have a unique event, you can get their attention.

Events are a great opportunity to let your leaders shine in the media spotlight. If your elected officials are suited for interviews, let them share your story as much as possible. Be sure to prepare them with solid talking points and key messages.

Events are also a great opportunity to develop relationships with reporters and editors. Offer to help them get the photo or video they need and provide space for them to record interviews. These relationships can help you and your city in the future.

Marketing to businesses

Events can often give your city a great opportunity to reach out to the business community.

During the week of the 3M Open, the City of Blaine hosts a hospitality suite. In this space, the city works to court new businesses while continuing to build relationships with current businesses. Our communications team works to prepare the space with digital and paper visuals that can be used in conversations and sent with guests as they leave.

As a city communicator, you often spend hours preparing for all aspects of hosting an event — whether it’s large or small. By focusing on the three key areas of public communications, media exposure, and marketing, you can make sure your city is at its best when it’s in the spotlight.

Ben Hayle is communications manager with the City of Blaine.