Coweta County, population 130,000, is 30 minutes southwest of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. It's an attractive and convenient place to live, work, play and raise a family.
In 2010 the Newnan-Coweta Chamber hosted four business roundtables from the healthcare, retail, education and manufacturing sectors of its membership. A key outcome was the need to brand Coweta to help residents understand its unique value and to invite others to join the community. The initial plan was to launch a "Discover Coweta" program later that year.
But about that time, the Coweta County Development Authority obtained funding through the Georgia Power Company to conduct a community assessment through the Herron Consulting Group. The result was a valuable tool that might become the foundation of a broader community marketing and branding campaign to achieve the goals of the proposed "Discover Coweta" initiative.
There were two challenges. The chamber didn't own the assessment and had no funding to bring to the table. And, as valuable as it was, the Herron Study appeared destined for a dusty shelf. But the timing was fortuitous, and we thought the study might spark something special.
In early 2011, the development authority shared with the community the results of the Herron study, which focused on marketing, labor force soft skills and development authority responsibilities. The chamber asked Herron to amplify the results for chamber members, investors and their Economic Prosperity Council (EPC). Then we brought together government, business and education leaders to see if there was interest in building a comprehensive community marketing campaign based on the study.
We launched a plan of action to learn what could be achieved and how much it would cost. It seemed all of the players wanted to avoid the tangle of the "who-gets-the-credit" thing that often bogs down good ideas. Instead, we worked together on what could possibly be a game-changer for the county.
Getting it going
In the spring of 2011, the chamber retained Great Southern Publishers, a public relations and marketing consulting firm, to create a plan of action and funding strategy. At the same time, the chamber's Economic Prosperity Council, a small group of experienced business and economic development veterans, created 11 focus groups. The result was a large web of stakeholders involved in creating a single message that could be the basis of the marketing and branding campaign.
Great Southern Publishers helped create the "Prosperity's Front Door" theme, meaning that our community offered the "front door" to a quality of life that is the goal of good people everywhere. From these efforts came marketing materials featuring doors opening to graphic depictions of a community that was the very essence of "home." It wasn't quite the Pearly Gates of Heaven, but the notion fit what we wished to market!
Great Southern created a budget of $75,000 to create marketing materials. We planned and launched a funding campaign and reached the goal, thanks to burgeoning community excitement and support. Now real progress could be shown.
Another important step was creating similar logos for the county government, the development authority and the chamber. These were consistent visual reminders that Coweta's parts were related and connected. When leaders step up and make decisions that result in a sense of community, everyone feels special. Now our "Prosperity's Front Door" marketing campaign could really begin to bear fruit.
Keeping it going
Although the campaign is a work-in-progress, we're confident that our brand is helping to sell the chamber's message to members, the community and the world. We use the theme at all of our meetings and events, and on all of our advertising and press releases. We have a consistent and clear message, easily visualized, that promotes Coweta County as the doorway to all things positive.
Pre-planning is vital to any branding effort, and you absolutely must have competent leaders who truly care about your community and its future. Those elements plus a bit of serendipity, hard work and luck can make good things happen.
Candace S. Boothby, GCCE, APR, IOM, is president and CEO of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber.
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