2018-02-01 / News

Saco hires PR firm, former logo up in the air

By Grant McPherson Staff Writer

SACO/BIDDEFORD – The city of Saco has hired an outside consulting firm to manage its marketing and to promote the city within the state and throughout New England.

Nancy Marshall Communications, an Augusta-based public relations and marketing firm, agreed to handle the city’s marketing in December. Saco paid Nancy Marshall Communications $15,000 for the partnership.

“We are thrilled about the opportunity to work with the city of Saco as the city envisions its future,” said Nancy Marshall Communications CEO Nancy Marshall in a press release. “Our extensive work on branding for other municipalities in the state makes this partnership a perfect match. Saco is a great city that has a thriving business community and is a wonderful place to live. The city provides an outstanding quality of life through exceptional city services, and local attractions including beautiful beaches, and an attractive downtown and Main Street, as well as one of the top school systems in Maine. Saco has so much to offer and we are looking forward to supporting the city as it continues to build on its tradition of success and attract even more economic development opportunities for entrepreneurs, larger corporations, and business owners,”

Marshall did not return a request for comment.

Nancy Marshall Communications has also worked with Brewer, Lewiston, Madison and Sanford to develop marketing and public relations strategies.

“The agency’s experience working with municipalities, as well as Maine-based organizations and companies, is exactly the type of partner we were looking for to work with our talented city staff,” said Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland. “We’re excited to partner with a Mainebased agency that has a wide range of knowledge in public relations, marketing, and web development that will help our city thrive for years to come.”

Marketing and Communications Specialist for Saco Emily Roy said more information will be available in March once the city has met with Nancy Marshall Communications more and developed a plan together.

“The city of Saco has partnered with Nancy Marshall Communications to create The Marshall Plan, a customized three-year strategic public relations and marketing plan,” she wrote. “The plan will address the city’s goals, which include ideas to improve public outreach and engagement, compete with other cities in the northeast to attract and retain businesses, promote the downtown area and its recreational programs and assets, as well as tourism. As part of the process, a meeting was held in December to gather insight and perceptions from a diverse group of community leaders. The information gathered during this meeting is being incorporated into the plan.”

Delilah Poupore, Heart of Biddeford executive director, said Saco and Biddeford collaborated on a joint marketing venture in 2012 with the South Carolina firm Arnett Muldrow & Associates. She said the Heart of Biddeford received a $1,500 grant from the Orton Family Foundation, which contributed to the project’s $6,000 total cost. Poupore helped coordinate the effort along with then Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson. Because each city’s economic development director at the time have since left their positions, Poupore said she’s unable to confirm each city’s exact contribution to the total cost.

“It was trying to see if there were commonalities to Biddeford and Saco as a region we could point out as well as ways to discover some of the distinction,” she said. “They held quite a few focus groups with citizens, businesses and different community organizations to kind of find out how they would describe Biddeford and Saco. What they ended up coming up with was the phrase, ‘Biddeford+Saco, Saco+Biddeford, one dynamic place no matter how you say it.’”

Poupore said this phrase was used on promotional material and advertisements for the two cities, but that it’s common for a marketing message to be used for only a few years before a new one is adopted. Roy said the city of Saco has undergone changes in both the administration and economic development departments since the 2012 marketing campaign. While Roy did not work for the city in 2012, she said that as far as she knows Saco did not implement the slogan.

Craig Pendleton, executive director of the Biddeford+Saco Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the chamber redesigned its logo to include the plus sign after the 2012 marketing campaign but neither city council formally adopted it.

“We have been using it as much as possible,” Pendleton said. “But without the cities embracing it, it went nowhere.”

Pendleton said he is not yet involved in Saco’s new marketing strategy but would be more than happy to help.

“We are very much open to collaboration with the city,” he said. “I have experience working with Nancy Marshall through my affiliation with the Maine State Chamber and Maine Association of Chambers of Commerce. It has always been the chamber’s position that we should be capitalizing on the good things happening in the community right now and that we should be doing a more global, outside of our region marketing campaign. That doesn’t seem to have materialized and I find it a little bit frustrating. Our budget is too small to do it alone.”

Pendleton said understanding existing trends in Saco and Biddeford will help increase development.

“We have to recognize that yes we are two cities but we are the major economic center in York County,” he said. “We have access to the turnpike, access to the airport and access to the ocean. We need to capitalize on that. We know through analytics we’re finding more and more people coming from Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. We need to get down into those areas. We know Biddeford saw an influx of people from Brooklyn and New York. We need that influx of people. We can’t do it unless we come up with a plan and reach out. It’s gone beyond people saying we need a skilled workforce. We don’t have a workforce, period. Communities are looking into new immigrants, Portland has a big program on that. It’s something we probably need to start thinking about as we grow.”

Biddeford Economic Development Director Mathew Eddy said the city has renewed its contract with Biddefordbased marketing firm Kenneally & Company for the rest of the year. The city has contracted with Kenneally & Company since 2015 for about $20,000 per year, according to Eddy. Kenneally & Company provides advertisements to run on local TV stations, videos for trade shows and conferences and promotional material for events such as River Jam and WinterFest. Eddy said he will meet with Roy and Saco Economic Development Director Bill Mann to discuss Saco’s new strategy.

“We specifically needed to update our material because of Dan leaving,” Eddy said. “We’re really embarking on the next phase with the mill district come summer. We will likely sit down with Jen (Kenneally) and chart that ourtover the next couple months.”

Eddy said that while he is still new, he believes Saco and Biddeford need to understand their connections in order to attract new businesses and visitors.

“I think we need to coordinate our actions,” he said. “People on the outside view us as Saco and Biddeford. They view us as twin sisters on the Saco River. I think we have to take that into consideration. How we do that is left to be seen.”

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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