Mike Sable isn’t expecting any miracles in Brooklyn Park. “It took us 20 years for us to gain our reputation,” he says, “and it might take us 20 years to change it.” Sable is the acting director of community development for the city and he knows what people think of it: Keep an eye on your wallet.
“We’ve long had this reputation as having a lot of crime, but we’re at our lowest rate in 22 years. We don’t think that story is getting out,” he says. “We’re also thought of as being apartment-heavy. We want to reposition ourselves as a place to be for residents and business.”
Enter Carmichael Lynch Spong. In November the Minneapolis marketing agency beat out 14 other shops for a modest $150,000 contract, which was approved by the city’s Economic Development Authority by a 4 to 2 vote. Sable says it was the agency’s plan for a granular approach that won the day.
“We can send out all the press releases we want, but we’re not going to make a difference until the people who know us become our champions,” Sable says. “Carmichael laid out an approach for this, starting with data gathering, which is the stage we’re in now, and then moving into strategy and execution. It’ll be a year-long campaign.”
The agency admits that branding a city isn’t like branding a product.
“It requires a multifaceted approach,” says Julie Batliner, managing director of client services. “You can’t develop a brand just for the real estate audience, or the business audience, or the resident audience. You have to develop a brand for all of them.”
Brooklyn Park isn’t the first Minnesota city to look for image help. Last year Woodbury spent $63,000 with PR firm PadillaCRT. Sable indicates the relationship could be ongoing if the city is satisfied with the results.
“This isn’t a skill set that governments have on staff,” he says.