Over the past few years, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to many of the various outreach efforts designed at “attracting and retaining” the “young professional” population in Columbus. I think the effort is warranted, but I’ve got a few problems with the approach that I wanted to jot down real quick:
1. Young Professional is an awful term.
I’ve tried to beat around the bush about it myself, but let’s face it… the term sucks. The definitions are too vague, and what we’ve ended up with is a generic label that most people end up refusing to self-identify with. The term has become divisive and sometimes negative.
2. Talking to self-identified “YPs” is preaching to the choir.
I’ve been involved with a few YPs groups over the past few years, and they’re generally made up of young people who are already somewhat well connected, and who are interested in new ways to interact, volunteer, or get involved within their communities. Adding more groups and more similar events aimed at these people just spreads the herd thinner without reaching out to everyone else who lives outside this relatively small bubble.
3. Our attract and retain efforts are too direct for their own good.
The majority of what I’ve seen classified as “attract and retain” amounts to one basic concept: telling people why they should think that Columbus is a cool place to “live, work, and play”.
To see organizations and other civic entities communicate this message directly at that coveted young professional audience is really starting to make me cringe. I love telling people that Columbus is a fun place too, but I think we’re spending too much time trying to sell our product and not enough time actually improving the product.
So what can we do to fix all of this?
Ignore the YPs, Focus on the ACEs
The ACEs would be the Artists, Creatives, and Entrepreneurs. They’re the people (both young and old) who are responsible for actually doing the gruntwork of making Columbus a cool city. They are the people creating culture. They are the people creating conversation. They are the people redeveloping old neighborhoods, and adding color and character to existing ones.
And the best part is that their output and efforts can do all of the talking too. If you want to stir up some word-of-mouth conversation about why Columbus is a fun place to live, throw some support behind the people who are making it a fun place to live. Help make their jobs easier. Help them take what may only be a hobby and turn it into a full time job.
At the end of the day, everyone wants a city that is a good place to “live, work, and play”…. young and old, professionals and creatives, families, students, retirees, and even visitors too.
So let’s stop worrying so much about coming up with new ways to tell people why they need to think that Columbus is cool and start coming up with new ways to actually make Columbus a cooler city.