County ‘map pen’ campaign earns state recognition
Life as a business owner in Charles County can be strenuous at times when trying to attract new customers and an employee base.
Though the county is just outside the reaches of the District of Columbia, many still associate the county with being too far or out of the way. But the county’s Department of Economic Development launched an award-winning campaign to combat that.
The department received recognition from the Maryland Economic Development Association for its “map pen” campaign which featured Charles County’s location on a map of Southern Maryland relative to Washington, D.C., which rolls up inside a ballpoint pen.
In February, the county was selected as a winner of the MEDA marketing award in the small community category for its “innovative use, design, and promotion of their Map Pen Campaign,” the association said.
Marcia Keeth, the deputy director of the county’s economic development department, called it “wonderful” to have the county’s efforts in promoting itself through a social media campaign recognized.
The department created custom pens and a Facebook campaign to go with them. Pens were distributed to associates and business owners throughout the county who sent back pictures with the pen from different places they traveled to — including locations outside of the country.
“Anybody who has lived in Southern Maryland and tried to explain where we are to someone who doesn’t live here knows it’s difficult,” Keeth said. “It really resonated with the business community.”
Debra Jones, the chief of business development for the department, said the video and the campaign were both humorous, but it broadened the reach of Charles County throughout the world and brought people together to give them something that not only they could laugh at, but could also work toward improving.
“We’re doing something about it but we can kind of laugh at the situation,” Jones said. “It validates that we’re on the right track.”
The concept of the pen itself came from an associate who visited the office with a similar marketing tool, Jones said. Many staff members liked the idea, she said, and the county created the pen to spark conversation about Charles County and its location.
Keeth said the campaign came to be through a collaborative effort from the Economic Development Department’s staff and the Charles County Government’s media team. The teamwork speaks to “the quality of work we’re doing,” she said.
Charles County Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy (D), who has been a consistent supporter of the map pen campaign, said it means a lot for the county to have won this award because “the process was competitive.”
“We had to enter this into the contest,” he said. “And we won amongst our peers. That’s important.”
It should also be noted, Murphy said, that, so far, the campaign has worked. The county has managed to attract a development company like Greenberg Gibbons into the area because of the way the county is marketing itself. The pen was not the sole reason for the company coming to do business in the county, he said, but it helps put the county out front in a place they have not previously been.
“This was a great way to promote that,” he said.
Now, he said, the next steps are for the county to continue to evolve the campaign. Along with the Charles County location pen, he said, the county has a pen pointing out exactly where Mallow’s Bay is ahead of a potential national sanctuary designation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The goal of the pen campaigns are not only to promote economic development and attract new business partners into the county, but to also help promote what is already in place.
The county’s tourism opportunities, should the bay be designated a national sanctuary, will rise, Murphy said. And with that more opportunities for the hospitality industry and restaurant industry will continue to rise as well.
“It can obviously spur business growth,” he said. “We’re not just putting it through commercial or business development.”
The county will continue to grow, Murphy said, from many different angles. As it evolves, he said, the campaigns will change. But Charles County will be all the better because of it.
The Charles County Department of Economic Development was recognized by the Maryland Economic Development Association for the “map pen” campaign launched by the department.