“As the pool of Foreign Direct Investment shrinks, there will be more competition for fewer projects.”

A quote from the ‘Global Investment Promotion Benchmarking 2009‘ (GIPB) by the World Bank Group. In my first post I said that globalization puts forward the need for cities to characterise themselves more carefully in order to attract business, investment and talent. But as the quote above shows, the need to stand out as a distinctive destination derives from the economic downturn as well.

The World Bank benchmarking shows companies’ impressions when sketching a first list of possible destinations to invest in. The GIPB focuses on the information given to foreign companies by government-led websites devoted to promoting each country or region economically.

One of its main conclusions is 70% of these intermediaries miss out on potential investment (and job-creation). But there is more: despite the fact that rich countries from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development have better scores, centers of excellence are emerging in all regions.

Countries with medium incomes like Colombia, Lithuania or Turkey have quite outstanding performances and make it to the higher end of the ranking, which has traditionally been occupied by agencies such as the Irish Industrial Development Agency, the British UK Trade & Investment or the Invest in Sweden Agency.

The screen, be it a computer or a cell-phone, makes us equal. In the internet, a small budget can bring about an unbeatable brand perception and thus overcome the efforts of any governmental agency with great resources for its marketing campaigns.

The important progress made in 2.0 promotion by countries that are not global leaders is a lesson for cities.

In my first post, I said that according to the European Cities Monitor (which annually assesses which European cities are best for business), Barcelona is the fourth city in terms of self-promotion.

And it was in Barcelona, at the ESADE business school headquarters, that we at Grupo BPMO presented the survey ‘Visibility of cities in Web 2.0‘ in March 2009. We wanted to assess to what extent new technologies were being used in the Spanish cities’ communication and marketing strategies. We found that the majority of them were still limited to a traditional approach. Their websites looked more focused on design than on increasing the visibility of the city among search engines results:

  • 38% had a virtual press room
  • 8% enabled visitors and citizens to start a conversation
  • 38% published videos on Youtube
  • 31% had used Wikipedia as a promotional tool, and
  • 15% offered RSS…

Let me speak about Madrid, not only of Barcelona, so that I am not accused of being too partial. Madrid is aware of the panorama we are talking about as its state-of-the-art multimedia platform (esMADRID) shows. It includes different promotional channels such as the multilingual portal esMADRID.com, with a multilingual digital TV and a social network.

It seems that cities are starting to get moving and adapt to the new times. But it also seems that many of them still lack a lot 2.0 vocabulary, nowadays you cannot go very far without it.

Speak soon, Pau