How The Movement Began
Emily T Gail is known across the country for encouraging people to “Say Nice Things About Detroit.” She led a homegrown movement in the 1970’s-80’s to improve people’s attitudes about our beloved city, and to say thanks, Detroiters say nice things about Emily.
It’s not uncommon to hear someone shout her praises when she visits her hometown. Once referenced by The Dallas Times Herald as The Motor City Mouth, Emily holds the city close to her heart - but lately, she’s been looking for the right people to help carry on her legacy.
Many people have come over the years asking to work with Emily, and while she was happy to let people use the phrase “Say Nice Things About Detroit” on their merchandise, nobody fit the mold quite like Ink Detroit.
“I knew about Ink Detroit [before meeting Paul and Steven]. I saw the ‘I Love Detroit’ design with the heart and it caught my eye,” explains Emily. “When I first met Steven, he was so enthusiastic to meet me. He didn’t try to force anything, he was genuinely interested in forming a relationship.”
This is the way Emily likes to work. She always says that life is like a marathon.
“I didn’t look at it in terms of goals or branding, it was like, who do I want to carry on for the rest of life with because this is a big part of the rest of my life.”
“When I first met Steven, he was so enthusiastic to meet me. He didn’t try to force anything, he was genuinely interested in forming a relationship.”
After spending some time with Paul and Steve, she loved their energy, enthusiasm and willingness to listen to her stories and share feedback about the vision and caretaking the “Say Nice Things About Detroit” movement.
"What I learned over time is they have such a gracious way of caretaking their own branding. I don’t think of it as branding so much as caretaking the movement. But it was the respect they have, not just for ‘Say Nice Things About Detroit’, but the respect for the person behind it."
More Than Just A Slogan
"It wasn’t just a slogan, and it wasn’t just a Detroit product. Every time we talked I could tell that they got it. They didn’t grow up knowing me, but knowing about me...they understood that it was all about getting people to come back to the city.”
“What I learned over time is they have such a gracious way of caretaking their own branding. I don’t think of it as branding so much as caretaking the movement."
Back in the day, Emily organized some creative guerilla marketing to bring positive attention to the city. In 1980, Emily and her partner arranged to have planes fly banners in 38 cities leading up to the Republican National Convention that said “Say Nice Things About Detroit - Emily.” The banners garnered a lot of press and started a movement that lasted longer than she would have expected. That year, she had the honor of sharing the Michiganians of the Year award with the likes of Tigers legend, Al Kaline.
As Emily loves to say to aspiring entrepreneurs: Detroit is a big enough city to make a difference in the world, but a small enough city that an individual can really make a difference.
"Say Nice Things About Detroit" Continues To Live On
Last month, WDIV Local 4 news anchors, Rhonda Walker and Evrod Cassimy, had the opportunity to present Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb of the Today Show with their own “Say Nice Things About Detroit” t-shirts. But beyond that, the Ink Detroit and The Great Lakes State continue to be active and present around town - attending events and visiting businesses all around the metro Detroit area to show their support and maintain the positive spirit for the city – true to Emily’s rich legacy in Detroit.
“Every day when I see them working, I am so satisfied,” says Emily, “I see how much I can still contribute, how much they contribute, and how we can just keep working together to make a greater impact. I love it!”
Emily’s love for Detroit has lasted nearly a lifetime. The number one nice thing she likes to say about Detroit is how great the people are.
“All the people who love the city and never left, the people who left and still love it, and the newcomers too! They have a resiliency and a bond that is truly the heart and soul of Detroit.”