City plans to market itself

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Regardless of how some readers react to the political opinions expressed in this column, I hope everyone can agree that I am proud of my adopted hometown of Springfield and am proud of being a resident of Western Massachusetts.

Corny, perhaps, but it's the truth.

I was very pleased to have been invited to a meeting on Nov. 19 in Mayor Domenic Sarno's office at which a new marketing campaign for the city was revealed to area media owners and businesspeople.

Reminder Publications Co-publisher Dan Buendo was among those there.

The new marketing campaign is being timed to coincide with the 375th anniversary of the city's founding and the Vision 400 project that is intended to chart a development course for the city in the next 25 years.

"Springfield: Make It Happen!" is the slogan for the campaign, which is designed to engage city and regional residents, as well as selected markets outside of the area. Although Sarno noted the city has often appealed to both private businesses and non-profits to underwrite various other civic efforts, he noted the City Council had approved $100,000 for this campaign.

The Springfield Business Improvement District is putting $25,000 into the campaign, as are the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the Springfield Parking Authority.

He and the marketing committee are now seeking area media outlets to help them put together advertising packages as part of the campaign.

At the recent foreclosure seminar presented by HAP-Housing, Inc., nearly all of the speakers noted how peer cities of Springfield that are showing growth and are considered "resurgent cities" have a coordinated marketing campaign to re-brand them.

This effort comes at the right time as Springfield as a city is tackling foreclosure and home ownership issues as well as trying to retain and grow businesses.

Sarno told the group that the "elephant in the room" is public safety and he hopes media outlets will present news about the city with fairness and balance.

Of course, it is difficult to ask for businesses' cooperation and slap their hands at the same time, but the truth is some media outlets serving this region do put an emphasis on crime news. As I've written here before, when the Springfield Police Department has such an efficient public information officer as Sgt. John Delaney, it is easy for a news outlet to take advantage of that information. Delaney's reports do much of the work for reporters. It's solid, good information.

But if a news outlet decides that a steady stream of crime news from one city should make up a serious percentage of its coverage because it is relatively quick and affordable to produce, the result is a pronounced bias that results in a serious perception problem.

Springfield has an international reputation for its history and its innovations. I was in the Paisley Museum in Paisley, Scotland when a docent there commented on my accent.

He asked me where in the states I was from and I replied, "Springfield, Massachusetts.

"Oh, the home of the Springfield Armory and the Springfield rifle," he said.

During the same time, while at Glasgow's beautiful Kelvingrove Art Museum, another docent asked where I was from. He, too, had a response.

"Oh the birthplace of basketball," he said.

Sarno said, "Many times we are our own worst enemies. We have to change the conversation."

I'm no Pollyanna and "bad" news is part of this business. I'm not suggesting censorship at all, but I agree that some news organizations need to listen to the people they serve, people who want some good news, instead of consultants who tell them the way to larger audiences is to report stories that confirm the worst fears people have.

I look forward to doing my bit in the campaign to help people recognize the great city that is already here.

Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. And as always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.



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