Have you ever wondered what makes any place truly great? What gives San Francisco or 30A in Florida those peculiar “good vibes” that make you want to go and see it for yourself? Is it the business district, the museums and restaurants, casinos—or is it something more?

The answer to this question lays at the intersection of place-branding and storytelling.

Great Stories Happen Anywhere

Lately, there has been an evolution bringing together marketing and “place making,” demonstrating that a place’s two audiences (businesses and tourists) are actually deeply linked by an underlying essence. Or a “mystique,” if you will.

What gives a place its mystique is its story, and good story is rooted in authenticity. But the mission of smart marketers in the place branding space is not to show up, wave a wand, and invent a brand story out of nothing. It’s to help the local administration see what their place already is and where it can go. You then take what’s there and develop a narrative that powerfully conveys the authentic essence of that place.

This is the real power of building a place-branding story that works. Your story is already with you—you just need help revealing it.

This also requires helping residents themselves understand what makes their own home so unique and special. They may not have the words at hand to describe it. But this part is absolutely key, because once you give them the right words, they will help you “sell” their place. They want people to join their community who will reinforce the story of their place.

This will help you craft compelling messaging that shares the story with relevant audiences outside the region, aligning with the values and essence of that place. This in turn drives interest from the business community, which brings in a workforce that wants to be part of the story of the place, which creates and grows its own consumer base. All of this together establishes a virtuous cycle, where a certain style of people continues to accumulate in a particular kind of place—the retirees and families ending up in Florida, for example, or the ambitious tech geniuses gathering in Silicon Valley—ultimately resulting in what you might call the “good vibes” of a place.

Success in Place Branding

This kind of work has another ancillary benefit. It changes how the community views the importance and effectiveness of government itself.

In market research for a client where we built a powerful place branding story, a respondent told us: “I didn’t want to move to this area—but now I love it and I wouldn’t go anywhere else!” Another said: “I don’t get angry when I pay my taxes anymore, because I know what I’m getting.” In fact, our team has so far received zero negative comments from focus groups. Imagine that.

It’s because people have permitted themselves to love where they live and understand the value and the identity it gives them. That kind of thing can happen anywhere. What I’ve learned regarding this work is that, ultimately, what’s transformational is how you tell someone’s story back to him. That is, the act of selling the benefits of place to a resident is what helps him understand the real value of living where he does, which helps him to explain it to those outside the community. But you have to capture the right essence—that mystique—to be successful.

Through powerful storytelling, my team and I have been fortunate enough to positively transform people’s perception of where they live. We gain more followers every day on social media, the people get more benefits from their public services, and the connection between “audience” and “place” grows stronger than ever.