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Nordic Place Branding Conference 2018 and follow-up Nordic Talent Ambassador seminar in Copenhagen

*Writer Lauren Stevens is a member of Tampere Ambassador Network coordinated by Business Tampere*

On 8th February, I was selected as one of five Business Tampere Ambassadors (BTAs) representing Tampere in the Nordic Talent Ambassadors (NTAs) pilot programme. The first successful pilot was from August to December 2017. I was also invited to the Nordic Place Branding Conference 2018 (the largest annual place branding, marketing, and investment promotion event in the Nordics) and follow-up Nordic Talent Ambassador seminar in Copenhagen 7th-8th March. This involved meeting for an interesting programme with the rest of the ambassadors and doing short video testimonials. The purpose of this was to create a valuable NTA marketing input for ambassadors and cities, network, and learn about what matters for recruiters in the Nordics. Although we are going virtual and digital, meeting in person was essential, particularly related to ambassador programmes and peer-to-peer marketing activities. I had some free time until 11th March, so they kindly booked me a later return flight so I could stay in Copenhagen a bit longer (at my own expense of course).

On 6th March, I took a bus with Maiju (the Talent Tampere Marketing Project Assistant) from Tampere to Helsinki Airport 14:30-16:40. There we met another BTA and NTA from Brazil called Junior. We flew from Helsinki to Copenhagen (1 hour behind) 18:25—19:05, and checked then in to hotel Maritime.

Photo: Lauren Stevens

On 7th March, we decided to walk for about 20 minutes to the venue (Langelinie Pavillonen) along the coast past the Copenhagen Opera House and through Nyhavn (a 17th-century waterfront, canal, and entertainment district). We arrived at the Nordic Place Branding Conference at 8:30 for the welcome and coffee. The agenda featured the best practice examples of cities, regions, and countries that have done outstanding and recognised work in making their place more attractive to their target groups and citizens.

After leaving the venue, we went to see the nearby Little Mermaid statue. I was surprised how small it actually is. We then had a rest at the hotel, another BTA and NTA also from Brazil called Carlos joined us, and we went for dinner at ‘Madklubben Bistro-De-Luxe’ with other Finnish delegations from Business Finland, Finnish ministries, and the Student Ambassadors of South-West Finland. Two years ago, myself and another Business Tampere Ambassador called Mira presented the Business Tampere Ambassador network at the official nomination event of the first Student Ambassadors of South-West Finland at Turku city hall. Therefore, some of us recognised each other.

Photo: Lauren Stevens

On 8th March, at 8:30, we checked in at Copenhagen Capacity (Copenhagen's official organization for investment, promotion and business development). The agenda included a welcome from Copenhagen Capacity, a debriefing from previous day’s Nordic Place Branding Conference; and discussions on the latest trends in place branding, the Nordic Talent Ambassador programme (lessons learned from 2017), and the programme for the day. Morten King-Grubert, a senior strategy adviser, said that the Nordic countries should encourage cooperation and talent circulation rather than compete with each other. This made sense to me, as I’ve been struggling to find work in my field Finland, and I have been applying to other Nordic countries. After visiting Copenhagen, I decided that I could be happy living there. Common concerns and questions that arise in Nordic talent attraction are about high taxation and benefits. Posting something on social media and praying that it will work isn’t always effective, whereas getting connected for recruitment, headhunting, and hiring could be more effective. It should also be considered that tourism is very valuable and that tourists are like short-term locals. Smaller organisations sometimes have more options because they are subject to less bureaucracy. Whilst the candidates choose their job and lifestyle, we should accept that some people will never move regardless of the circumstances. There is a new mindset among young people because there is a connection between talent attraction and foreign direct investments. Negative aspects in one place can reinforce positives in another. Soft values (values that are not explicitly stated as important but are still relevant) should be emphasised.

Photo: Lauren Stevens

At 9:30, we left by bus to arrive at 10:00 at DXC for a visit to a tech company with activities in the Nordics, during which we discussed the main challenges in attracting and retaining tech talent from a corporate viewpoint, and how can the ambassadors support such corporations.

At 11:30 we had lunch in the DXC cafeteria, and then left by bus to arrive at 12:30 at Copenhagen Fintech Lab (a co-working space for entrepreneurs) where we discussed how to build an ecosystem in Fintech and then promote it internationally to attract talents through campaigns and international partnerships.

At 14:00, we left by bus to arrive back at Copenhagen Capacity, where we finally discussed the next steps in the programme including upcoming marketing activities and how to launch the talent committee concept. The structure of Nordic Talent Ambassador project consists of the 1st phase ‘Recruitment of local talent ambassadors from a city’s ecosystem’, the 2nd phase ‘Training ambassadors and network managers’ and the 3rd phase ‘Marketing’. Throughout the project there will be ongoing activities with NTAs in partner destinations.

Step 1 (February/March) consisted of NTAs being featured on jointhenordics.com, giving video testimonials during the conference, filling out ‘destination statements’, and shooting ‘personal’ pictures. Step 2 (April) consisted of NTAs kicking off first burst of posts on social media with links to personal pages. Future Place Leadership  overseed posts and stats, shared them with us, and made adjustments. NTAs then kicked off the second burst of posts on social media, including the film made with ambassadors quotes ready to be shared by partner destinations and ambassadors. Step 3 (May/June) consists of NTAs kicking off the final social media burst.

These personal ‘postcards’ will be sent from the NTAs to their networks back home, such as old colleagues, alumni, personal networks, sporting forums, etc. We are focusing on three existing platforms; Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These platforms are considered to be the most personal yet still career and business-focused, and relevant for this message.

It was discussed that talent attraction is about connections rather than performance, and not so much about what others say but what resonates with individuals by sharing personalised qualitative immigration stories and per-inquiry advertising (PI) (a form of direct response marketing) peer-to-peer marketing efforts in the media that creates a fun and win-win situation. For example, I consider that women’s rights are good in the Nordic countries in general, and that Brexit can bring new opportunities to competitor countries.

We planned to build the dimension of a Talent Committee into the project. The Talent Committee concept idea is an advisory board that will consist of the NTAs. We’ll consult pro bono local startups and companies within the Nordic regions on how to attract and retain foreign talents. We also discussed reasons for talents leaving, including problems with the size of the country (it often matters to some people), language, and integration into society. In such circumstances, promotion could focus on the Nordic countries as an opportunity for a career boost.

Team Tampere: Carlos Soares, Maiju Viiki, Lauren Stevens and Junior Carneiro

The main things that I learnt from this trip were that the Nordic countries should encourage cooperation and talent circulation rather than compete with each other. It’s important for the Nordic countries to cooperate because it makes more sense to have a common joint story the further you go as people sometimes get places mixed and confused. Before joining the Tampere Ambassador Network, I knew very little about business and marketing, and to be honest I had very limited interest in them as a result of my academic background in humanitarian work. However, I have been motivated to develop this interest after seeing the importance of marketing at a local level, and the significance of international talent attraction in my own life. I hope that the skills I have developed will be useful in my future workplace.

Read the full text on Lauren’s blog.