Laura Johnson and I enjoyed talking with Colleen Roberts, Public Information Officer for the City of New Bern, to find out more about the City’s Branding Initiative.
I have to admit, before our meeting, I didn’t agree with the City for hiring an outside firm to brand our town. I thought that our community could pull together and create our own brand. That was until I listened to what Colleen had to say.
Reflecting on Colleen’s key points; the City is utilizing valuable assets in our community to collaborate with an outside company that is recognized Nationwide for their research and branding experience and they will provide us with an outsider’s point of view. As I’ve experienced, sometimes it takes an outsider looking in to provide the solution!
During Laura’s interview, she asked Colleen to explain what branding is and who will be involved. Colleen said branding is “How you manage your reputation. When we visit other towns, we leave with a perception of the place that we visited”.
Colleen drove the point home by asking Laura, “Virginia is for ______”? Living in VA for 20 years, Laura knew the slogan “Virginia is for Lovers”. I knew that and I’m from NY and I think people from around the world know the answer. That’s Virginia’s Brand!
The City of New Bern is reaching out to crucial organizations to take part in the planning effort. Colleen told us that people from, “Tourism and Development, Economic Development, the Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, the Airport” and other agencies will be involved. “These are all groups that are essential to economic development and tourism to New Bern and the surrounding areas. So we bring all the brain power and expertise to the table as we begin this branding process”.
Laura asked, “What are the steps in the branding research efforts and what can people look forward to?” Colleen responded, “First we’ve identified North Star Destinations Strategies, a company known Nationwide for their branding and research efforts. We’ve teamed up with them to start the process. They will look at New Bern as outsiders. They will do a significant amount of research on who is visiting New Bern, why, how many repeat customers we have, what are some of the top places people want to go, what people want to see and do while visiting, and we’ll move forward from there to see who is our audience, who would benefit from visiting New Bern and what is our draw particularly”.
“We have our own thoughts on what it might be, it may be history with the Palace and the Pepsi Store, for some people it may be the bear because the bear is everywhere. It’s what the folks who don’t live, work, and play here, think of New Bern and what they take away from it. People will be able to see implementation of the brand sometime in the Spring of 2013 as we move forward with color scheme, a logo, and a tagline”.
Are you wondering why the City ventured out on this effort? Colleen said, “Think about it like this, you wouldn’t want to select a vacation or visiting spot by closing your eyes and kind of throwing a dart at a map. You usually go places based on things that you’ve heard about that area or pictures that you’ve seen or from someone who’s been there recently. This is a way that we can discover what it is about New Bern that brings people here and increase that. I don’t think that any of us want to see New Bern turn into an urban sprawl model and create something like a Myrtle Beach. I do think we have opportunities that can grow our tourism base, bring more people here so they can see and enjoy everything that New Bern has to offer so that’s why we’re venturing out into this avenue.”
Special thanks to Colleen Roberts for sharing the City of New Bern’s branding initiative with us!