Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Indy’s Roadmap to the Future

This post originally appeared on City Gallery.

Downtown Indianapolis is brimming with positive momentum. New residential developments, a robust food scene, strong urban neighborhoods and Bikeshare have downtown riding high. While downtown’s population and momentum is soaring, some other areas in our city are losing residents and face growth issues. Land in Marion County is also at a premium. We can’t expand our borders like we did with Unigov. We have to get strategic about how we recruit and compete for residents.

Some parts of Indy do compete, like downtown. Downtown’s success can be linked to a number of factors, one being that it is the only bustling urban metropolis in the area. The city’s challenge is identifying a way to make all of Indianapolis more competitive, so the city can continue to grow.\

Enter Plan 2020.

Plan 2020 creates a new approach to planning in Indianapolis, meshing community vision, values, and strategy with an unprecedented, coordinated update to core city government plans. Plan 2020’s mission is to make Indianapolis a better place to live, work and visit.

Five themes have been identified as instrumental to developing a compelling future for Indianapolis.

·         CHOOSE INDY – Building safe, vibrant and competitive neighborhoods for all residents.
·         LOVE INDY – Fostering an emotional connection to our city through places, amenities and activities.
·         CONNECT INDY – Connecting people, goods, information and neighborhoods to make navigating the city easier.
·         WORK INDY – Cultivating and maximizing economic opportunity in Indianapolis.
·         SERVE INDY – Promoting civic engagement and service to others as a defining characteristic of our city.

Plan 2020 is a collaboration between the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, Department of Metropolitan Development and community leaders. This coordination will make Plan 2020 more strategic than typical planning initiatives and will be honest and transparent about what city government can accomplish.

Plan 2020 has the perfect home for this task: old City Hall, which has been rebranded as The Hall. The Hall serves as an urban think tank and hub for the city’s new strategic plan and other community-based planning in the City. The Hall will be one of Plan 2020’s engagement vehicles, helping to produce collaboration and discussion among Indianapolis residents. The Hall will host non-traditional public meetings, forums, events and activities to spur innovative thinking about the future of Indianapolis. In addition to housing Plan 2020, The Hall also has an interactive gallery space that highlights community initiatives, design and urban development.

Plan 2020 won’t have all the answers to Indianapolis’ problems, but it will develop a roadmap that makes Indy an even better place to live. Share your two cents by visiting The Hall or following us on social media at @IndyPlan and @TheHall_Indy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Quick Fixes for Your Content Conundrum

Content is the fuel for many online marketing strategies. Whether it’s blogs, articles, case studies, videos or white papers, content production is a necessity to maintain a strong presence online. As marketers, many of us become content curators and are charged with either producing content or managing its production. Getting inspiration and ideas for new content can be one of the biggest hurdles content producers have to overcome.

Here are some good ideas for solving your content production crisis.

Odds are that your organization is creating and designing presentations for clients, conferences and internal meetings. Guess what? This is great content that you can repurpose as a blog. An ideal blog post weighs-in at 250 to 350 words. You should be able to take the ideas from two to three presentation slides and turn them into a coherent blog post.

Good content provides answers to questions that potential clients might have. You answer questions all day long via email. So, if a client is asking you about a particular problem or issue you should turn that question into a blog. Using this method will ensure you are creating good content that your audience cares about.

Everyone likes to be first. Set up an internal contest to reward employees who create content. The contest can reward employees that blog the most frequently or those that produce the highest amount of traffic. Either way, marketers and content curators will win.

Work Completed for Clients
In the business world we send clients a lot of information. Whether its drawings for a building, information about your product, website copy or proposal responses. A lot of thought and effort goes into creating this material. Content producers should take advantage of this work and repurpose it for external marketing purposes. It’s relatively easy to take a question from an RFP and transform it into a blog post. Share that great insight with the world!

In general, content producers should take advantage of every opportunity to repurpose information. It saves time and is a great way to generate content that your audience will care about.

Friday, March 28, 2014

[INFOGRAPHIC] The Commandments of Content Marketing

Content is king when it comes to online marketing strategies. By producing content that is relevant, interesting and valuable to your audience, you can drive traffic and improve your ranking in search results. Here are five types of content that you can start producing today to bolster your content marketing strategy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The 5 Commandments of Interesting Content

Many businesses are using search engine optimization and content marketing to drive traffic to their websites. Good, relevant and interesting content is what fuels an online marketing approach. So, what is the best formula for creating interesting content? Follow these 5 commandments to find out.
  • Use numbers – Blogs that feature a list are more clickable because they carry a clear and concise message (notice the title of this post?). Readers know exactly what they are getting when they click your post. Hopefully, that helps them retain the information you presented.
  • K.I.S.S. – My soccer coach lived by this motto: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Attention spans are short and your blog posts should be too. Try and keep it under 300 words.
  • Be opinionated – When you write a blog, take a stance and be bold. Readers should be able to ascertain the purpose for your post in the first few sentences. This also makes your blogs more interesting because, let’s be honest, no one wants to read something that seems restrained.
  • Your message should be clear – Your first sentence should answer, “Why?” as in, why am I reading this. Readers should be able to identify the purpose of your post in your first or second sentence.
  • If you can’t be the first, be the best at being the opposite - Create content that stands out and has its own unique voice. It’s good to follow best practices, but make sure that your blog and your content is unique and distinct. It’s okay to break a few rules.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Paradox Between Ideas and Leadership

Ideas are cheap.

They are easy to conjure-up and often times ignore realities and elements that affect the implementation of the idea. It’s easy to sit around and high-five your friends when a great idea crosses your mind, but how do you execute it. It’s no good to merely take credit for an idea and then do nothing to make it a reality.

I believe in execution. The execution of an idea – the culmination of details, project management and logistics – should be rewarded and recognized.

However, a paradox exists between ideas and leadership.

Oftentimes, great leaders are characterized as being “visionary.” I don’t necessarily agree. They aren’t a good leader because they sit in the shower all day and come up with brilliant ideas, they are a good leader because they take charge and make things happen.

This paradox also exists in the way most businesses function. As a young professional, this is a contradiction that can be all too real.

The leadership of an organization enacts a strategy, but relies on other people to execute. These rank-and-file employees are tasked with executing an idea that they didn’t come up with. However, it is generally recognized that a crucial step to advancing up the corporate ladder requires being an idea person. How can employees be an “idea person” when all of their time is spent executing someone else’s idea?

How can we bridge this gap to give employees the opportunity to grow?

I think the answer starts with empowering people to make their own decisions. They should be allowed to implement new ideas with resources and the support of a team.

I recently heard General Stan McChrystal speak. One of his most resounding comments was on the need for Team-based leadership. McChrystal was the commander for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Early in the war, McChrystal had to approve every bombing raid that JSOC undertook. Realizing the inefficient nature of this process, he changed protocol to allow his commanders to make that decision on their own. He trusted the people he put in places of leadership and empowered them to make decisions. As a result, bombing raids became much more efficient and successful.

I think this is how businesses can successfully leverage the strengths of young people in their organizations. They need to be empowered to execute their ideas and make decisions. Similarly, we need to be challenged to gauge the impact of our decisions, so we can quantify the value of our efforts and learn from our mistakes.

Empowering young professionals and giving them the opportunity to act on their ideas is the best way to erase the current paradox that exists between ideas and leadership.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Next Great Placemaking Exercise for Indianapolis

Indy needs more powerful, engaging and dynamic public spaces that become quintessential places to see when you visit Indianapolis.

Chicago’s Millennium Park is a fantastic example of a placemaking project that has transformed the visitor experience in Chicago. Millennium Park is a world renowned example of urban development and I think Indianapolis could replicate pieces of the project to transform areas of our own city.

Millennium Park in Downtown Chicago. 
Millennium Park is a destination spot for visitors. Its Instagram index (the average number of people who snap pics from the location) is off the charts. If you are going to Chicago, you stop and take a picture at Cloud Gate. Any type of public space development should involve some type of public art that is engaging and approachable. Cloud Gate rocks because everyone knows how to interact with it. It’s an intuitive piece of art that engages visitors and compliments the initiative of the space perfectly.

Indianapolis was recently ranked 47th nationally in public green spaces. That’s pathetic. Downtown Indianapolis has an abundance of great resources, but could really benefit from more engaging public spaces.

Luckily there are a couple initiatives already in play that could help this problem. The Reconnecting to Our Waterways initiative has already addressed six areas that could be benefitted by urban planning and redevelopment by linking them to underused waterways in Indianapolis. The plan is pretty cool and presents a series of solutions that would create engaging spaces all over the city. One area that Reconnecting to Our Waterways does not address is the old GM stamping plant on the west side of Indianapolis. The site is huge – 101 acres – and is located right on the White River. It’s only a 15-to-20 minute walk from the Eiteljorg Museum and White River State Park. In my eyes that could be the perfect location for a great park in Indy’s urban core.
The GM Stamping Plant in Indianapolis.
What if we used the blueprint established by Chicago’s Millenium Park for the old GM site. Putting aside minor issues such as funding, public/private partnerships and viability *sarcasm*, let’s consider some of the elements that could be used.
  • Engaging public art – The anchor for this space would be a large-scale public art piece that registers a mega-high score on the Instagram index. If someone was visiting Indy this would become the quintessential place for taking a great skyline picture of the city and seeing a great city landmark.
  • Water park feature that doubles as an ice skating rink in winter – This would tie into the Reconnecting to Our Waterways initiative and make it a destination spot for families year around. 
  • Bike path and trail that connects to the White River Wapahani Trail – The trail is already a highly used feature of White River State Park and would be a vital piece to link the southwest side of Indy to the central core. Indy has a great track record of maximizing development around trails. 
  • Mixed use development – The southwest side of Indy is the least livable quadrant of the urban core. This initiative would encourage the development of housing and amenities to spark growth in the area. If the Wapahani Trail was extended, I think we could expect development to surge. I envision a scenario very similar to what happened along Virginia Avenue when the Cultural Trail was designed. 
  • Fishing pier – This would be a great recreational spot for fishing and continue to reinforce the Reconnecting to Our Waterways mission.
  • New soccer stadium – This is easily the most ambitious of my ideas (although it seems to have traction). Let’s say the Indy Eleven Soccer team is a success and goes on to become a full fledged Major League Soccer Franchise. They will need a new stadium and the old GM site would make perfect sense with its available land, proximity to other sporting venues (Lucas Oil Stadium, Victory Field) and opportunity for development in the area. I could easily envision the public spaces and stadium coexisting harmoniously in the same “park” setting.
A rendering of a proposed new soccer stadium in Indianapolis.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why Indianapolis’ Brand Needs to Catch Up with Its Product

Indianapolis struggles with a number of perception issues. When I talk to people who aren’t from the Midwest or aren’t familiar with Indianapolis, they seem to have a very limited outlook on what the city has to offer. They assume that, since Indianapolis is in Indiana, there is nothing to do (but shuck corn). There are no restaurants, entertainment options or fun to be had of any kind. In fact they seem to act like Indianapolis has absolutely zero cultural offerings. They’re wrong. Anyone that is from the city or has visited the city knows this. So what is the issue? Why do people assume that Indianapolis is the Mecca of monotonous, the borough of boring and the land of lackluster?

It’s because Indianapolis’ brand hasn’t caught up with its product.

Indianapolis has an awesome product: a vibrant downtown, connected cultural districts, abundant resources to host major events, a livable urban core and an emerging technology driven business sector that is attractive to young talent. The issue is that these products aren’t registering in the minds of outsiders when they think of Indy.

Here are some of my ideas on how to fix that problem by molding Indianapolis’ brand.

Speak to young professionals. This should be Indianapolis’ target audience. People who are 22 to 40 years old are the ones who have the power, and energy, to change how the city is perceived. The city needs to attract more talented young people who can help the city grow and bring change. Bringing in more young professionals imports fresh ideas, new business opportunities and creates a foundation for economic growth. There is a swell of optimism surrounding this demographic and many of them have realized that if you want to change Indianapolis, there is an opportunity to do so.

Continue to promote the back bone of Indianapolis’ hallmark events, but tell the world about other things that make Indianapolis awesome. The Indianapolis 500, the Final Four and other sports related events have helped get Indianapolis to where they are today, but promoting other cultural initiatives are what will get us to where we want to be in the future. It’s crucial to promote cultural institutions and entertainment options that speak to a broader audience beyond sports. WARM fest is a great example of an event that could become a staple for Indianapolis. Exact Target’s Connections Conference is a model that can be emulated to showcase the wealth of tech-savvy companies and ideas that reside in Indianapolis. 

Pursue live music opportunities. I think music is one of the least recognized opportunities for strengthening a city’s brand and spurring economic development. Other cities that are, or were, similar in size and stature have harnessed this asset and used it to their advantage. Austin and Nashville, like Indianapolis, have no oceans, mountains or eighth wonders of the world, but they are considered by all young people as hip places to live and visit. Both cities also used music as a catalyst for growth and economic development. Why can’t Indianapolis be the same way? People want entertainment options that combine their senses. Indianapolis has a connected downtown and a live music void that would make it easy to set up a music-focused cultural district. 

The canal could be an ideal location for
 a live music cultural district.
I think the central canal could be the perfect spot for a new cultural district that caters to live music. The canal, for the most part, lacks street level business. What if a stretch of the canal became Indianapolis’ live music headquarters? I can envision multiple restaurants and bars with outdoor seating and music sprawled across the canal. 

Keep attracting new and large scale events. Indianapolis’ convention space potential is second to none. Every big conference or event the city lands is a huge “W” for the brand. Events are the best way to showcase what Indianapolis is truly capable of. All of the marketing in the world cannot compete with the impact of new visitors giving the city rave reviews. Let’s hope that Indianapolis continues to pursue large scale events like the Super Bowl. 

Doing these four things will strengthen Indianapolis’ brand and position them as a vibrant and versatile city that has plenty of growth potential. The city is riding a wave of optimism, now we need to share that optimism with the masses.