Marketing Hamilton: Groups make hire to tell city’s stories

Four years ago, Cincinnati civic leaders realized there were many positive things happening locally that the rest of the nation — and even city residents — didn’t know about.

So organizations created “Source Cincinnati” to spread the word and create a reputation for Greater Cincinnati as fun, innovative, and even kind of cool. This summer, Hamilton organizations, including city government, recently combined their resources to hire Liesl Bauer, a communications strategist, to do some of the same work, in cooperation with Source Cincinnati.

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Four years ago, “You had a lot of great stories, and a lot of great industries, that are really producing some great things across this region, that nobody knew about — medical advances, manufacturing, the start-up community, even our culinary scene,” said Julie Calvert, executive director of Source Cincinnati.

In its first three years, Source Cincinnati helped place 152 positive stories in publications like Fortune Magazine; U.S. News & World Report; New York magazine; the Huffington Post; USA Today; and Forbes. Those article reached an estimated 1.55 billion readers around the globe.

Forbes wrote an article, “4 Reasons Cincinnati is on our Radar.” Politico wrote: “How Cincinnati Salvaged the Nation’s Most Dangerous Neighborhood.”

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Source Cincinnati is funded by 13 organizations — mainly the Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, and REDI Cincinnati, which works to recruit businesses to the region. Other funders include civic and corporate foundations, plus universities.

Nancy Wiley, president of the Hamilton Vision Commission, which was created more than a decade ago to improve the city said that with Bauer’s hiring, “I believe she will get the good news out about all the wonderful things that are happening here, and she will be able to work with all the different groups.”

“There’s so many things going on, and sometimes we’re duplicating efforts,” Wiley added. “So I’m hoping she can bring everyone together and somehow be a source, where they can feed things to her and she then can disseminate it outside the city.”

“We just realized that a lot of people don’t appreciate how many wonderful things are happening,” Wiley added. “Hamilton’s had an image problem for a while, and many of the criticisms about Hamilton no longer are the case, and yet people still don’t know that…. Sometimes our own residents are our most critical people.”

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Bauer’s main job is to elevate Hamilton within the region and beyond. She grew up in Athens, Ohio, and attended Miami University, where she studied creative writing and literature. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Cincinnati and while working for the international branding company, Landor, focused on several major Procter & Gamble brands, including Vicks, Crest and Downy.

“There are so many great things happening here in Hamilton to promote,” Bauer said. “Our city has great things happening, and it’s going to get to the point what awesome events you’re going to go to, because we’ve got a lot of things happening every weekend.”

The mother of two young girls, she is married to Nick Bauer, a 1996 Badin High School graduate and owner of DBS Stainless Steel Fabricators Inc. They live about four blocks outside Hamilton in Fairfield Twp., but have always been Hamilton-oriented because it’s where Nick grew up, she said.

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Bauer’s position is funded with $50,000 annually from Hamilton’s city government, plus undisclosed amounts from Community First Solutions, Fort Hamilton Hospital and the Hamilton Community Foundation. Her office is located in the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, which had available space, but the chamber does not fund any of her salary.

“Liesl’s position was created to be the connection from Hamilton to this bigger effort that’s happening, and to have Hamilton stories, and Hamilton examples, at our hands to talk to reporters about,” Calvert said. “Ultimately, it’s about building and raising the reputation of the region, which includes Hamilton, and not just about generating good news stories — you want to build reputations.”

It’s important to spread the word about Greater Cincinnati because, “There’s young talent that are looking for cities to move to, businesses are looking for relocations or expansions, and there’s people who are always wanting to visit new places that sound really cool and fun,” Calvert, of Source Cincinnati, said.

“And Hamilton certainly has its fair share of good stories, neighborhoods and a lot of development that’s happening,” Calvert added. “So the partnership makes a lot of sense, and we appreciate the trust of the city manager and the vision commission and the chamber to help let you do that.”

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