12/06/09 — Study aimed at creating county 'brand'

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Study aimed at creating county 'brand'

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 6, 2009 1:50 AM


News-Argus Staff Writer

Wayne County and Goldsboro are known for "unequaled" barbecue, a world-renowned Air Force base and a sense of "spirited giving," of rallying around causes and helping those in need.

In others words, it is "the community you can count on," said Don McEachern, president/ CEO of North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville, Tenn., a consulting firm that specializes in branding.

Those attributes are the findings of a nearly two-year study to come up with a branding campaign to carry that message, not only to people living in the county, but those outside the county as well, said Wayne County Chamber of Commerce President Steve Hicks.

It will be up to the county to put the study's findings and recommendations into practice, he said.

The recommendations include billboards, signs, brochures and similar items that can be customized to represent the entire county or any of its municipalities.

McEachern briefed Goldsboro, county, chamber, and travel and tourism officials and others on the study's findings during a Thursday luncheon at Lane Tree Golf Club.

McEachern said the study included talking to people from across the county and its municipalities and to people in areas that are in competition with Wayne County.

"It is not uncommon for people to be harder on themselves than perhaps others from the outside, but both inside and outside people talked in a variety of ways about the spirited service here and, of course, about the Air Force base being such a strong component of the community," he said.

"It (the branding effort) is not so much telling people what we are, but what we might be," Hicks said. "The overall goal is to make sure that Goldsboro and Wayne County are a true destination center. We want to be able to have the type of community that not only the people who live here appreciate, but that people from the outside appreciate.

"When we talk about a destination, we are not just talking about a travel and tourism destination. We are talking about a destination for business, a destination for people to come in and visit and a destination for people to relocate and live here. That is our ultimate goal -- to get people to live here and enjoy the fine opportunities that we have here in this county."

The Goldsboro Tourism Council, Chamber, the city and county governments decided it was important to create the community as true destination area, Hick said. The study was an outgrowth of that effort, he said.

"In other words, 'How are we going to identify ourselves?" Hicks said. "How we ourselves are going to understand what we are and who we are so we can spread that message to people to the outside so we can get more people to come into the community?"

"We are competing with every other mid-sized community across the country and across the world, so what we have to do is find something that identifies us as to who we are," he said. "We need to utilize the study to encourage people to move to our community be they retirees, military retirees or others. The more people the more services, the more opportunities."

Some of what the study revealed was obvious, such as the importance of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, a rich history and tradition, festivals, good schools and medical care and, of course, the barbecue, McEachern said. It also revealed a community that "rises to the occasion to help others in need," he said.

"This is about putting that love, that passion for your hometown to work," he said.

McEachern said the recommendations that came out of the study are "very flexible that can touch a lot of different things."

"They are some things that this community can own if people can get behind it and put it to work," he said. "People can express that in their own way. Part of the idea was to make it flexible so that communities could customize it to fit their needs.

"We want the different organizations to participate. You have got to give flexibility and freedom for people to put it their own way and own expression, but if it all connects back to that strategy, then you win."

Hicks added, "A key piece at this point is get some organization behind this, to get the key folks together, a Goldsboro-Wayne County partnership with private-public working together to help get this moving."

"It is based on research," said Betsy Rosemann, director of travel and tourism for the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce. "The facts don't lie. When we got the final presentation we were somewhat surprised, but once we read through all of the documentation of the research then it was clear and evident. We knew the Air Force had a large component and we knew we were a friendly southern town, but we did want to set ourselves apart. We did not want to be like every other town in eastern North Carolina.

"The next step is that we hope people will talk about this. We hope we get a lot of questions so that we can send out information and then once we start getting feedback, we have a plan, we have to see how many partners come to the table. We want people to call and ask questions. Every organization, whether it is Rotary, whether it is Kiwanis, every organization in Wayne County will benefit from this and it brings us all together."

She said people should call her at the chamber office for more information.

Hicks said that looking at the campaign findings that the city and county "appear like Utopia. We might have fudged a little bit, but people here feel that way."