By Vicki Knuckles
Location: Southwest Michigan
Take a guess at how many cities or towns exist in the United States named Allegan. If you want to know, check the latest zip code directory or simply Google “Allegan.”
You may be surprised to find that there is only one city or town named Allegan in all of America. This very fact is theme for an awareness campaign for the city of Allegan, located in southwest Michigan.
After wondering what life would be like living in a different Allegan, city of Allegan Downtown Coordinator Vicki Knuckles decided to find out. But when she could not find another Allegan in the United States, she realized that the town she had so much appreciation for was truly unique. City administration realized it needed to do something to make Allegan and what it has to offer to potential residents stand out. The answer is “Only One Allegan.”
To highlight Allegan, its people and businesses, the Only One Allegan project was developed. For close to a year, Knuckles teamed with community stakeholders to create an effective marketing tool centered on Only One Allegan.
The focus is to attract, retain and inform potential and current residents about why Allegan is a great place to live and work. Additionally, the Only One Allegan campaign is a convenient way for potential visitors to get a sneak peek of what Allegan has to offer to them.
A central aspect of the campaign is the Only One Allegan videos. The videos are intended to attract people looking to move to west Michigan and to encourage people who work in Allegan to move their families here. There are eight video segments, or chapters, displaying Allegan’s amenities and attractions: an area overview and segments on the downtown, events, area heritage, education, medical services, outdoor life, and public safety. These chapters highlight the history, natural beauty, and resources that make Allegan a great place to live.
A DVD of the video is offered for distribution through human resources offices, at Allegan based businesses, available at real estate offices, and video chapters may be viewed online at the Only One Allegan website, www.onlyoneallegan.com and YouTube.
“Allegan is truly unique. Allegan offers opportunities for all in a safe environment rich with nature’s bounty,” said Rob Hillard, Allegan city manager. “While the economy continues to slip, some businesses in Allegan are actually expanding. The Only One campaign hopes to encourage new employees to choose to also live in Allegan.”
Not convinced yet that Allegan is one of a kind? Every aspect of the project is pure Allegan. Local stakeholders came together and developed the concept, collaborated with local organizations (businesses, public schools, medical services, and public safety) with a total hands-on approach. They shaped and formed the project graphic design, scripted video segments, and were involved in production activities such as video capture, editing, post production, video drafts, and revisions. In addition, they were involved in creating the DVD and related website.
Leaning heavily on the local talent that saturates the Allegan area offered a number of benefits. Using high school students to capture footage for the education segment provided a unique persepective. Collaboration with the city airport allowed both an unusual experience for the camera operator—as well as some outstanding shots. Working with local business owners gave the downtown chapter a real taste of Allegan. Connections with the Historical Society & Museum contributed one-of-a-kind video and photography that emphasizes Allegan’s roots and the beauty of the community, and its distinctive events and activities are clearly woven throughout each themed sample of the Allegan lifestyle.
The chapter format of Only One allows people to focus on their area of interest and keeping each segment short encourages curiosity. Easy click access to dig deeper for Allegan information is provided on the site. This approach makes it easier to update and revise the videos. Two chapters have already been enhanced since the initial release and plans are to revisit one chapter per year, to keep it fresh.
The success of the effort is undeniable. WZZM Channel 13 news did a spot on the campaign, and it has been featured in regional newspapers. Enthusiasm for the venture is contagious. “Only One is the best thing that has been done for Allegan in decades,” said Paula Bruinsllot, owner of McFarlands Jewelers located in the downtown. “It makes me even more proud of my community,” stated Cheri Schulz of Schulz Realty. Ongoing success is also measured in website hits and unique visits, the growing popularity of Only One Allegan’s social media connections, and distribution of the DVDs which are utilized to recruit professionals and are included in Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce new resident packets.
During these competitive and tough times, how can you afford not to promote your community? The cost for such an undertaking, you say? That is another little perk of “keeping it local.”
Vicki Knuckles is arts & entertainment director and downtown coordinator for the city of Allegan. You may reach her at 269-673-3456 or [email protected].