Chicago is home to 77 neighborhoods, but many residents have visited less than half. This lack of intracity travel is one of many symptoms of the city’s historic (1) economic divide. In response, Choose Chicago tapped HausCo (HCo) to develop a community-led program that would drive tourism from the concentrated Loop/Downtown area, toward Chicago’s diverse, vibrant neighborhoods.
Many of Chicago’s neighborhoods are rich with cultural history -- from the Black Metropolis in Bronzevile’s Historic District to the birth of Chicago’s booming industrial revolution in Pullman. This campaign aimed to educate visitors about historical sites all over Chicago’s neighborhoods that played an integral part in this city’s history.
In addition to exposing tourists to all the Windy City offers, this program also aimed to uplift and amplify small, local businesses that are staples in their neighborhoods and often underrepresented -- from minority-owned, women-owned and LGBTQ+-owned businesses.
To meet this challenge and ensure that the entire program was community-driven, HCo distributed a tourism questionnaire to hundreds of residents in some of the city’s least-visited neighborhoods and planned an entire tourism strategy uniquely tailored to each neighborhood and most importantly, anchored on community insights.
Armed with the understanding and insights provided by the community stakeholder responses, Choose Chicago identified 10 neighborhoods throughout Chicago primed to benefit from a comprehensive tourism campaign executed by HCo. Community stakeholders and residents were gathered to conduct several hours of in-depth listening sessions which revealed neighborhood characteristic traits that the residents held most dear.
Over the course of three months, key learnings from this digital campaign informed Choose Chicago’s broader neighborhood tourism strategy, especially for Beverly, Belmont-Cragin, Chatham, Pilsen, Rogers Park, Lakeview, West Town, Logan Square, Woodlawn and Washington Park.
Who better to capture what makes a neighborhood shine, than the people who live there? That’s why Choose Chicago and HCo searched for suitable content creators in the most creative ways to serve as ambassadors reflective of the focus communities. This included recommendations from important neighborhood partners to Choose Chicago, such as local chambers of commerce and community development corporations.
Next, the team secured over 30 local ambassadors to capture, create and publish approximately four (4) content pieces per month throughout the program across both Instagram and TikTok. Each content maker brought awareness to quietly known #ChicagoNeighborhoodGems throughout the city. Creators focused on an array of “must see” community-identified sights including historical landmarks, impressive architecture as well as local entertainment and art.
The content received each month was so impressive, select posts were repurposed into targeted paid social media ads with audience insights informed by the community session learnings. Insights also informed a mobile banner ad campaign activated to track conversions between people seeing the ads and visiting a local neighborhood. Insights from the community sessions informed OOH creative driving viewers to the local neighborhoods as well.
Throughout 2022, this program engaged over 30 content creators to create nearly 500 pieces of content highlighting attractions in 22 neighborhoods across the city. The year-long campaign reached 12.2M Instagram and TikTok users - an average of over 1M per month! Content featured in the program garnered nearly 11M impressions and drove over 36K new users to the Choose Chicago neighborhood landing pages.
Most importantly, due to the success of this campaign, Choose Chicago was awarded $5.5 million by the City of Chicago through the American Rescue Plan Act, to continue expanding this neighborhood tourism program in the years to come.
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