The word is out: Philly is officially the first World Heritage City in the United States! With this designation, the city joins Jerusalem, Cairo, Paris, and other places around the globe, which have played major roles in the course of human history.

How did we get there?

The two-year campaign for World Heritage City designation was spearheaded by Global Philadelphia Association (GPA), a nonprofit focused on elevating the city’s international profile, and joined by a consortium of city officials, business and academic leaders. They recognized that Philadelphia’s unique attributes, the birthplace of America and home to internationally recognized sites such as Independence Hall, positioned the city as a significant international participant both in the eyes of its own citizens as well as the global community.

“World Heritage designation is a winning strategy for the City of Philadelphia and the region,” said Zabeth Teelucksingh, GPA’s Executive Director. “We are thankful to be working with the visionary team at J2 on implementing the messaging from this great opportunity.”

One of the keys to success along the way was uniting this advocacy group behind a brand identity and strategy.

“This is a real opportunity to elevate the overall brand of the city on a local and international level,” said J2’s Principal Brian Jacobson. “This designation is a point of pride for our city and we should leverage its distinction.”

To assist with this effort, J2 teamed with GPA and various City officials (Department of Commerce and Department of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs) to develop a brand strategy and core messaging around the initiative. An identity system, and full suite of both collateral and digital tools are currently in the works. Along the way, J2 also assisted in developing presentations for leadership, a website, a Symposium to inform local sectors, from Arts and Culture to Hospitality and Promotion, of the upcoming designation, and designed vibrant print pieces to support fundraising and educating the public about this effort.

So, what does it mean for Philadelphians?

In addition to fostering greater interactivity, the World Heritage City designation elevates the Greater Philadelphia Region among the international community of decision makers of various kinds who “locate businesses, place investments, plan events, choose to live and take vacations here, find and utilize our global expertise, contribute to our cultural offerings, conduct sporting events and conventions, and in the process infuse our lives with the energy of a great cosmopolitan center,” states GPA’s website (see 10 reasons to invest in Philadelphia as a world heritage city here).

The work has only just begun.

“Receiving the world heritage city designation is really just the first step,” said Luke Butler, the former Chief of Staff to the City’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. “Now we begin the important work of using the fact that we are America’s first and only world heritage city to attract even more visitors and businesses to Philadelphia.”

J2 will continue to assist GPA and the City to achieve future goals and objectives, which include promoting preservation and appreciation of Philadelphia’s geographic, historical, and cultural heritage and continued education, and providing a powerful economic and cultural stimulus to the city.

“Equally important, we must enable all Philadelphians to take pride in this designation and relate to the fact that we are a world heritage city in their own lives and communities,” Butler said. “That is the truly exciting and inspiring component of this project.”