Ponoka’s branding takes the next step

Ponoka is in the midst of changing its image with a branding strategy that is intended to entice outsiders to move to the community and

Ponoka is in the midst of changing its image with a branding strategy that is intended to entice outsiders to move to the community and provide growth, but there are still old perceptions to overcome.

Town council’s approval was needed at a regular meeting June 12 for the strategy to move forward throughout the province. Sarah Olson, economic development officer, said the goal is to keep the momentum flowing with MKM Marketing, the company contracted by the town to help with Ponoka’s new image. “We’re eager to move ahead.”

The branding packet includes observations and recommendations from MKM Marketing on what the town needs to do to move forward. It also includes opinions from residents who were interviewed by the company. The opinions include positive and negative perceptions of what Ponoka is.

Mayor Larry Henkelman was concerned over wording in the document. He gave an example of one of the statements. “The Town of Ponoka needs to be known more than an aged mental institution.”

Henkelman feels the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury is a modern hospital and he was worried how the government would react to seeing a public document such as the branding strategy.

“Our Alberta government and the Centennial Centre would be really upset,” he stated.

Olson said the purpose of the document is to show what people think about Ponoka and how to tackle it.

“In their environmental scan what they did was they actually went to people both within the community and outside of the community and got a really good feel for what people knew about Ponoka,” she explained.

She said there is a general misunderstanding of the brain injury centre and what Ponoka has achieved. “They’re saying the perception that they found walking in was that we are known for an old mental institution-style hospital. We are not necessarily known at this point publicly, openly, or widely, the achievements that the Centennial Centre has made.”

She said the opinions from individuals and MKM’s finding was not something that could be changed.

“Even though it’s not true?” Henkelman asked.

He felt it would affect the purpose of strategy, which is economic development. Some people would read it and possibly even believe it.

“When the comment is incorrect, I almost feel that some of this should be censored,” he offered.

Coun. Doug Gill disagreed. “How can someone’s comment be wrong?”

Coun. Rick Bonett felt the record of people’s perceptions could not be changed. “Whether you like it or not, it’s their opinion.”

Olson said they could state in the document the opinions came from a small section of the population, but not change what people stated.

“I would say that it would take away from the intent of this because that would be censoring our own public,” she said.

Coun. Loanna Gulka said it validated why council decided to conduct the branding in the first place.

“This is the reason why we’re doing this, because that is the public’s perception. Right or wrong it doesn’t change unless we can change that perception,” said Gulka.

There are bullet points in the document from MKM stating the company’s opinion that the Centennial Centre’s accomplishments are not widely known to the general public.

Council approved the strategy, but the mayor asked for some changes or clarification to some of MKM’s wording but not to any of the opinions.

Councillors also approved a promotional video be undertaken by Global/Shaw Media. The Ponoka Pride video will be tied with the branding strategy and will showcase the town in seven and 30-second advertising pieces and will air on Global News.

The promotions air over a course of 26 consecutive weeks from Oct. 1 this year to March 31, 2013. CAO Brad Watson said Global’s work was “of very high quality, very excellent.”

Initially the town had interviewed with a television production company in the United States.

“We can do as much if not more working through Alberta companies and hitting a target market that we want to focus on rather than going through Arkansas and Florida,” said Watson.

He feels it would be a better return on investment.

The initial $3,500 cost will come out of the 2012 economic development advertising and promotional operating budget, and the rest of the $20,500 will come out of the 2013 budget.

Gill looks forward to seeing the video on Global, which he feels would create a buzz for the community. “Everybody’s going to be talking about us.”

Global/Shaw Media will be filming at different times of the year, explained Watson.