Utah’s economy: Transformed by great PR

Traditional PR can change the perceived value of an entire state or Country .(Source: Shutterstock)

Traditional PR can change the perceived value of an entire state or Country. (Source: Shutterstock)

Utah is most often known for skiing, Mormons, large families and national parks. In recent years, the beehive state has also made huge steps towards becoming an economic powerhouse by using very specific PR strategies. As a result, Utah has been voted as the best state economy in the United States for the second year in a row.

Through a combination of great legislation and strong PR, the state of Utah has become a centerpiece for the tech industry. Governor Herbert, who has been the governor for the majority of this massive economic boom, even recently won his reelection bid with over 66 percent of the votes.  What transformed the sparsely populated yet religiously dense desert into an economic paradise? Let’s look into a few factors.

Strong and credible mentions

One of the best ways that any organization can gain market traffic is through the mentions, stories and endorsements placed in strong third-party sources. Online magazines like Forbes, Huffington post, Business Insider and TechCrunch not only provide a channel to their already large audiences, but begin to add notability to your brand as it is associated with that particular publication.

Once larger companies like Adobe began to set up shop in Utah, it became evident that the beehive state was worth looking into. NPR was quick to do a story on the Wasatch area and before long, people were hearing about giants like Intel, SanDisk, IM flash technologies, EA sports and Disney Interactive Studios— companies that were all coming to Utah. PR departments were quickly called upon to create and place content on other success stories in the area promoting a legacy of tech dominance.

Well-known companies who have opened offices or headquarters in Utah:

Utah’s economy is a welcoming environment for businesses thanks to a low business tax and a skilled workforce. (Source: Ethan Prete)

Utah’s economy is a welcoming environment for businesses thanks to a low business tax
and a skilled workforce. (Source: Ethan Prete)

Utah’s long-lasting relationship with the department of justice was used to help bring the $1.5 billion data center to Lehi, Utah in 2011. Other billion dollar companies received valuable press coverage including Provo’s NuSkin, Qualtrics, Ancestory.com and Vivint. Revolutionary companies, since absorbed, were even mentioned, including Novell, WordPerfect, and Silicon Graphics.

Strong third-party mentions can help to develop a strong brand and drive traffic. (Source: Shutterstock)

Strong third-party mentions can help to develop a strong brand and drive traffic. (Source: Shutterstock)

Because of this fantastically-strategic promotion, more companies began to purchase land and more companies in the area were receiving media coverage. The snowball effect is still continuing today, with more than 4,300 tech companies growing and starting across the 50-mile stretch between Salt Lake City and Provo. Forbes has ranked Utah as the strongest economy in the Country for two years in a row. Provo and Ogden, both cities in the greater Salt Lake area were featured in the Forbes top-ten cities to start a business in, with Provo topping the list.

Promote and recognize weird

Domo CEO and Omniture co-founder, Josh James, first coined the term Silicon Slopes when he began to see the vast potential in both location and culture in the Utah. He began using Silicon slopes in at attempt to brand the tech-led economic growth. Josh James isn’t only known for his success in the tech industry leading his company, Omniture, to a $1.8 billion acquisition from Adobe, but also for his colorful personality. He jokes that when he used to tell investors he was from Utah; it wasn’t uncommon for them to leave mid-conversation.  James’s peculiar sense of humor and uncharacteristic ability to brand the area have helped to draw an unprecedented amount of attention to the San Jose parody and transform the economy in Utah into the nation’s strongest.

Thousands gather every year at the Salt Lake City Comic Con. Obscurity can help to draw attention that you wouldn’t otherwise receive. (Source: Shutterstock)

Thousands gather every year at the Salt Lake City Comic Con.
Obscurity can help to draw attention that you wouldn’t otherwise receive. (Source: Shutterstock)

A great way to stand out from the crowd is to make yourself worth remembering. Recognize what makes you different and use this uniqueness to gain impressions. Utah has done a fantastic job of developing a quirky-like brand which resonates well with tech and computer professionals. Understand your audience, and don’t be afraid to tailor to stray a little from strict professionalism. Provo is often known as a quirky city, but with every quirk comes opportunity.

Here are some of the quirks that Utah has used as PR leverage:

  • Provo is one of the soberest cities in the United States, but has been known to have more ice cream shops per square inch than any other city in the United States.
  • South Jordan, Utah is home to the largest open-mouth mining pit in the world, but also to one of the most modern and fastest growing communities in the United States, Daybreak.
  • The Sundance film festival in Park City, Utah is the largest and most well-known independent film festival in the world. (Labeled for Reuse)

    The Sundance film festival in Park City, Utah is the largest and most well-known independent film festival in the world. (Labeled for Reuse)

    Park City, Utah is famous for the annual Sundance film festival. A week-long event where celebrities gather to watch new releases of various different independent films.

  • In 2013, Salt Lake City was home to the world’s largest Comic Con gathering. Ever since, the city has been a hub where fellow comic book aficionados can gather to witness special releases and trailers.
  • Provo is home to one of the nation’s largest Independence-day festivals, the Stadium of Fire with more than 63,000 annual attendees. The event typically features a popular music artist and has been televised all of the world to servicemen and women.

When it comes to PR, always remember that in the digital age, weird is good. Play with your image, and make sure that it adds a unique flare that attracts attention. From Silicon Valley in San Jose, we see more modern spin-offs with Silicon Slopes, here in Utah, and Silicon Forrest, which is located just outside Portland. Ironically two of the strangest cities in the United States.

Identify a target audience

The workforce in the tech industry is bolstered by a plethora of young engineering talent from Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, and Utah State University. All three of these universities rank in the top 150 best engineering schools in the country, and offer a strong potential for employees. The state of Utah did a fantastic job of playing to the strength of available resources. University life is an important part of the culture in Utah, and skilled engineers are prevalent.

The state of Utah is the youngest state in the country with an average age of 28. A Simple stat that made a big difference in communication strategy. By researching both demographic and psychographic data, public relations teams were able to understand the interests of those who could help to influence economic growth.

The BYU-Utah football games draws out over 60,000 people each year. The communications teams behind Silicon Slopes used research to be familiar with the specifics and language of this target audience. (Labeled for Reuse)

The BYU-Utah football games draws out over 60,000 people each year. The communications teams behind Silicon Slopes used research to be familiar with the specifics and language of this target audience. (Labeled for Reuse)

A large piece of the cultural pie in Utah, is the college rivalry between BYU and Utah. The two schools divide the state, and university students make up a large percentage of the state’s two largest cities. Research helped identify this, and various public relations teams began to place emphasis on helping to promote entry-level and internship opportunities for students and recent graduates.

Because of the economic prosperity, many graduates are retained and more jobs are created. Tech companies bring more jobs which ultimately brings more people. Because more people are focusing in these areas, there becomes a high demand for real estate development, public transit, schools and teachers, local shops, grocery stores and entrepreneurship.

Trey Orsak, MBA graduate and construction manager for IMS masonry explained, “There is a lot of growth happening right now all throughout the state. With this economic stability, I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage of growth increased even more in coming years.”

Researching each audience should be treated almost like a police artist’s sketch. Each piece of information you find will give you a clearer perspective to the overall image of your desired audience.

Here are some more interesting statistics that were used to identify audiences in Utah: 

  • Provo ranks in the top five percent of cities with individuals who work with mathematics or computers
  • In 2014, Utah generated over a billion dollars in revenue from tourism
  • Utah is one of the top states for educational attainment. Over 90 percent of residents are high school graduates.
  • Provo ranks second is google consumption. Both Provo and Salt Lake City have recently received access to Google Fiber, making it one of the most connected state in the country.
  • Utah has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Ranked in the top-ten states to find a job by real estate service RealtyTrac.com.
  • A higher percentage of Utahans are married than in any other state. Married couples also have a younger average age than any other state in the country.
  • Utah is the most religiously homogenous state in the Country with over 62 percent of residents claiming to be of the LDS faith.
  • An article in May of 2016, ranked Utah as the state with the highest percentage of mansions

 Public relations is a profession and skill set unlimited by field or region. By using the common PR techniques of gaining strong third-party mentions, promoting weird, and identifying key publics, Utah has experienced strong economic growth which is a visible result for well-planned public relations strategy.

 

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