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Local campaigns take publicity into their own hands

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    Map to Prosperity

    Thursday, January 2 2014 11:59 AM EST2014-01-02 16:59:08 GMT
    "Map to Prosperity" is a long-term project of The State Journal that will deeply examine government and business in West Virginia — both the perceptions and the reality.
    "Map to Prosperity" is a long-term project of The State Journal that will deeply examine government and business in West Virginia — both the perceptions and the reality.

Within days of the nine-county water emergency that began Jan. 9, multiple efforts were underway to promote local businesses impacted by the emergency.

Charleston's East End Main Street was promoting "ReHydrate," Charleston's West Side Main Street promoted an "Eat West, Shop West, Go West!" event, several organizations joined to promote "Turn Up the Tips" and still yet the Charleston Area Alliance promoted "Back to Business Charlie West."

In addition, several organizations were sponsoring "Charleston Restaurant Week," which had been planned for Jan. 27 to Feb. 1 and was being promoted prior to the emergency.

Matt Ballard is president and chief executive officer of the Charleston Area Alliance, which advertises itself as the largest regional economic development organization in West Virginia, with more than 600 members representing 40,000 employees in the Kanawha Valley.

Ballard said when he thinks about the image challenge created by an incident like the water emergency, "I break it down into very basic human terms so I can determine a strategy."

"For example, if you and I are neighbors and we have an interaction that is negative, I have to work hard to make sure the next series of interactions we have are very positive if I want to maintain the relationship and have you perceive me and our relationship as positive overall," he said. "We will have to do that now for our state and region."

Ballard pointed out that Braskem, a chemical company based in Brazil, announced late last month that it had purchased a Wood County site for an ethane cracker. 

"That is positive news, and we'll need plenty more positive ‘touches' disseminating out into the public in the coming months as well," he said. "Once the immediate challenges have been addressed and all businesses and citizens have water, we then want to understand what was the root cause of this incident and how do we prevent it from happening in the future.

"Right now, we are still focusing on helping to market the businesses that are here locally and re-opening. That's why the Alliance created the ‘We're Back to Business! Charlie West' campaign," which also uses the hashtag #BacktoBizCRW."

Ballard said he and others on the Alliance's staff also are having strategic planning meetings about the region's image.

Editor's note: The author, a freelance writer, is a member of the Charleston Area Alliance.