County ‘map pen’ cam­paign earns state recog­ni­tion

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY ROB PERRY

The Charles County De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment was rec­og­nized by the Mary­land Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion for the “map pen” cam­paign launched by the de­part­ment.

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