He said the biggest audience for marketing the City is actually Chicagoans, and said, “We have neglected to make the residents the biggest brand ambassadors for Chicago. If we can’t win over the residents, we can’t have a strong brand.” Other audiences are the City’s business community, the tourism and convention industry, and talent from all over the world. He said, “Talent is a huge opportunity for Chicago right now.” Speaking of residents that left Chicago he said, “Now is the perfect time [for them] to come home and build their families, their careers, and their companies in Chicago.”
Fassnacht discussed how one of his goals is to better coordinate the fractured marketing campaigns of the various institutions and organizations that work to attract people and companies to Chicago, as well as the cultural institutions that provide exciting destinations for visitors and potential Chicagoans to enjoy.
Fassnacht said he is not a big fan of large and expensive advertising campaigns, but instead relies on a constant stream of smart marketing efforts that include strategic announcements and partnering with the Mayor’s Office to use social media to the City’s advantage. Changing the national narrative about Chicago is also difficult, most notably because local media is reluctant to focus on good news and celebrate the many amazing success stories that occur every day in Chicago. National media, on the other hand, is more open to look at Chicago with a new perspective. However, most people now receive their news through social media, which explains the focus on using social media in a targeted manner. Fassnacht explained how last year the Mayor had approximately 100,000 followers but now has over 1 million, which provides a direct line to Chicagoans and allows for direct messaging to core constituents. He said, “When something happens good or bad, we have a 24-hour opportunity to communicate directly with our most critical audiences.”
Speaking directly about recovering from the pandemic, Fassnacht said the recovery efforts have included working a lot with employers and Chicago’s transportation agencies to let workers know it is safe to come back to the Central City. Fassnacht was proud of including all 77 neighborhoods in its outreach, both with a focus on neighborhoods and embracing the City’s diversity. He said, “It isn’t just about bringing downtown back, we have to have an inclusive and equitable recovery….We are the strongest when we show our diversity.” He explained how a significant focus of this work has been thinking about the future of global cities, and the need to reinvent urban spaces.
In response to a question, Fassnacht also revealed what it is like working for Mayor Lightfoot and said, “I’m a huge fan of her…She has an inner northstar for what is the right thing to do for the City that is unshakable.” He also complimented her relentless work ethic and her ability to know when she needs more information to make decisions.
Fassnacht also thanked CCAC for all its work making Chicago a better city. He also asked members to celebrate good news coming out of their companies and to partner with World Business Chicago and the Mayor’s Office to draw attention to such good announcements. He also challenged members to help address the economic inequality in the City’s 77 neighborhoods and said, “We will not build an amazing global city without solving the economic challenges and disenfranchisements on the south and west side. We pay a price for that financially for that as well. We have crime rates that cost us money. We will not build the best Chicago across the whole city if we do not address it.” He also encouraged business leaders to open businesses in the neighborhoods because it is both a good business decision, as well as a benefit to the neighborhood and the City at large.
He closed with a comment many CCAC members can identify with and said, “I believe you cannot be a successful business leader without being a civic leader; you cannot be a civic leader without understanding businesses and the correlation to jobs and tax income to create an amazing space. I’m very happy that I am able to serve this city, and the City of Chicago has been great to me and my family.”