Four Ways DMOs and EDOs Can Collaborate to Attract Talent

By: Katherine Saunders, Development Counsellors International (DCI)

Destination marketing organizations (DMO) reaffirm the many ways they benefit their local communities time and again – but let’s not forget that you are working with your communities, not just for them. And these communities are filled with people working toward the same goal – to amplify your community as a great place to visit, invest, live and work. Your chamber of commerce and local economic development organization (EDO) are key partners in this work and collaborating with them can strengthen your efforts.

Let’s look at four concrete steps to meet and engage with your local economic developers in meaningful ways to help attract talent.

1. Unify Messaging 

Whether promoting unique things to do around a community or a region’s business friendly advantages, DMOs and EDOs have one very common interest – promoting the community’s assets.  

Communities should provide clear, strong messaging and visuals pertaining to lifestyle factors (in addition to career factors) to appeal to talent on all fronts. Historically this has not been in the wheelhouse of economic development organizations, however, DMOs are experts at selling the livability of an area and this is where a successful collaboration should begin.

Making sure messaging aligns across tourism and economic development entities shows a united front and makes it easier (and more cost effective) to tell the story of a community.

2. Create Smart Training Programs

When EDOs aren’t working to attract new businesses to the community, they’re focused on cultivating a talent pipeline to meet business needs. Similarly, training programs, like those in Caribbean destinations that educate young locals how to sail and boat, fall squarely into the needs of DMOs. Not only does this sort of education create more experiences for visitors, but it also elevates and employs locals in the best way possible, without requiring them to leave and seek work elsewhere.

Work with your EDO to identify the gaps in your workforce and consider if it might be easier to generate homegrown talent rather than try to attract talent from further afield. If there are already locals who know the waters, understand the traditions and cook your dishes, provide them with the tools they need to turn their local knowledge into gainful employment.

3. Certify Local Guides

Locals who aren’t seeking a job but who may be interested in either volunteering or earning a bit of extra income will readily take advantage of any DMO-sponsored certification for local guides or welcomers. In DCI’s 2022 Talent Wars report, 52% of talent reports visiting a state and/or local tourism website when considering relocation. Today’s visitor is tomorrow’s talent and a positive travel experience can make people stop and say, “I think I could live here,” which ultimately supports the talent pipeline goals for EDOs.

Even big cities like Paris have greeter programs that empower local communities and facilitate a more community-driven tourism effort. Building and offering a framework for these sorts of interactions is a powerful way to bring citizens into the fold and make it clear how DMOs benefit local communities.

4. Demonstrate Value Beyond Room Nights

Your local community probably isn’t keeping track of every single financial contribution your tourism dollars are making. While hotel taxes and other revenue from visitation may simply go into a bigger pot, it’s worth working with local authorities, like your DMO, to create an annual project that destinations can identify as another way DMOs benefit local communities.

Consider serving on local safety commissions and collaborating with your EDO to create easily digestible information on community safety. Refurbish a local garden. Repave a walkway. Replace a stretch of streetlights with more eco-friendly options. Get as creative as you want but find a concrete cause that you and the media can point to in order to tell your local community, “Hey, we did that for you.” While talent might not pay attention to who made these investments, you’ll be fostering a community focused on growth and bettering your region for talent and visitors of tomorrow.

About the Author

Katherine SaundersEVP, Client Strategy & Talent AttractionDevelopment Counsellors International

About the Author

Kat Saunders is the Executive Vice President of Client Strategy for place development marketing firm, Development Counsellors International, or DCI, based in New York City. A specialist in economic development, talent attraction and real estate, she advises clients on building effective marketing and public relations programs that leverage PR, digital marketing, and research to produce results that shift perception and reputation of client communities while engaging stakeholders in the overall economic development efforts. 

She is DCI’s go-to counselor for crisis communications as well as the lead advisor on public sector and elected official communications.  She previously worked at Hill & Knowlton where she managed corporate clients like Deloitte Real Estate, the Staubach Company and Nixon Peabody LLP.

Kat is a graduate of Florida State University, where she studied public relations, business and political science and was elected to the FSU Senior Hall of Fame.

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