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Using Strategic Storytelling in Economic Development Web Design

Economic development web design projects have long held a special place in our hearts (and portfolios!) at NMC, so when the North Carolina League of Municipalities approached us about helping them develop a new site that would serve as the mouthpiece to promote the fantastic work of local and municipal governments to grow jobs and create opportunities for North Carolina citizens, we jumped at the chance.

A few weeks back, the fruits of our labor with both the League and their strategic communications firm Eckel & Vaughan came to life in the form of an exciting new site -- Here We Grow North Carolina.

Background

The North Carolina League of Municipalities is a membership organization of more than 540 cities and towns across our state that works to promote, support and advocate for municipalities at both the state and federal levels. Their advocacy work doesn’t stop on Jones Street or in D.C. -- they are also dedicated to educating North Carolinians about the importance and influence of municipalities.

Too often, stories about economic development center around the work done at the state-level of government, but the Here We Grow project sought to change that by helping municipalities tell their own stories and citizens to understand the vital role municipalities play in the economic development of our state.

Goals of the Project

The primary goal of the project was to create a home for user-submitted stories, principally from N.C. League of Municipalities members and their affiliated governments, about job growth and economic development opportunities in cities and towns of all sizes.

In early discussions around this goal, it became clear that to be successful, the site had to be straightforward and easy to use not just for League members submitting new stories, but also for users visiting the site to learn more and for the small but mighty team at the League to manage in addition to their everyday workload of serving members.

WordPress Setup

We knew from day one that the centerpiece of the site would be the interactive map of North Carolina with markers for each story, so we developed a system using WordPress’s Google Maps Plugin to make the most of an accurate, familiar map for users. To make sure that the map fell within the branding standards for the League, our development team customized the map, as well as town and city information, onto the layout.  WordPress Plugins are often an effective way to quickly build out functionality like this and still have control to customize it to your needs - here are more of our favorite, helpful WordPress plugins for projects.

Since the content focus of the map and the site as a whole are the member-submitted stories, we wanted to make the submission process as simple as possible to encourage participation. After many conversations with the team at the League and our developers, we came up with the following steps to submit and publish a story to the Local Stories page:

  1. A member reaches out to the League team and the League establishes their credentials.
  2. The municipality can then login to the Member Portal.
  3. They submit the short form and a hi-resolution photo of the project taking place in their area.
  4. NCLM team members are alerted that a new submission has been received and is awaiting approval.
  5. They edit (if necessary) and approve and add it to the site and map. 
  6. Save and go!

For those keeping count, that’s three quick steps for the member, three quick steps for the folks at the League -- all resulting in fresh content on the site and a map covered in examples of economic development from across our state!

Final Thoughts

One of the highlights of working at NMC is when we get the opportunity to design sites that support and promote storytellers of great news. When that news just happens to center around the state we all love, that’s truly hitting our sweet spot. Many thanks again to the teams at the N.C. League of Municipalities and Eckel & Vaughan for their outstanding partnership on this fun project. Go check out the stories of growth from municipalities around our state.

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