CLEARWATER – Like corporations, cities have their own brands. And Clearwater is hoping to improve its brand through a process called branding.
“The city’s brand is what people say about Clearwater,” a staff memo to the Clearwater City Council explains. “That impression is a combination of emotional and intellectual reactions to all the different experiences, marketing communications and behaviors people have encountered on behalf of Clearwater. Branding is the process the city will embark upon to change, refine or improve what people say and think about Clearwater.”
As part of their 2014 Strategic Planning process, city officials approved the hiring of a “branding consultant” to help Clearwater develop a new community identity. At the council’s July 17 meeting, the council is expected to award a one-year, $100,000 contract to Nashville-based North Star Destination Strategies for that purpose.
“Clearwater has not had a consistent brand image in the past 10 years and is now seeking to cross-functionally market Clearwater to drive business, relocation, tourism and general perception,” according to the staff memo. “The city currently has a fragmented perception and has different groups working in different directions. The city seeks to work together to create a seamless image amongst these organizations under one overall marketing plan. The final plan will also involve coordinating with city-related groups including the Chambers of Commerce, economic development, elected officials, staff and businesses.”
“We do a significant amount of research,” North Star spokesman Don McCann told the council at its work session the afternoon of July 14. He added that his company would first determine what the public’s perception of Clearwater is and then work to change any unfavorable parts.
Clearwater’s Director of Public Communications, Joelle Castelli, said that the research alone is expected to take at least four months. After that, the branding process will begin.
“One of the most valuable skills North Star brings to the branding table is an understanding of how best to navigate the political waters that surround such a project,” according to the “Scope of Work” section of North Star’s proposal. “This ‘intangible’ benefit is strictly a result of experience. We know when projects can derail, how to maneuver difficult political situations and who to include in the process. With this in mind, we have developed strategies for sidestepping potential problems and keeping your branding initiative on course.”
Council members were pleased with what they heard.
“This is even better than what I thought it was going to get into,” Councilmember Bill Jonson said after hearing what McCann had to say.
Councilmember Doreen Hock-DiPolito asked how this project would dovetail with tourism promotions sponsored by the county, local Chambers of Commerce and other tourism promoters.
Assistant City Manager Jill Silverboard replied this project takes a “completely different approach” than projects aimed primarily at boosting tourism because it targets both tourists and local residents.
“This is intended to get at what is unique about Clearwater and how that translates into a brand,” Silverboard added.
The matter was put on the council’s consent agenda, virtually guaranteeing its passage at the July 17 meeting.
“We need to make sure we follow up on this and not let it end up on a shelf,” as has happened with some previous studies, Mayor George Cretekos said.