A Slightly Different Spin on the ‘Promoting the Community’ Chamber Core Competency

Dave Kilby

W.A.C.E. research has consistently pointed out that there are five core competencies that business people believe are important for their chamber of commerce to do:

1) Promoting the community;

2) Strengthening the local economy;

3) Building business relationships (networking);

4) Representing the interests of business with government; and

5) Political action (helping elect business-friendly candidates).

Community DNA

For many years, discussions about promoting the community have tended to focus on getting people or businesses to move to your area or have been dominated by travel and tourism marketing.

In light of the Association’s brand research and the importance of being a 3C Chamber—a catalyst, convener and champion—I have been rethinking what might be at the core of what it means to “promote the community.”

I offer up the following as a possible new twist on this core competency. What if promoting the community was changed to simply “promoting community” or promoting what makes your community special…your way of life…your community culture?

Maybe the above is just semantics, but tweaking things to promote your community as a great place to live, with its own unique DNA and brand, might be something to consider.

Does your community show up on any national, statewide or regional “quality of life” lists? Are you among the best places to raise a family? The most entrepreneurial city? The healthiest lifestyle? The best public schools? If so, does your messaging showcase these accolades?

Finding Your ‘Why’

Let’s face the facts, not all lists are positive. If you find that your community is listed as having a high crime rate, the highest high school dropout rate, the most homelessness or highest housing costs, you may have just found your chamber’s BIG cause that the business community, in general, and the chamber, specifically, needs to tackle. That’s what a 3C Chamber would do.

Nobody said being a 3C Chamber was going to be easy, but being a catalyst for business growth, a convener of leaders and influencers to get things done and a champion for a thriving community is your WHY—your brand purpose.

So yes, promoting the community could be a lot more than “beating the drum” to get people to come to your town. It could be about improving and maintaining your community’s quality of life and being at the front of the line when there’s heavy lifting to do.

I believe that those chambers that decide to sit on the sidelines and are afraid to tackle the big, and often controversial issues are destined to wither away.

However, those that are “in the game” fighting to truly make a difference and make their communities better will be the organizations that are seen to have real value and relevance.

Dave Kilby is the president and CEO of W.A.C.E., and is executive vice president of corporate affairs at the California Chamber.