In Econ Dev, Do You Hire a Generalist or Specialist?

Posted by Whitney Daly on May 18, 2016 12:37:40 PM

Is it better to be really good at one thing, or fairly good at a multitude of things? Some time ago, HubSpot posted a blog on whether agencies should hire generalists or specialists, and while there was no definitive answer, we want to explore the same topic for the economic development industry. Before we dive in, what do you think? Should EDOs hire generalists to help them market their communities? An individual or company who lives and breathes marketing and is capable of crafting generic - but successful - campaigns? Or do they need specialists who understand the industry and the environment in which they operate? An individual or company who has specific experience working with economic developers and is capable of crafting targeted, unique, and community-centric campaigns?

A closer look at community marketing specialists at work.

Let's take a deeper look at why some favor generalists while others see specialists as a better use of money and resources.

The Generalist is better...

"Marketing tactics are just that—tactics. With the rapidly evolving state of online marketing, an expert's knowledge can quickly become obsolete. A good generalist with a solid foundation and understanding of strategy will be able to quickly pick up any new tactic or channel that comes along."

The Specialist is better...

"I absolutely prefer to work with specialists over generalists, but I generally can't keep a specialist busy all the time. Because of that, I look for specialists willing to work on contract, such as freelancers and consultants. That way, I always have access to the skill set I need right now, and I can get top-notch help as an added benefit."

And for Economic Development?

A healthy mix might yield the best results.

  • Your EDO needs a marketing team who has a generalized knowledge base and understands what's working within several media, Economic development generalists vs specialiststechnologies, and industries. On the other hand, you need a marketing team who has worked in your industry and who knows how to highlight and differentiate your community from others - at a local, regional, and national level. 
  • Your EDO needs a marketing team who can wear different hats and cover a lot of ground. On the other hand, you need a marketing team who can own specific metrics and move the needle for your Economic development generalists vs specialistsorganization, whether that means increasing inquiry levels, sales revenue, prospect activity, or stakeholder engagement.
  • Your EDO needs a marketing team who embodies general characteristics such as writing skills, listening skills, self-motivation, attention to detail, and an excellent work ethic. On the other hand, you need a marketing team who can solve specific, industry-related problems and come up with solutions that grow advocacy, awareness, consideration, and conversion for your community.

The silver lining? Knowing your organization needs at least one or the other, possibly both. Elevating the perception of your community in order to drive business locations and ultimately revenue is critical, but finding the right team to compliment and enhance your community marketing efforts (and help you reach aforementioned targets) is paramount.

We're specialists at heart. We share knowledge, insight, and data on the latest trends and research in economic development.

Explore our past webinars. They'll give you a good sense of who we are as place marketing specialists.

Topics: Economic Development, Economic Development Marketing, Place Marketing, Community Marketing

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