City turns to Web for image boost

By Ade Adesanya

Waco’s revitalization is not limited to new apartments, riverfront structures and bridge projects. Waco’s image is getting a lift in an effort that involves multiple marketing campaigns and publicity- triggering events.

The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce is using the Internet extensively in marketing the city’s economic revitalization plans. chamber’s website contains more than 30 links featuring various facets of life in Waco as well as five websites specially dedicated to areas of economic development.

“While we want to give a broad perspective of economic development activities in the community, we also want each area of our focus to get have its specifics shown to the public,” said Scott Connell, senior vice president of strategic development for the chamber.

The chamber uses social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to communicate special events to the Waco community in a timely way.

“Our goal is to increase the reach of social media to reflect and serve the different segments of chamber’s activities,” Connell said. “For example, if we want to inform the community of the general improvement in aviation, we also want a social media or multimedia platform with more videos and interactive capability which will allow us to appeal to professionals in the target industry.”

A key part of the marketing initiative is constantly staying in touch with the community by utilizing technology.

The “Next Level” strategy was developed by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce in order to prioritize enhancing Waco’s image. This includes emphasizing strategic marketing campaigns for the next five years through more user-friendly websites and online networking.

“Between now and 2015, our focus will be to increase interactivity and the use of more videos to refine the information that individuals and organizations within and outside our community are looking for,” Connell said.

In setting the marketing agenda, the different organizations in the city are advancing a larger agenda: making the Greater Waco area an urban center that is business and family-friendly.

Waco Young Professionals, a local organization focused on convincing graduates to remain and work in Waco, partnered with the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce in 2005. The organization uses publicity events including meetings, service projects, local-industry tours and social activities to showcase Waco to the public. They also try to connect the young professional base to the industries in the area.

Domestic travel and trade shows are also marketing tools used by the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau to portray Waco as a traveler’s destination.

“We engage travel writers; we use domestic sales and media planners to publicize our community. Eighty percent of our visitors come from within Texas and with our sizable publications, we are able to reach people in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and as far as the Midwest region because of Baylor’s affiliation with the Big 12,” said Elizabeth Taylor, director of the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In addition to Waco’s centralized Texas location, the city also offers landmarks and cultural attractions.

“We have many international visitors from Mexico, Germany and especially Canada who are attracted to our community by the cultural symbols associated to Texas, like the cowboy culture,” Taylor said.

“Many people want to visit places like the Texas Ranger Museum; for people from the United Kingdom, the Armstrong Browning Library on Baylor campus is popular destination.”

The Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau is building relationships with consultants and corporate organizations in neighboring cities in order to share the benefits of collaborative marketing.

“Bellmead, Lacy Lakeview, Hewitt and Woodway will now be included in our marketing efforts. In December, we started a new regional marketing project that will include these areas. We are partnering with an Austin based marketing and PR firm,” Taylor said.