Editorial: What’s in a name?

Published 4:28 pm Sunday, May 21, 2017

Despite what many think, perception matters. Presentation matters. How we look, carry ourselves, interact with others, ideas we espouse — it all matters. Most of us know that from childhood; we had good teachers, parents, family members, mentors, and faith leaders, who guided us along the way, helping us understand that to succeed in life, we must always be mindful of how we treat others and that our actions speak louder than our words. They taught us that perception does matter — not for the sake of superficial facades, but because who we are at our hearts should, and does, matter. People do notice.
How often do you stop and think about that for this community? Your hometown? How do you represent Sumter County? Americus? Leslie? DeSoto? Andersonville or Plains? Are you proud when you talk about your hometown? Do you share that with others — locally and with friends, business partners or family members who may live elsewhere? We don’t often think about how those words and actions translate into others’ opinions or perceptions of Sumter County — unless you are the handful of individuals whose job it is to think about those things. However, each of us are brand ambassadors for Sumter County, and we each have a responsibility for sharing that pride of the things we love about our community with others, even those who may be next door. All too often, we are our own worst enemy when talking about community pride.
Think about those communities we love in our great state — Savannah, Macon, Columbus, Thomasville, Athens, LaGrange. When you talk to people from those areas of the state, they LOVE where they are from and literally can’t say enough good things about their communities. Now, that doesn’t mean they don’t have local issues or challenges — I know firsthand that many of them do — but, that’s not what they share when they talk about their hometowns. They talk about pride, what they love, their great schools and educational institutions, recreational activities, downtowns, restaurants, quality of life. It’s a mentality of all the things they CAN do by living there, not what they can’t, and they eagerly tell you how much you will love it too, if you’ll only come visit!
Hence, the One Sumter Economic Development Foundation and its Marketing & Communications Strategy Team have spent the last 10 months focused on an intensive rebranding effort for Sumter County and its communities. Led by Tourism Director Nicole Kirksey, the Strategy Team identified a comprehensive approach to launch an ambitious and robust campaign with a proven roster of brand professionals from across Georgia and South Carolina. Jointly funded through One Sumter and the City of Americus, this dynamic team has been hard at work over the last several months, putting together the backbone of a strong multi-media campaign to launch in just four weeks!
To launch the new brand, the Marketing & Communications Strategy Team is proud to invite the community to join the celebration at the6 p.m.  June 12 “Big Reveal” Reception at the Plains Community Center!
To help explain the process and what our new brand identity will entail, please see the brief Q&A below.
Are our governments rebranding?
No. The County and respective Cities will still retain their internal logos and identities (e.g., “Shining City on the Hill”) and respective color palettes. The new brand represents a community-wide brand, created to better describe all facets of Sumter County.
Why are you rebranding Tourism?
Though the “Wish You Were Here” tagline and logo was a nice initial direction to go in, the Tourism Department recognized the need to zero in on coming up with a community identity. We were looking for something to be proud of — and something that would help us tell a story. The new logo, which will be revealed on June 12 will usher in a new era for Americus & Sumter County Tourism.
Who is paying for this? Isn’t it expensive?
Yes, rebranding is expensive. That’s why Americus-Sumter County Tourism Director, Nicole Kirksey met with the One Sumter Foundation to see if they could leverage and utilize joint resources. I met with Kirksey on several occasions and together realized there was a crossover goal for both of organizations. Instead of duplicating efforts, we banded together to achieve the same goal: To create an identity that makes Sumter County the best place to live, work, play and visit! One Sumter set aside specific dollars for Marketing & Communications. With Kirksey’s help, the Strategy Team had several companies come in and showcase their skills. Once the consulting team was selected, a joint presentation was made to the One Sumter board of directors. From there, the money was allocated to pay for the campaign. Supplemental funds for additional resources and collateral were also leveraged through the City of Americus.
How long will this brand last?
Luckily, the new brand is set to be with us for at least the next decade, if not longer. We believe the momentum and excitement around this will make all the difference in helping share the message to both our internal and external stakeholders for years to come!
We heard there were other groups rebranding? Will it clash?
Yes, others are rebranding their entities, but, no, it will not clash. Americus Main Street, Americus-Sumter Tourism, One Sumter, and the Chamber of Commerce are all cobranding together! Though our logos will be technically different, they will complement one another and create a sense of consistency through a comprehensive brand “family.” This is HUGE for our community; and essential to how we are perceived professionally by our peer and aspirational communities in the region and the State. It will also help as local entities recruit employees, students and industrial prospects to have a consistent and powerful message to represent Sumter County.
Please make plans to join us as we celebrate this new step in the strategy for Sumter County’s continued success by joining us on June 12 for the “Big Reveal”!

Mary Beth Bass is executive director, One Sumter Foundation.