Marketing consultant considered in New London

New London - City officials want the community presented in a positive light and feel a public relations professional could help them achieve that goal.

"Hiring a marketing consultant who could work media contacts would have a more positive effect than taking out ads,'' Kristin Havrilla Clarke, director of Development and Planning, told the City Council last week.

When people search on the Internet for New London, advertisements do not come up, she said, but news stories, blogs and editorials do.

The City Council's Economic Development Committee is looking into a proposal for a marketing plan. The city has about $70,000 it could use for the plan, which comes from proceeds from Veolia Water, the company that runs the municipal water and sewer department.

In addition to hiring a public relations person for about $35,000 a year, the marketing plan would include $15,000 to upgrade the city's website and keep it updated, and $5,100 for "rack cards," which would highlight the city's main attractions.

Another $4,500 would be used for administration fees that would include design work and social media updates.

Frank McLaughlin, who helped plan last summer's successful OpSail event, urged the committee to follow through with the proposal.

"I think it will be a positive thing for the city,'' said McLaughlin, who is also co-chairman of the city's Economic Development Commission. "We need someone with a broad understanding of marketing and city events."

The committee took no action and agreed to meet again in February. Members asked Clarke to work on some details, including who the marketing person would work for and report to, and to further break down costs of improving the website.

City Councilor Adam Sprecace said he liked the idea of someone promoting good things in the city.

"2012 was a difficult year for New London in terms of the city's reputation and all the financial difficulties,'' Sprecace said, referring to the announcement last winter of a possible $12 million budget shortfall stretching out over several years and a contentious budget battle that resulted in a 5 percent increase in the tax rate. "The image of New London, we really need to focus on it. I hope we can turn the corner this year with this campaign."

Clarke said she would draft a request for proposals. She hopes to have someone in place by the spring.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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