Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[URBAN NOTE] "Hamilton’s identity crisis"

The Ontarian city of Hamilton, the slowly recovering post-industrial city anchoring the western end of the Greater Toronto Area, has been getting some good press of late, and for good reason. As transport links with the City of Toronto proper improve, Hamilton's low cost of living combine with a developed urban core to make an interesting destination for Torontonians looking for an affordable interesting new place to live. That's why, as documented by the National Post's Katrina Clarke, the gaffes by a PR firm hired to promote the city are so embarrassing.

(Seriously. Why didn't these people think of checking hashtags, or getting editors?)

Hamilton has been pegged as the go-to destination for hip, young creative types who get priced out of nearby Toronto — people like Michael Pett, a shaggy-haired 24-year-old educator and indie film-producer.

“One of my friends has described it as, it’s kind of like before the West was won. This kind of open frontier where if you want a piece of it, it’s yours,” he said.

But this week, Mr. Pett was aghast when an Ottawa-based company, hired by the city to consult residents on spending priorities, made a series of mistakes that revealed how little it knew knew about Canada’s ninth-largest city.

During its Monday launch of the $376,000 Our Voice, Our Hamilton campaign, the consulting company, Dialogue Partners, tweeted “what is ‘HSR’” in response to a comment posted on Twitter. HSR is the Hamilton Street Railway, the city’s transit system.

Then news broke Tuesday that the company had posted pictures on their Pinterest page of a courthouse in Hamilton, Ohio, and of a t-shirt saying “Hamilton pop. 354,” likely representing the small town of Hamilton, Washington.

Hamilton — long southern Ontario’s underdog, it has basked in its evolution from Steeltown into something akin to Toronto’s Brooklyn — is a place where identity is a constant topic. The apparent mistakes did not go unnoticed among the more than 500,000 souls who live there, or at least those who are on Twitter.

“The fact that this PR firm from Ottawa didn’t have the decency to learn anything about Hamilton is obviously insulting,” said Mr. Pett.
Tags: hamilton, ontario, regionalism, social networking, toronto, urban note
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