Newton Management Analyst Natalie Umsted gave the Newton City Council an update Monday evening on the progress of the new branding since it was launched four months ago in February.
“We have done a lot over the last four months,” Umsted said. “Our first goal of the “Get To Know Newton” brand campaign was to communicate and energize the Newton community through outreach and events. The second goal is to create an online presence through social media and gettoknownewton.com. The third goal is to take on some paid advertising through the central Iowa region.”
Community leaders worked together for several month, talking about the strengths, weakness and challenges that Newton is facing to create a message built from a brand narrative.
“Our overarching message that we want to tell Newton residents and the central Iowa community was Newton has a strong education system, excellent recreational facilities and an ideal central Iowa location,” Umsted said. “As you see, ‘Get To Know Newton’ advertising and messaging will be based around education, recreation and location.”
The first goal of communicating and energizing the Newton community through outreach and events have been done in multiple ways.
“One of the ways is by having Get To Know Newton team members and myself speak at community events and meetings,” Umsted said. “We have spoken at over a dozen community meetings over the last four months that include Chamber breakfast, Kiwanis and Rotary Club meetings.”
The branding team has been hosting multiple events around Newton, with one of the major goals being to meet people where they were coming.
“We hosted a night at the Valle Drive-In, filled with games and activities,” Umsted said. “The drive-in is one of those access points for lots of people outside of Newton. We looked around at license plates, and I would say that 75 percent of the plates were not Jasper County plates.”
The biggest community outreach event was the opportunity to promote the community during the Get To Know Newton 250 NASCAR Nationwide race, which aired live on ESPN to a national audience of more than 2 million people.
“In being the title sponsor, we were able to do a lot of outreach because of that,” Umsted said. “I expect that Newton will immediately experience a huge boom with that outreach that blows all our other outreaches out of the water.”
During the race, the Get to Know Newton team set up Newton Street, a strip of the Iowa Speedway concourse filled with information on many organizations in Newton.
“I thought it was a really good success, and people were having fun, but also people learned about Newton,” Umsted said.
The second kind of outreach the team is using is classic print communication, publishing quarterly newsletters that are being distributed to 6,000 households.
“We have had two of them come out so far, with another coming out in July,” Umsted said.
The branding team has been sending monthly e-newsletters and now has 1,400 subscribers. The team also has looked at the newtongov.org website to see how it can be using that to communicate more efficiently.
“Since the brand has launched across all departments, we have started using the Newton Newsflash feature of our website to greater extent,” Umsted said. “Newton citizens can get up to the minute updates as soon as information is available. It’s updated all the time making our website more valuable and a better tool in letting our citizens interact with us.”
Since the launch of the brand and the race, the Newton community is filled with banners and signs.
“We have had rotating banner stands that have been displayed at Skiff Medical Center and YMCA as well as some of our facilities,” Umsted said. “We also have banners in the downtown area and out by the speedway.”
The Get To Know Newton brand is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The pages are filled with giveaway games and informational posts in regards to the brand.
“Once a week, we give away a coffee mug by placing it somewhere in the city,” Umsted said. “I am blown away by how people know every inch of Newton, and they can tell where it is within five minutes of posting the photo.”
One of the goals of using social media is to create new conversations.
“I don’t know if any of you are familiar with Raygun T-shirts, but they make kind of trendy shirts and are located in the East Village in Des Moines,” Umsted said. “Their T-shirts are usually very topical for cities or the State of Iowa. When they started to follow us on Twitter, we tweeted back, saying we liked their shirts (and asking if they would) consider a speedway design. Conversations with journalists and other people are happening now via Twitter.”
The second part of using social media is the encouragement for people to participate in the conversation about Newton by using the hash-tag “KnowNewton” across all of the platforms that the branding uses.
“It’s really encouraging people to be using social media to communicate about Newton in a positive way,” Umsted said.
Another part of the online out reach is the website gettoknownewton.com.
“If you haven’t checked it out recently, you need to go back and check it out because it’s being updated all the time,” Umsted said.
People who don’t have social media accounts but want to remain updated on the new conversations happening about Newton can do so with the agitator tool on the website that can be accessed by the social tab on the site.
The agitator tool combines all of the social media posts from Facebook and Twitter for the City of Newton pages, the Get To Know Newton pages and all of the Get To Know Newton community partner’s pages.
“If you want to know community news up to the minute in Newton this is the place to go,” Umsted said. “I think it’s the most reliable as it is very up to date. Its great because you don’t even need a social media account to engage all of it.”
Staff writer Zach Johnson may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.