NE Indiana seeks to rebrand itself

September 20th, 2014

News Coverage:

NE Indiana seeks to rebrand itself

Posted: Saturday, September 20, 2014 9:00 pm

By Joseph Slacian,

About two dozen community leaders from around Wabash County and Northeast Indiana gathered Friday morning to help determine a new way for the region to tell its story.

A series of workshops in the “Our Story Project” are being conducted around the 10-county area as a way for the region to rebrand the area.

Over the last two years, officials from the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership have attended conferences at several sites around the county, NIRP Vice President of Marketing Courtney Tritch told those gathered at the Wabash County Chamber of Commerce conference room.

“They came back and said ‘Both of these places know who they are. They know how to talk about themselves. Why aren’t we doing that? We have so many great things to say,’” she said. “We learned, in particular, from Cincinnati last year. They developed this master narrative of their region, so we thought how can we do that and bump it up, Northeast Indiana style.

“We know there’s a lot happening, but we’re just not quite there on how to talk about it yet -- how to tell that story. To be competitive, you have to all be on the same page when telling it.”

The workshop, conducted by Scott Ochander and Tyler Borders, focused on discovering the region’s personality, and more specifically with this gathering, Wabash’s personality.

It was done through a series of exercises in which participants listed what they believed to be the county’s strongest traits. They also had to find a weakness from within the county as well.

Similar workshops were conducted in the other nine counties in the region over the past week. Organizers will gather again in late September and early October for the second phase of the process, which will look at how residents talk about the area.

“We’re trying to figure out who we are, and then how to message it,” Tritch said.

In December or January, the results of the effort will be unveiled, she added.

Ochander, Vice President of Enrollment and Marketing at Manchester University, also owns a consulting firm which is involved in the NIRP project. He said he spoke with MU President Dave McFadden before taking on the job.

“When I talked to him about doing this project, he told me, ‘Look, this is a great project because a stronger region is a better Manchester,” Ochander said. “I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I think a lot of business and communities, cities and towns, and economic development organizations would agree with that.

“If we have a stronger region, it would be better for a stronger Wabash, a stronger Manchester, a stronger Fort Wayne and other places in the region.”

Ochander and Tyler Borders, a consultant from Washington State who also is working on the project, showed a display featuring marketing pieces from the 10-county region.

“We’re different cities; we’re different counties,” Ochander said. “There’s no reason to have a unified look. But when you read it, you’ll see what we have to say about ourselves is just as disconnected as how we look. That, you’ll find, is something that we can work on and improve. And improving that we can actually become a strong region.

“People will know us better. If we’re connecting to the same stories that we do in Wells County as we do in Wabash, or as we do in Allen or as we do in Steuben. When we connect those stories to people who don’t know us well we start to create energy and recognition and reputation for some of the things we all care about.

“How do we create that master story that will comment on the fabric of the great things we’re doing in the region. When I look at this, I see opportunity. I don’t see fragmentation. I see opportunity.”

Borders told the participants that individuals, like regions, manage reputations the same way.

“You look a certain way, talk a certain way, communicate a certain way and people learn to understand us in that regard,” he said. “It really works the same way in a region. How do you want other people to think about Northeast Indiana? You can define it.

“Communication becomes a lot more accurate, targeted and sensible for other people.”