Who’s in Charge When It Comes to Talent?


Destination marketing organizations attract visitors. Economic development organizations attract employers. But when it comes to attracting people not just to visit, but to stay to live and work in a community—who’s in charge of that? This blog outlines why both DMOs and EDOs should be concerned about attracting talent to their destinations and how they can work together.

The War for Talent 

With low unemployment rates, a widening skills gap, and the simple fact that finding a new job is now easier than ever thanks to the internet—employers are battling each other for top talent. More and more, EDOs are feeling the pressure from local employers to ensure a steady supply of skilled workers. What does this mean? Economic developers now have two jobs: wooing companies to their regions and wooing top talent to keep those companies. Like anyone who takes on a second job, EDOs could use some help. That’s where DMOs come in. 

The Lifestyle Factor 

When companies consider a location, the process is scientific and data-driven—they look at demographics, operating costs, real estate options, incentive programs and other key factors. But when a person considers a new location, the decision is much less methodical. 

According to our latest research report, “Talent Wars: What People Look for in Jobs and Locations,” jobs are the main driver behind relocation decisions, but 76% of people cite first-hand experience when asked how their impressions of a community are formed. Translation: while attractive job opportunities capture talent’s attention, travel forms their perceptions. 

The same visitors that DMOs attract are also a location’s potential talent pool. Economic development organizations should partner with a community’s destination marketing organization to ensure that visitors’ first-hand experiences showcase “what the locals do” so visitors can imagine themselves not just visiting, but living in the community. Both groups should strive to spotlight their community’s lifestyle to increase the funnel of people experiencing the region first-hand. Attracting talent also benefits DMOs—new transplants are ambassadors for the community and are eager to have friends and family visit them (which often means “heads in beds”). 

Working Together to Attract Talent 

While both EDOs and DMOs are in the same business of place marketing—they have very different messages they are trying to share with their target audiences. When it comes to promoting a place for others to live and work, the messages can be blurred. Someone looking to relocate will want to know just as much about economic development messages (cool companies and a better cost of living) as tourism messages (top activities and attractions). 

EDOs and DMOs should meet regularly to make sure they are including the best messaging in marketing opportunities. For example: 

  1. Media: EDOs and DMOs can work together to host journalist visits that showcase both a location’s booming economy and its unique lifestyle.  
  2. Digital: EDOs are often in charge of creating talent attraction websites, e-newsletters and social media accounts that promote a region’s lifestyle, but DMO’s may have a better sense of what content is the most captivating. 
  3. Visits: DMOs should provide input when EDOs or local employers host potential talent in the region for a visit by recommending top things to do and places to see. DMOs could also offer to help EDOs by looping them in on good opportunities to get talent attraction messaging out – i.e. is there a visitor e-newsletter that could include a featured job opportunity?

But Again, Who’s in Charge?

All things considered, who should lead talent attraction efforts: EDOs or DMOs? Here are two viewpoints: 

  1. Employer focused EDOs: EDOs close relationship to employers means they fully understand the talent needs of the communities they represent and therefore, know the types of jobs and companies that potential talent can plug-in to after they relocate. As we mentioned above, research shows that jobs are the driving factor behind relocation decisions. 
  2. Consumer marketing savvy DMOs: DMOs have deep experience in consumer marketing, versus EDOs, which market to a smaller audience of executive decisionmakers and influencers. Because DMOs know what tactics will attract millions of potential visitors to their communities, they can easily translate these strategies to attracting talent. 

EDO or DMO, what matters most when it comes to talent attraction is that it happens. Depending on your location’s resources and needs, you may decide to choose an EDO, DMO, or a partnership between the two and perhaps even organizations that have a stake in talent attraction, such as local employers, the airport, and more. The worst talent attraction marketing efforts are the ones that don’t get done.