A Diamond In The Rough
I started working at the Marin City Community Services District (MCCSD) a little over a year ago. MCCSD acts as the local government for Marin City and is governed by a five person publicly elected board (www.marincitycsd.org). When I started working in Marin City I quickly learned about the history, the vital statistics, the many organizations present, and started to identify barriers to success for individuals and organizations. It took a while to identify one of the major issues fighting against all the efforts to revitalize Marin City which was, the popular image that had been created for it.
Like I spoke about in my Self-Branding blog, communities also have a brand. The difference with communities is that their brand can be dictated most by popular media, crime statistics, isolated incidents and stereotypes. The brand of a community is out of their hands until they formally take it back. This can be the case for individuals as well, but these things matter even more to communities and it is VERY difficult to change course once a popular viewpoint is out there. That being said, it most definitely is possible to re-brand a community.
Marin City was originally developed during WWII to accommodate the influx of shipyard workers. The housing was originally designed to be temporary; however, after the war many people remained in Marin City for many reasons including both social and political issues at the time. The population who remained was primarily of color. Marin City currently has a large low income population with approximately 40% making less than 200% of the federal poverty level ($22,980 per year for an individual, US Census Bureau, 2012). Also, more than 50% of the housing in Marin City is subsidized housing and Marin City is home to the only Public Housing for families in Marin County. These stats help contribute to many poor health and social outcomes. These stats are also what the outside world sees, but what I saw was: a small, close knit community, many dedicated community leaders, a rich history, and a huge organizational commitment in the area (I should also point out that I don't believe ANY community should be at a disadvantage solely based on place and built environment). How was it that all these positive facts had been completely missed by the general public? Well, as soon as something bad happens in areas like this it hits the news within minutes and all the great things going on rarely get coverage. To address this, communities/agencies must make their own news.
A year ago, when someone googled Marin City and hit images, they’d see a whole lot of caution tape, crime scenes, a few bird’s eye view shots of the shopping center, a dabble of local organizational leaders, and a lot of old content. When someone googles Marin City today and hits images, they see pictures of the beautiful community, children, projects, community leaders, and a dabble of crime scenes. The images constantly change, but the ones that stay tell a different story. While this may seem like a stretch of the marketing imagination, these things matter. Using an effective web presence, getting photos/news online, and using social media helps digital branding and potentially changes the first impression of visitors.
The beginning of the re-branding process started with design of a brand new website that utilizes an easy to update CMS system and the latest responsive technology (this way people can view the website from any device). It also included a newly purchased domain that was much easier to retain than www.marincitycsdgov.org. When you simply google “Marin City,” The Marin City Community Services' website is the first to pop up, which is great news because it guides visitors to the communication hub of the community and features constantly changing content, a community calendar, good news, and beautiful pictures of the community. From there, a comprehensive branding effort was put into place. Consistency of agency voice was the primary aspect to lock down and potentially the most difficult (clear and concise communication is key). Also, instead of everyone dabbling in marketing and outreach it was streamlined to be managed by ONE person. This ensured a cohesive voice on the website, social media, email, print sources, and ensured that MCCSD as an agency dictated how the MCCSD image was presented to the public. Also developed, was a set protocol for using the MCCSD brand image or name. It was no longer fair game to slap the image or name on flyers, websites, or other places without permission. A very easy branding effort also included making sure the MCCSD brand image was on everything published by the agency and I mean EVERYTHING. I also started receiving all flyers the brand was on (ie events/programs we sponsor) for proofing before release. After all that was streamlined, I was able to start working with other agencies to help align their marketing and outreach strategies with MCCSD's and also get to focus my attention on social media development. This will improve the Collective Impact of programming in Marin City (for more on Collective Impact Visit: www.fsg.org).
Private companies and major non-profit agencies pay people good money to manage their brand, but effective marketing strategies can be accessible to smaller agencies. I cannot stress enough, why this is so incredibly important. To take a step further, I truly believe it is an organization’s obligation to keep up with modern technology to optimize their reach and impact. Limited resources or manpower is no longer a valid excuse for lack of change and innovation (not to say change doesn’t take time). Optimal and vast impact on their target population should be the goal of all organizations. If agencies do not make their own news, other people/major media will. Effective marketing and communication can make all the difference in the success and development of agencies. The reach of Marin City has been broadened. #MarinCity
Consistency, transparency, accountability, and repeatability.
(Just to be clear, as always, I am speaking on behalf of myself and my experiences with organizations)