Selling Pittsburgh

The print version of the P-G's story about the marketing plans of the Allegheny Conference jumped to a full page inside with the headline, "Selling the city." In a phrase, that hed sums up the futility of what the Allegheny Conference is trying to do. It's trying to use modern public relations to "create a unified theme and the sort of buzz about the region that has proven elusive since the days of the original Pittsburgh Renaissance."

The problem, in a nutshell, is (as the story makes clear) the Allegheny Conference has no idea what it's trying to sell. In a sidebar, the paper comments on the real role of the Allegheny Conference in its "accomplishments" for 2005. The overwhelming sense of the piece is that the small progressive steps that the region took during 2005 had little to do with the Conference.

Everyone in town -- except those who work for and with the ACCD -- seems to understand that Pittsburgh neither needs nor wants to be re-branded. If you want proof, look no further than the single most successful business enterprise in town: the Steelers. In a single word, one that's more effective than any marketing film or 250th birthday party ever could or will be, Pittsburgh communicates to the nation and to the world that it remains singularly proud of its industrial heritage. Want to rebrand the city? Change the name of the team. Is that ever going to happen? No. Should it? No again.

Focus on the product, not the marketing. Stop re-branding. Stop making movies. Start producing more events like the Angel Venture Fair.


1 Response to "Selling Pittsburgh"

Tim Murray said... 11/28/2005 11:52 AM

RIGHT ON! Is there a city in the world that suffers as Pittsburgh does from such a lack of self-esteem? If the Allegheny Conference wants to manufacture a "buzz," how about this: tout the fact that Pittsburgh has in excess of 300 sunny days per year and an average January temperature of 60 degrees. Guess what? Nobody will buy it. We can characterize Pittsburgh in whatever manner we want but the city is what it is, and some fabricated "buzz" isn't going to fool anybody or, more importantly, bring jobs to this region. Such attempts really do nothing more than preach to the choir -- package Pittsburgh in a most favorable light in a manner that will make the locals happy.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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