Chamber marketing campaign aims to highlight the Monadnock region

  • This July 20, 2015, photo shows hikers ambling down Mount Monadnock, near Jaffrey, after reaching the summit. The mountain draws more than 100,000 hikers yearly. Lindsey Tanner

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/21/2021 5:16:49 PM

An initiative to promote the Monadnock region is gaining momentum and the groundwork for the multi-year project will begin in earnest this year.

The idea is not original, said Phil Suter, president of the Greater Keene and Peterborough Chamber, as many organizations have attempted to shine a spotlight on the area and what makes it a great place to visit, live and work. Suter said it goes as far back as the 1930s. But at each turn a lack of resources seems to be the major stumbling block to truly getting the right message out there.

“What’s been challenging is that in order for any meaningful campaign to have an impact it needed to have the funding,” Suter said. With the approval of a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in the amount of $300,000 over the next three years, the initial resources are there to move forward with a plan that has been a few years in the making.

“This is a nice foundation for the funding we need,” said Yankee Publishing President/CEO Jamie Trowbridge, who has led the chamber task force researching the idea of marketing the region. “This allows us to get started with confidence.”

It started through conversations between the Greater Keene and Greater Peterborough chambers – when they were two different organizations.

“It is was along the lines of why don’t we see if the chambers are in a position to own this?” Suter said.

A task force was created about two years ago Trowbridge said, consisting of 15 to 20 people from around the region, business sector and various organizations. Trowbridge said it really came out of a necessity.

“How can we keep the economy of the region vibrant is how this started,” Trowbridge said. There are many factors in play about keeping the region healthy in terms of population, including school and college enrollment. Getting more people to visit and plant the seed for the Monadnock region as a potential landing spot is crucial for that.

“It’s never really been done,” he said. “Promoting tourism is a central part of this too.”

The task force met periodically to explore what a promotional campaign for the region might look like.

“To try to get our heads around what it means to promote a region,” Suter said.

They began the conversations with place branding agencies to learn more about the process – and then COVID hit. So the initiative was more in the background because as Suter put it “it certainly wasn’t a good time for us to be out there trying to fundraise around the whole idea.”

But as the months wore on, the task force regrouped to be ready for when the pandemic passed and “how we could position ourselves to be ready to come out of the economic downturn with some momentum,” Suter said. Because before COVID-19 changed the economic landscape, the idea of promoting the region as a whole had support.

“We need to tell our story and who better than the people that are already here,” Suter said. “And the whole concept had significant support in the region.”

Trowbridge said having as many people in the region on board with the initiative will only further the mission and so far it has been met with enthusiasm.

Suter said they took the idea and formulated a more concrete plan of what the initiative would look like.

Thanks to GOFERR funds from the state, they were able to produce videos, ‘Why We Love It Here!’ in 2020, all while working through the process of merging the two chambers, which became official at the end of 2020.

“It all kind of came together in a way that no one could have predicted,” Suter said.

While the funds from the state were a boost, the availability of federal funding through the CARES Act and EDA grants created a sense of excitement that this big idea could become a reality much sooner than anticipated.

Suter said they worked with Cheshire County to write the grant application, which was officially approved in May and equates to about $100,000 per year. Cheshire County will serve as the grant administrator, while the chamber will act as the project manager.

“The EDA grant did make it possible for us to start it now,” Suter said.

In total, Suter said, the first three years of the promotional campaign will require about $600,000, but with half of that now in hand it makes generating the rest of the funding a little easier.

“There’s a minimum level of effort that will be required if we’re going to have an effective campaign,” Suter said. “And the more money we have, the more marketing we can do.”

The campaign will be a phased approach with the first year being reserved for the brand development. Suter said they will be putting out a request for proposal soon to choose a marketing firm, while also looking to hire a project manager.

With another $100,000 in local support earmarked for the project, Suter said about 2/3 of what is needed for the initial cost projection is covered.

Trowbridge said even with $400,000 already accounted for they will still have to be strategic in how they target the marketing aspect of it. That’s why so much time will be put into branding and research. There will be facilitated conversations with the public and year two and three is where the true marketing will come to fruition. And he expects this effort will go further than the initial three-year plan.

“We very much view this as an ongoing effort, well beyond the three years,” he said. And because of that the goal is to have stakeholders invested in the marketing to make a commitment to help fund it now and into the future.

The idea of the campaign is two fold. One half of it is to get people to come and visit the region, but it’s about more than just bringing in tourists.

“We want to be on the map when they’re looking at their list of options,” Suter said, for those thinking about relocating.

It’s no secret that there is an issue with filling vacant jobs and “we’re competing with every other region in the country for workforce,” Suter said. Affordable housing is another major hurdle facing the region.

“This effort to promote the region could be one of those things that keeps those issues at the forefront,” Suter said. “This is just a piece of the puzzle.”

“We can’t take on every problem in the region,” Trowbridge added. “But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it.”

It’s also about enticing those who grew up in the area to stay and college graduates to consider making the move to the area.

The hope is that the campaign will give people a reason to set down roots in the region.

“We feel like if we can get people here, we can keep people here,” Suter said.


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