Beyond the Bling: Bringing talent back home to Lansing
Jul 30, 2019
As a part of winding down our #GoodToBeHome theme, we are highlighting our work with Capital Area Michigan Works! and the Capital Area IT Council helping to establish Capital Comeback, a talent attraction and contemporary networking event held the night before Thanksgiving. P&G first got involved in this event in 2016 when it was just an idea, and since then Lansing 5:01 has taken the helm and turned it into an amazing tradition in the region. Read more about its beginnings...
Client: Capital Area Michigan Works! and Capital Area IT Council
Campaign: Capital Comeback: Rethink your roots in mid-Michigan
Special Events, Award of Excellence, PACE Awards
Lansing. A community that is small enough for you to run into a friend walking down the street and cross paths with a stranger offering the signature Midwestern friendly “Hello.” Despite this, years of economic turmoil and recession have driven young pros elsewhere for jobs and lifestyle.
That’s where the idea of Capital Comeback came into play — a talent attraction and contemporary networking event held the night before Thanksgiving. Capital Comeback was an opportunity for young professionals in town visiting family to experience the dynamic urban job and living opportunities in the reinvigorated capital region. The event connected former locals with mid-Michigan’s brightest employers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, a stunning new structure embodying the changes that have taken place in the region since this talent fled the state.
Capital Area Michigan Works! and the Capital Area IT Council enlisted Piper & Gold Public Relations to execute communications for the event and recruit participants through media relations, community outreach and a social media campaign, forging the way for former Michiganders to come home and contribute to the revitalization of #LoveLansing.
Attracting talent to Lansing has been a major challenge for years. Recognizing the need for an innovative solution, talent development leaders in mid-Michigan created Capital Comeback as a new approach to attracting talent. The mid-Michigan economy has an abundance of high- wage, high-demand jobs in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) fields, and the brightest employers in the region are eager to fill positions. CAITC finds there are consistently 500-plus IT openings at any given time in the tri-county area. And according to CAMW!, there often are upwards of 900 jobs available in the capital region. With Michigan State University just five miles away, Lansing has access to more than 50,000 undergraduate students each year.
But young talent is moving away after graduation to other urban meccas. According to MSU, 38% of college graduates move out-of-state. The number of students who stay in the Lansing/East Lansing area is even smaller, with just 18% of working MSU graduates staying after graduation in 2015. And partners of Capital Comeback wanted to change this.
Greater Lansing is home to a global economy and prestigious national headquarters, including Jackson Life Insurance Company, Dart Container Corp. and General Motors. These opportunities allow young professionals to make a big impact in mid-Michigan early in their careers. And, the cost of living in Lansing is far below neighboring cities. According to the United States Census Bureau, Lansing’s median home value is $79,000, and it’s $174,000 in East Lansing — a fraction of what it costs to live in other Michigan cities such as Ann Arbor, where the median home value is $231,000.
Enter Capital Comeback: An opportunity to wine and dine an intimate group of highly educated, highly skilled, highly mobile professionals with a connection to the region and show them how — and why — they fit in here. But Capital Comeback was about more than just those who attended in person. It was an opportunity to identify and connect with individuals looking to return and drive them toward hiring employers, virtual career fairs and regional assets to ultimately grow the region’s talent base.
Planning and Execution:
Target audience: Studies show that 54% of people are likely to settle near where they grew up, driving the strategy to target former mid-Michigan residents between the ages of 25 and 35 years old who attended high school or college in the region.
Objective one: Develop an identity and compelling key messages for Capital Comeback.
P&G drafted key messaging to guide all conversations, outreach and communications about Capital Comeback. These messages articulated how the economic comeback in Michigan has propelled the region forward, highlighted the urban job and living opportunities in greater Lansing, showcased the sponsors and participating employers and the details of the event, while also focusing on pre-empting commonly heard complaints ranging from the weather to the roads to the lack of jobs in Michigan.
2016 was the first year for the talent attraction event, and P&G helped brainstorm a name, logo and tagline that spoke to both the tone of greater Lansing and the goals of the event — bringing people home.
Objective two: Recruit attendees for Capital Comeback.
To recruit attendees to Capital Comeback, P&G called on our professional networks to collect stories of those who left the region after high school or college and later chose to return. These individuals served as #LoveLansing enthusiasts, providing a humanizing element to the events and a compelling media hook. P&G developed, packaged and pitched these stories to various media outlets in greater Lansing and statewide with great success.
The team also compiled a list of more than 60 greater Lansing alumni associations, community organizations and nontraditional media outlets to share the news of Capital Comeback, most notably pitching it to leadership at the Michigan State University Alumni Association. These organizations played a key role in spreading the word to those coming back to the area for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Social media played a significant role in recruiting attendees as well. An Eventbrite page collected registrations, and a Facebook event provided updates for folks who were interested. A social media campaign featuring #LoveLansing enthusiasts highlighted in their own words why they love Lansing and chose to return. P&G allocated $500 to social media advertising, targeting individuals with ties to MSU and greater Lansing. With MSU’s global network of 500,000 Spartan alumni, there was a significant opportunity to reach these people through the vast network of social media. The social media content was leveraged by dozens of event partners and employers to help promote and highlight the region.
More than 130 people from outside the region requested more information through the Eventbrite registration, with nearly 50 job seekers spending the night before Thanksgiving with 11 employers and two dozen #LoveLansing enthusiasts — young professionals on hand to welcome guests, make them feel comfortable and share their experiences and local favorites.
Beyond the physical event, Capital Comeback provided a remarkable opportunity to connect with parents, friends and family of former Michiganders to encourage word-of-mouth about job opportunities in the Mitten. Capital Comeback was mentioned in 10 media outlets that produced 11 stories. The team secured coverage in top-tier media outlets in Lansing, including the Lansing State Journal (the region’s daily newspaper that reaches more than 365,000 Michiganders), WILX (a local NBC affiliate that reaches nearly 98% of all households in greater Lansing), Michigan Business Network (streaming internet radio with a podcast/blog library that reaches business executives) and WKAR (a National Public Radio member station that reaches more than 53,000 listeners weekly).
Additionally, the team secured an LSJ op-ed by a #LoveLansing enthusiast detailing why Lansing is so near-and-dear to her heart, and a special report in Capital Gains, which took readers through the journey of the urban living and job opportunities in Lansing. These stories used the perspectives or our Lansing enthusiasts, employer sponsors and members of the Capital Comeback planning team, reinforcing the key messages of the dramatic transformation of Lansing.
News of the event was shared with more than 60 alumni organizations and nontraditional media groups. As a result of pitching, the MSU Alumni Association distributed information about the Capital Comeback to a refined and targeted list of more than 23,000 Spartan alumni. Other groups that shared Capital Comeback with their audiences included Lansing 5:01, LEAP, MSU Alumni Club of New York, and Lansing Community College Foundation.
Social media played a key role in reaching those with a connection to greater Lansing. With the help of Facebook’s targeting tools, the team reached people who have either been to Lansing recently or have an interest in MSU. Through social media advertising, the team reached 60,000 individuals and earned 828 engagements in greater Lansing, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, Cincinnati and Indianapolis — all of which have strong Spartan networks.
The ultimate measure of success will be whether or not people return to the region for employment, and it won’t be a quick fix. CAITC and CAMW! are working closely with employers to track new hires as a result of Capital Comeback and other highlighted avenues for attracting talent back to Lansing. And yet, in the eyes of event organizers, sponsors, participating employers and attendees, the first year of Capital Comeback was one for the books.
One attendee noted: “I moved to Flint a few years ago. When I told my mom I was coming home for Thanksgiving, she encouraged me to check out Capital Comeback. I’m excited to talk to employers and see if moving back to Lansing is the right fit for me. By the look of it, a lot has changed for the better!”
“Capital Comeback was an amazing collaboration of local businesses and councils coming together to showcase the capital area and the great employers and culture we have,” said Said Taiym from AF Group, a title sponsor of the event and board president of the CAITC. “We all worked side by side to create a welcoming, casual environment for peer-to-peer connection to learn about the incredible personal and professional opportunities this area has to offer. We learned a lot from it and are already getting started on next year.”
Perhaps most importantly, Capital Comeback continues today under the leadership of Lansing 5:01 and has become a powerful tradition to help recruit talent back home to #lovelansing.