As economic developers and place marketers, we know that residents are often the best advocates and promoters of the communities in which they live. Unfortunately, though, even residents sometimes harbor stereotypes, especially of neighborhoods that locals classify as rich, poor, dangerous or “too hipster” based on little more than gossip and sensationalist journalism. Because of this, if a community leader wants to change how the world sees a city, frequently he has to start in his own backyard.
And that’s just what Hunter Franks decided to do. Working in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation in the spring of 2013, Franks was convinced that the first step to changing people’s perceptions about the city’s neglected neighborhoods was to give them a different side of the story – one that came from the people who lived there, rather than news reports and police blotters.
His idea spurred the Neighborhood Postcard Project, a grassroots marketing effort that solicits community members to write postcards with positive anecdotes about their neighborhood. The postcards are then dropped off or sent at random to households in nearby zip codes, encouraging citizens to see neighboring communities in a new light.
While it’s too soon to say if the effort has rewritten the stories for these communities, the positive response has spurred participation coast to coast. In the last year, postcards have been dropping into mailboxes across San Francisco and in New York, Florida and Washington, D.C.
If your community would like to participate, start by downloading a free toolkit here.
TELL US: How is your community engaging residents to shape your story? Share in the comments below!