It’s a standing joke in New Jersey, “What exit are you?”
What makes your town different from the one next to it? How can you get the public to stop and visit, to see what your town has to offer?
If you work for the town, BID or SID, or are on the town council, then you probably want your municipality to be a destination, a place people want to live and visit. How do you promote and connect your community so that the local businesses thrive?
First, you’ll want to identify and highlight your community’s value. Consider what makes your municipality unique and special. Your ability to communicate that to your residents and people in the surrounding area will place you on the map as a “drive to” place rather than a “drive through” location.
Here’s how you can get people to know your town by name:
Understand your vision
Start by understanding your vision. Who do you want to attract?
Your town might be like Hainesport, NJ, wishing to promote a cozy, hometown family community. Is your town like Woodstock, NY, synonymous with the legendary music festival and hippie culture? Or do you envision more of a funky, metro vibe like Montclair? There’s a definite difference between free-spirited, nature lovers and the New Jersey commuters to New York City. What are you striving to make your town known for?
The town’s identity can change overtime. Perhaps in the past, you were a small community with about 1,000 families, and now it has grown into a town with 50,000 residents. How has the town’s master plan been updated and expanded with the increase in population? That small-town charm vibe may no longer be relevant as the town grows and starts to feel more like a bustling suburban metropolis.
It’s time to take a step back to look at where you are today and where you want to be in 5-10 years.
Communicate consistent messages
While staying true to your vision, it's important to be mindful of how you communicate it, too. The way you communicate your language, tone and style through digital solutions (websites, videos, advertising, apps and e-newsletters) and printed materials (street banners, flyers and window graphics) sends particular messages to residents and surrounding communities.
Each piece has its purpose: to advertise events, boost businesses or encourage people to live, play, dine and shop in your town. When the messages are not aligned, people aren’t sure what your town is all about and why they should visit, let alone live there.
As professional town branding experts, we’ve seen how brand confusion can send someone to drive off in the wrong direction. Each piece of communication that you use should align with your town’s brand message and keep people on the right road toward your community’s goals.
Perhaps you started with a clear brand strategy, but little by little in your sincere desire to respond to the changes in your town and service the community’s needs, your communication may have wandered off until your audience isn’t sure what your town is all about anymore. This phenomenon is called unintentional branding.
You always want your town’s Brand communication to be intentional. A Brand Audit will help you see which messages align with your identity and vision and where you may have unintentionally placed signs that point in different directions. A cohesive and intentional Brand will provide people with clear sign posts that point them in the right direction and keep them on the right road instead of confused and lost in the woodlands of New Jersey.
Discover what people think
As a town official, BID/SID director, or council member, you may be aware of your community’s 5-10-year goals, but how are the residents informed? If your messaging hasn’t been clearly aligned, and the residents don’t understand your vision, how is your town being perceived.
You want to know what has drawn people to your town and what keeps them there. Or are there reasons that many people are choosing to go elsewhere? Do you know why the businesses aren’t busy or doing as well as they once were? Are people going to neighboring towns to shop, play, dine or live? If you want to have a thriving community and know how to best promote your town, you should discover the answers.
By surveying the community, you can see if there are any gaps between your vision for the town and the way it’s perceived, so that you can close them and keep your town thriving and successful.
Create a TRU Brand™ that is authentic to your town
While getting to know and becoming reacquainted with the people in your community, you'll likely be reminded that your town has a rich history, a developing present and an amazing future. Show the value of your community and all you have to offer. By re-evaluating your vision and being consistent with your messaging, your municipality will be a destination, a place people seek out and are compelled to live and visit.
Share your special story to help with commerce and grow your community. By creating a TRU Brand™, a unique identity, your town will be recognizable and stand out from the town next door. Get started on developing your TRU Brand™, so you won’t be just another exit in New Jersey.
If you are ready to take the first steps and learn how your town can become a thriving success, contact us at 973-376-4411 or schedule a TRU Brand™ Consultation.