PETERSBURG, AK <p>The idea of marketing Petersburg has not been warmly received in the past, but Economic Development coordinator Liz Cabrera says this time will be different. In 2004 voters rejected a ballot measure to fund improved visitor marketing. </p>
<p> “I think people’s perception of the focus of that effort was towards the visitor industry. That’s really not what that was about, but that was what the public perception was. And I think since there’s sort of mixed feelings in town about tourism and maybe the fear of having large scale tourism come in, that’s why it didn’t really go over well at the ballot box.” </p>
<p>Cabrera says the new approach focuses on selling Petersburg to current and potential residents. </p>
<p> “So, keeping that in mind, when we started this effort we really have tried to make sure that it’s not just about the visitor industry. So we’ve been really clear with the contractors that we are interested in having a better way of promoting the community to outside folks who want to vacation here, but we’re just as interested if not more interested in trying to recruit new residents, new businesses, and new fishermen to come here. So it’s more of a community-wide effort as opposed to singling out one industry. </p>
<p>Petersburg’s population has declined twelve percent since a high of 3,400 residents in 1999. Cabrera says community branding could help stop the decline. </p>
<p> “We’re in kind of a transition time, where we could really either turn things around and start improving things and turning into a more vibrant community or we can sort of gradually be in decline.” </p>
<p>The Development Council has hired a company from Nashville, Tennessee to direct the branding effort. </p>
<p> “Your brand is what they say about you when you’re not around.” </p>
<p>That was North Star Destination Strategies CEO Don McEachern. He says his goal is to channel people’s pride in Petersburg into a marketing strategy. </p>
<p> “Enable you to put your best foot forward and communicate what’s special and unique about your community.” </p>
<p>During the four-month long, 58 thousand dollar project McEachern’s team is studying the community. The company will produce a report with recommendations for how Petersburg can improve its communications and promote a sense of community identity. McEachern says those might include suggestions on website redesign, a logo or slogan, arts events, or business collaboration. Once North Star makes their recommendations, it will be up to the City, the Chamber and the Economic Development Council to implement them. </p>
<p>Local resident Shelley Hjort says the town needs a stronger marketing strategy. </p>
<p> “As a past owner of a business, I think they could have marketed differently. People would come into town and stay at our bed and breakfast and they would say, ‘Petersburg is so much prettier and cleaner than such and such a town, I wish we would have known more about it and we would have stayed here five days instead of in the other town five days.’ But because the other town marketed itself better, that’s where they stayed. So in that regard, I guess it could do better marketing.” </p>
<p>Visitor Beverly Fiskar says she knew little about Petersburg before arriving. </p>
<p> “Just that it was a city in Alaska, a town in Alaska, a fishing village, but I didn’t really know much about it.” </p>
<p>Fiskar liked the idea of branding Petersburg, saying she thought having a tagline or logo would probably attract more visitors. </p>
<p> “I think getting out and getting people excited about your city is an excellent idea because people don’t know unless they hear something about it that intrigues them to come, gives them just a sampling of it. So I think it’s an awesome idea.” </p>
<p>According to Cabrera, the success of branding will be measured through a combination of factors. </p>
<p> “I’ll probably end up looking at bed tax revenue, sales tax revenue, whether we’ve been able to attract new businesses, and reverse declining population numbers. Those are the metric I’ll probably be looking at.” </p>
<p>North Star will be holding a town meeting on Wednesday, July 27th in the Council Chambers to gather public feedback on the project. They will also be conducting an online community survey. </p>
<p>For more information about North Star, you can visit their website, And for more information about the project you can contact the Petersburg Economic Development Council at 772-4042. </p>