Park Rapids Minnesota

Park Rapids Minnesota

 Learn more about CivicBrand's Best Citizen Engagement strategy.

Entered by CivicBrand 

Park Rapids is a small community in Northern Minnesota. For the last 100 years the town and surrounding area has been a hidden gem for summer getaways, retirement and fishing. However, due to cold winters and slowing tourism many locals have to earn their entire livelihood in the summer months. Over the years a large number of once bustling lake resorts were sold and became private lake properties. This resulted in fewer places for tourists to stay on the lake and therefore removed that weekly churn of fresh tourists spending money at local restaurants and businesses. In addition, the aging population and small-town amenities made it a challenge for employers to recruit and retain talent to fill jobs.

A project plan with community engagement at the forefront was developed. Civic Brand, the team behind the project, took 3 x individual week-long trips to the area to experience each unique season and have time to deeply engage the community. A film crew accompanied them on all three trips in order to produce a documentary of the entire process. By creating the documentary, the Civic Brand team were able to show participants the entire process, show them they were involved, and to demonstrate a brand created for them and by them. The digital strategy involved social media and an interactive project website. The website had online surveys, and all meeting slides and workshop results. 1-on-1 interviews were held, as well as numerous roundtable meetings with different groups including large employers, retailers, resorts owners, government, residents, and the arts community. Co-ordination with state tourism and county planning projects was central to the process. In addition, community roundtables with each of the surrounding towns were held to understand the position from a different perspective and to establish how surrounding communities related to the “Park Rapids Lakes Area” brand.

The Civic Brand team participated first hand in numerous tourist activities (from ice fishing & trap shooting through to shopping & dining) and attended multiple community events. A problem was identified as to how the area was being defined. The surrounding communities had attractions that were vital to the success of the area but when referred to as the “Park Rapids Lakes Area” these surrounding communities didn’t buy-in. They were proud of their unique town and didn’t like being filed under Park Rapids. This caused a problem in everyone just doing their own thing from a promotional standpoint and sending mixed message to the market. The community as a whole needed its own identity to create a larger voice to draw more people into the area but that let each town retain its own unique identity by identifying brand principles that were the common thread through each town and to create a new umbrella brand for the entire area.

Involving the extended community showed that each town is indeed unique but that they are all better served working together. The documentary of the year-long process received a standing ovation and the process of public engagement that directly involved the community in both the diagnosis and solution— as well as producing the documentary —made the buy-in a success. Citizens are rallying around the new brand and large employers in the area are volunteering to fund projects from the recommendations including new “visit” website that has interactive build-your-own itineraries and the ability to book lodging.

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