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News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 12, 2014
Castine marketing consultant ramps up website aimed at visitors

by Anne Berleant

Members of the Community and Economic Development Committee heard details of the current phase of consultant Barbara Whitten’s plan to market Castine during a conference call on June 9.

The telephone check-in will be part of every committee meeting moving forward, all parties agreed.

Whitten outlined strategies to be implemented by June 30, before the town’s new fiscal year begins, at a cost of $7,730, which the CED will pay for out of its 2013-14 funds.

Whitten’s objectives—to broaden the Castine brand recognition, upgrade the town website with pages designed expressly for visitors, develop media releases, apply for grants, and increase Castine’s presence on social media—have already seen some success, namely a segment on Castine that appeared on WABI-TV last month.

The bulk of Whitten’s work relates to the website. “That is the biggest chunk of what your budget went for,” she said. “We’re working at a pretty good pace.”

Whitten is working with designer Michelle Keogh, who created the pages that went live last year.

Four visitor pages will provide information on local history, information for visitors, relocation information, and on holding weddings and conferences in Castine.

Also, a search engine will work separately from the town website engine, so as to only show results “appropriate to visitors,” Whitten said, and not links to information that may be “very helpful for people who live there,” but is meaningless to others.

Whitten also has a goal of having 12 Castine businesses use the branding logo developed by Susan Adam and Betsy Leiser, which incorporates the slogan “Under the Elms & By the Sea,” on their websites.

“How do you get on the list of businesses?” CED member Scott Vogell asked.

“I would work with websites with the most visibility,” Whitten replied, such as inns, real estate companies, and restaurants. Whitten said she contacted business owners by email and has received “three or four” positive responses.

Vogell, who owns Castine Realty, said he had not received an email.

“There’s clearly some concern as to where the information [Whitten is using] comes from,” said Chairman Rick Armstrong.

A second email will be sent to businesses, Whitten said, after CED member Julie Van der Graaf said the list had been updated.

“The goal of branding is to get it on all business websites,” Van der Graaf said.

Whitten reminded members that she is “committed” to having 12 businesses participate “per contract.”

The idea is to have Barbara’s work on branding to “get [us] up and running,” said Armstrong. “We have to learn what we need to do after.”

Finally, a proposal by Tim Koster, who has been providing and posting social media content for the CED, was voted down because of its $500 monthly cost. The proposal was based on receiving a grant that the CED could not apply for by deadline; instead, the CED will apply based on an autumn deadline.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of added value to what [Koster] does” on Facebook, said Liz Parish.

“I agree the Facebook postings need to be jazzed up,” said Van der Graaf. “Social media is one of the strongest arenas we need to be involved with.”

“Without grant money, it’s something we can’t discuss now,” Armstrong said.

CED member Tony Politano advised to “continue with some care and feeding” of social media “until we figure out what to do,” and the committee agreed, approving $200 per month for Koster through the summer.

“We’ve spent a significant effort waking up our Facebook [page],” Politano said.

After June 30, Whitten’s plan for 2014-15 will take effect. The CED and selectmen have already approved spending $10,000 on the proposal Whitten submitted for that period. Citizens approved $20,000 for economic development consultants for 2014-15 at town meeting.

Upcoming meeting

June 26, with Maine Downtown Network advisor, 8:30 a.m.,

Emerson Hall