Creating a Different DMO for Place Branding

This semester’s COM 490 Transmedia Storytelling (or Capstone) course has finally reached its more concrete marketing part. We started reading Anne Zeiser’s Transmedia Marketing book. I should admit that the book is ancient in digital media terms. It was published in 2012 – or few digital eons ago. Yet, its take on marketing and promotion is solid. The first few chapters where Zeiser lays down the conceptual frameworks made me reconsider how one can re-organize a destination management organization (DMO) into one that can implement a transmedia marketing campaign.

organizational chart

Newport News Tourism Organizational Chart

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Re-marketing Classics (Or the Failure of Pop Culture)

My transmedia storytelling course is reading an amazing book by Michael Saler, called “As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary PreHistory of Virtual Reality“. In a nutshell, Saler talks about how modernity rationalized our world, causing us to be disenchanted, and how we are doing our best to be enchanted again. I use his work to launch discussions on marketing and advertising – or in general strategic communication. All our work is based on creating enchantment actually. We are, for instance, creating a world where a body wash creates amazing men (Yes, Old Spice). I am not going through the shelves in my local Target trying to find the cheapest deal (Yes, this is exactly what I was doing when I saw the buy one get two free deal for Old Spice). I am consuming to be a part of this magical experience.

Saler presents literary cases: Arthur Donan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, and J.R.R. Tolkien. He discusses how these authors crafted their stories to enchant the masses, how people took the worlds they created and repurposed them in several other platforms. For me, he also presents a horrific case of the gap between us – faculty members – and students.

With my apologies, I’d like to welcome you to my rant on millenials and future of strategic communication.

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Don’t brand, create a world!

This year, I am teaching a course entitled “Transmedia Storytelling” at Reinhardt University. It is basically our capstone course (or senior seminar or however you would like to call it). When my overly-ambitous self gets ridiculously excited about academic ventures, I end up doing not-so-smart things… In this episode of “getting myself overworked”, I promised my students that I will do all the assignments with them. Basically, over the next few months, I will write four reflection blog posts and create a transmedia storytelling campaign for a client of my choice (it will be a place branding campaign for Waleska, GA – a city most famous for being home to Reinhardt University, and also for me.)

The first reading I assigned was Mark Wolf’s Building Imaginary Worlds. I wanted to encourage my students to think about marketing (or strategic communication) as a way to create a fictional world. I want to expand a little bit more on why I chose this particular reading and connect it with my own project.


Our first homepage for – A website dedicated to telling Turkey’s story

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That is not how soft power works: A rant and an ad

With the proposed budget cuts for the U.S. State Department – and USAID -, we once again started seeing soft power discussions on mainstream news outlets. For a scholar, seeing his/her research topic on news outlets is an interesting experience. On one hand, it is a validation of one’s research and academic expertise. If people are talking about your research topic, you are not irrelevant. On the other hand, after hearing the arguments made, all you want to do is to yell “YOU ARE ALL WRONG”. Well, thanks to internet, it is a lot easier to yell that!

You are all wrong, your understanding of soft power is incomplete and flawed. Here is why:


<advertisement> There is an edited book, available here, on the topic. I have a chapter on soft power and public diplomacy </advertisement>.

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Who Cites Whom in Place Branding?

In my quest to blog regularly for the Place Brand Observer, I published my fourth post where I pose a structural question within the field of place branding. Who do we cite? Which are some of the more important works? Are there any groupings based on co-citation similarities?

For this purpose, I went to the Web of Science database and downloaded bibliographic information on all articles that had “place branding”, “city branding”, “country branding” or “nation branding” as their topic.

If you are interested in learning more, you can read the full blog post on the Place Brand Observer.



Is place branding a real discipline?

In my second post on the Place Brand Observer, I looked at place branding as an academic discipline. I was quite glad to see that the post already generated some discussion on the Observer’s Facebook Page. In the post, I also present my views on what it means to be (or not to be) a discipline. You can access the full blog post here.



Measurement Post in

As of last month, I started contributing to the Place Brand Observer as an Academic Observer. Basically, this is a sixth month journey during which I will blog about current research trends in the field of place branding.

My first post was on my favorite topic: measurement. I am amazed by how little we know about place brand measurement (-actually any kind of strategic communication measurement). More often than not, our ignorance is caused by the fact that we are not sure what we should be measuring.


Yes, I am using a clipart on a blog post. I think it is okay.

Technically social sciences present us a multitude (myriad?) of tools to measure anything we want from public opinion to policy performance. Yet, within the complex structure of social life and communication – in this specific example place branding – it is difficult to isolate the impacts of what we are intentionally doing. Let me present a basic example. Even if we decide place brands mean the associations that come to people’s minds when a place is named, how can we be sure that these associations are the results of our communication (branding) campaigns? These perceptions might be caused by personal experiences, influenced by friends, or completely changed by news.

I wrote about my views on how we can create a better measurement system in my post. You can find the full-text of the post at this link (redirects you to, a free website).