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Hays hoping to build a brand image





A new marketing brand image for the city of Hays will become a familiar sight to residents and travelers as the Market Hays action plan is unveiled throughout the next few months.

Presented to Hays city commissioners at their Thursday night meeting by Jana Jordan, Hays Convention and Visitor's Bureau director, the marketing plan reflects an eight-month collaborative effort between her agency, local "tourism champions" and Jones Huyett Partners, a Topeka advertising firm.

"We are really trying to build the brand image of our community, and I think we're onto something here and it's coming together quite nicely," Jordan told commissioners.

The tagline "Small Town Charm ... Big Town Fun" will be a theme in all Hays marketing, along with stepped-up efforts in digital and social media and development of an aggressive campaign promoting Hays to local residents themselves.

The plan is hoped to enlist Hays' hospitality industry employees, Fort Hays State University students and civic organizations to act as "Hays Brand Champions" providing Hays visitors with recommendations on things to do, see and eat.

Concerted efforts to reach out to and show appreciation of FHSU students is included as a future step in the marketing plan.

Throughout Hays comprehensive plan meetings during the past year, city staff was made aware some FHSU students have found it difficult to assimilate into the Hays community, Jordan said.

A similar situation, which City Manager Toby Dougherty said he was made aware of at a recent city managers' conference, exists in Williamsburg, Va., home to the College of William and Mary. The city manager of Williamsburg told Dougherty banners welcoming its students are flown in the streets prior to new school sessions and an annual event is staged to help integrate students into the community.

"It's been very successful for them, so we're going to see what we can do in a similar capacity," Dougherty said.

Jordan agreed, and said she had discussed partnership possibilities with representatives of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Hays Development Corp. and Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development.

Commissioner Kent Steward raised the issue of a need, which he has voiced to fellow commissioners during past meetings, to complete a walking path from the university to the downtown area.

"I agree with you, Commissioner Steward," Jordan told him. "It needs to happen and I hope it does.

"Because I think it's part of our vision that we need to partner more with (FHSU students) and make it physically more appealing for them to walk down to the downtown."

In other business, commissioners:

* Recognized city of Hays employees for their length of service to the Hays community.

* Approved a resolution authorizing the abatement of a vehicle at 1803 General Custer.

* Commissioners Barbara Wasinger and Henry Schwaller IV were absent.