Guest Post from Annie Deckert, Decklan Group:
What do people (residents, businesses, employers, outsiders, etc.) see when they look at your community? In economic development, it is imperative for a community to provide a positive, cohesive image. A city that works together and sends a strong message of unity positions themselves for not only their existing residents and businesses, but to potential visitors, new residents and new development opportunities.
Think of it from a developer’s point of view. When a developer is searching for a new site for their project, they most likely look for a community with a favorable image; a community that works together. When building a project, a developer must work with several departments; from the planning department, to engineering department- there are countless steps and processes which must be executed before a project is complete. Are your staff, elected officials, community members, and business owners all on the same page? If a developer thinks of your city- do they think of a clear, concise, message of unity?
Often times different city departments, community organizations and businesses aren’t on the same page - they struggle with telling their community’s story, which can unfortunately result in a disconnected message being told to the development community. To a developer, not only is this confusing, but it can be translated that the major stakeholders and city departments don’t work together- something developers try to avoid at all costs.
A national survey conducted in 2008 among CEOs found that 71% of the time, a short list of locations to consider for capital investment is created without talking to an economic development professional. This means that for the majority of development decisions, your community’s image determines if it is on or off the short-list for future follow-up. Therefore, to encourage economic growth, it is beneficial that your community has a strong, unified and competitive identify; community branding does this very thing. Branding gives a theme for every person, every business, every staff member, and every elected official to rally around.
A brand is more than just a tagline, or slogan. While most firms out there feel that a pretty logo and tagline are sufficient, this is not the case. Research, surveys and mystery shops are vital to collect data to create a brand that is unique to your community. The process is a vital component of any community brand.
I had the opportunity to go through the request for proposal process to find a branding firm as a city’s Director of Economic Development.Through the process, we interviewed several branding firms, and selected Chandlerthinks, not only because of their extensive community branding experience, but because of their process leading up to the final product. The in-market visit, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, mystery shops and surveys resulted in a believable, sustainable brand, unique to our community.
As both a citizen, and business owner in the above mentioned community, I have an opportunity to “live the process and brand” well after the firm’s final presentation. Over 20 businesses have embraced the brand, and the city has proactively executed several of the branding implementation recommendations throughout the city over the past five years. From visual brand awareness on the water tower and welcoming signage, to actual decision making to reinforce the brand; a new industrial park and additional funds allocated to enhancing the community’s parks and trails- this community has proven that a unified image benefits the community tenfold.
Since starting Decklan Group, we have been given the opportunity to partner with Chandlerthinks to help a handful of communities identify their brand across the United States. Our economic development and social media background has been the perfect complement to the advertising, marketing and community background that the Chandlerthinks team provides.
When it comes to community sustainability, a booming business climate and economic growth, a community brand is vital to compete in today’s world for residents, visitors and businesses.