City Storytelling: 2023 Iowa League of Cities Conference Recap

By Chad Cooper on October, 23 2023
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Chad Cooper


de Novo was proud to be a part of the annual Iowa League of Cities Conference in downtown Cedar Rapids from September 20-22. In addition to celebrating the organization’s 125-year anniversary, the 3-day event was filled with workshops, presentations, and exhibitors covering topics ranging from city budgets and staffing to grant proposals and marketing.

That last part is where we came in. At de Novo, years of experience working with cities of all sizes on marketing initiatives big and small—from engaging community members to boosting tourism—have made us experts in the field.

In addition to attending the conference, we also led a workshop and Jen Neumann, our CEO, spoke during the closing brunch. All of this built on our ongoing connection with the Iowa League of Cities and our commitment to the power of storytelling.

Forging a Partnership

We initially partnered with the Iowa League of Cities in 2023 to create Simplicity: Your City, Simplified,” a campaign focused on using humor and direct messaging to clearly explain the various responsibilities of cities and how they impact residents.  

We also led a webinar in August titled Telling Your City Story, where we helped city leaders and administrators think about impactful communication strategies and concrete ways to use storytelling to engage their residents and promote what makes their cities distinctive.

Marketing a City Through the Power of Storytelling

Marketing matters. City leaders and administrators might not have it at the top of their minds while they manage water bill questions, zoning maps, and city-wide events, but taking the time to invest in marketing and communications can lead to amazing outcomes.

Our conference workshop, Marketing Your City: Going Beyond Just a Pretty Logo, focused on the importance of strategic communications and detailed how to create a marketing plan to reenergize branding and engage community members.  We even provided a fun handout, keeping the session interactive and empowering people to consider what goes into developing an effective marketing and communications strategy.

Attendees could also find us at our booth in the exhibit hall—decked out in typical de Novo fashion—where we talked with attendees, took countless selfies, and even gave away a basket full of our favorite Cedar Rapids treats.


During the closing brunch, Jen expanded on our August webinar, diving in on the specifics of how to identify, develop, and tell stories that resonate.  

What a Conference!

Throughout three days of workshops, presentations, and conversations, we came away invigorated by the passion people have for their cities. Our communities help define our identity, and it was inspiring to see individuals connecting and collaborating to strengthen the places we call home.

Ultimately, it proved a larger point we’ve always believed: that people connect with people, so communicating through a human lens is vital. It starts with shifting from mere information sharing to the power of storytelling, with transparency, clarity, and humanity as key aspects of everything we do.

Need fresh ideas for how to tell your city's story? Let’s start a conversation.

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