Stassen and Lien unveil marketing package to members of the Crookston City Council.

    After approving a $35,000 investment of City funds last summer in a comprehensive effort to better market the Crookston community, members of the Crookston City Council are starting to get a glimpse of the potential payback, in the form of a community that not only has a great story to tell, but knows how to tell it to a mass audience in a variety of ways.

    At the council’s Ways & Means Committee meeting this week, City Administrator Shannon Stassen and Chamber & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Amanda Lien showed a PowerPoint presentation that unofficially unveiled the “Belong in Crookston” marketing initiative. At the heart of the initiative is the “Be” in “Belong,” as slide after slide in the current draft of the presentation featured catch-phrases like “Be Home”, “Be Friends”, “Be Inspired” and “Be Safe,” among several others. In every instance, the “B” in “Be” is slightly tilted so it almost resembles a heart.                

    “We’re looking to penetrate as many audience as best we can and in the process shed light on the many, many assets we have,” Stassen said.

      Stassen’s request for City funds last year was preceded by several meetings he said he and Lien had with business leaders throughout the community in search of support and potential buy-in that would have “Belong in Crookston” a part of business’ marketing and promotional efforts, especially when they’re seeking employees. In some cases, Stassen explained, “Belong in Crookston” would be very prominent in various co-branding efforts with businesses, but in other cases, depending on what the business partners want, “Belong in Crookston” could play a more secondary role. Those partnering efforts go beyond the business community as well, he noted, to include various local and area agencies and organizations.

    As part of the various collaborations, an overarching goal will be to further leverage the initial $35,000 by getting businesses and organizations to invest some of their own dollars, which Stassen said in requesting the City funds last summer would keep the momentum going and help sustain the comprehensive marketing initiative over the long term.

    “What we heard in our meetings and discussions was an overwhelming yes, that our businesses want to partner on this,” Stassen said.

    Under the big “qualify of life” umbrella, the “Belong in Crookston” initiative shines the spotlight on Crookston’s assets, such as its affordability, it’s small-town feel, educational opportunities, healthcare facilities, recreational and natural amenities, etc. It’s part of a four-pronged message based on getting people to “Live. Learn. Work.” and “Play.” in Crookston.

    “What you’re seeing so far with this is all based on feedback from people,” Lien said. “We came up with the design and continued to get feedback. We could probably come up with a hundred more Be’s.”

    In accordance with the potential breakdown identified last summer of how the $35,000 would be spent, specific to how the marketing package would be publicized, there’s the potential for a social media blitz, print, radio and TV advertising, billboards and other signage, and enhancements to websites and other digital mediums, including a mobile app.

    “Obviously, we know how huge social media can be; we can reach hundreds, thousands, even millions of people,” Stassen said. “No matter what method we’re using, it comes down to telling a story over and over, a similar story but in many different veins. We have to reach people on all fronts.”

    If he had to boil the effort down to a single goal, Stassen said it’s about bringing people and businesses to Crookston. “And what does that really mean? It means bringing talent to Crookston,” he explained. “That’s what we’re selling here: We already are all of these great things, and we want you to be a part of it.”

    In the coming weeks, Stassen said, preparations will be made for a community-wide launch of “Belong in Crookston” in order to generate enthusiasm and get everyone who already lives, learns, works and plays here to realize that they, too, play a critical role in telling Crookston’s story to the world. 

    “We are the best recruiters,” he said. “People are going to ask the tough questions, like ‘What is it really like there?’ That’s when we can make the real sale. We have 8,000 people here who can buy into it and help make the final sale.”

    With kids these days loving to make videos on the phones and tablets, Stassen said he’s envisioning a contest where Crookston residents – kids as well as adults – create their own “Belong in Crookston” video stories, with winners being picked in several different categories.

    “We want to see, and we obviously want others to see, how people connect to ‘Belong in Crookston,’” he said.