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The Selling of Oregon

OPB | Sept. 18, 2009 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9 p.m.

Are you feeling superlative? Portland is. In the last few months alone, the city has been hailed as the skateboarding capital of the world (by the Wall Street Journal, which should know?) and the greenest city in the world. It has the nation’s most courteous drivers, is one of the best arts destinations, and ranks as one of the world’s best biking cities.

Of course, this kind of ink doesn’t come out of nowhere. Travel Portland, a private non-profit marketing agency that contracts with the region to attract media mentions and tourist dollars, spends money to lure reporters to this city.

Portland is not alone. Travel Oregon, which does the same kind of marketing on a state-wide level, is currently spending nearly a million dollars on Oregon Bounty to promote travel during the fall harvest season. (And they have their own list of successful media hits.)

All of this marketing might just be working: not a day goes by, it seems, without another glowing article about our brews, our bikes, our bites… even our babies. But aside from tourist cash — or new transplants? — what do we get from all of this attention?

What is it about this region that so interests the taste-makers and style-watchers from larger (and largely eastern) cities? What do they seek when they come here — and what do they find? And how does the way we sell ourselves to the rest of the world end up informing the way we think about our own home?

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