Identity crisis: Brooklyn Park hires PR firm to improve its reputation

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 8, 2014 - 5:38 AM

Brooklyn Park says it doesn’t deserve its troubled reputation and has hired a marketing firm to spread the word.

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The Brooklyn Park Thai restaurant Lemon Grass was recently remodeled by owner Ann Ahmed to give it a more urban vibe and to add a sushi bar.

Photo: Richard.Tsong-Taatarii • rtsong-taatarii@startribune.com,

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Brooklyn Park residents feel like they’re playing defense when it comes to their city.

Many say they moved to the inner-ring suburb for its proximity to downtown Minneapolis, its affordable housing, its quiet neighborhoods and its growing diversity.

But a lingering reputation as high crime, even as crime rates have plummeted, and suburban blah often has outsiders questioning Brooklyn Parkers’ decision to call the city home, according to market research. That “inferiority complex” described by many residents is one thing a professional public relations team will have to overcome as it launches a $150,000 branding effort for the city of 76,000.

In a highly debated split vote, the city’s Economic Development Authority, which is made up of the City Council, agreed to hire the PR firm Carmichael Lynch Spong last fall. The goal is to capitalize on the suburb’s recent high-profile successes, including attracting corporate campuses. The city also has launched a neighborhoods initiative, has bought, rehabbed and sold nearly 200 foreclosed homes and is aggressively marketing and developing the Hwy. 610 corridor.

The Minneapolis-based national PR firm is well-known for its campaigns such as Jack Link’s “Feed Your Wild Side,” featuring Sasquatch, and Jennie-O Turkey Store’s “Make the Switch.”

The firm spent the past four months interviewing Brooklyn Park residents, business owners and city leaders in the “discovery phase.” They also staked out the competition, looking at efforts by other Twin Cities suburbs to market themselves.

“Your brand is being shaped every day. It’s a question of whether you want to influence that,” Mayor Jeff Lunde said. “If left unmanaged, your brand can suffer. We need to do a better job managing our brand, telling our own story.”

Even a 1-2 percent increase in the value of existing and future development can mean tens of millions of dollars, Lunde said.

Good response cited

So far, the value of a PR campaign has been an easy sell to Brooklyn Park taxpayers.

“I have been surprised by how much positive feedback I’ve gotten,” said Community Development Director Kim Berggren. “I get the impression they are excited this work could really tell our story and help people understand what a great community this is.”

The city’s marketing campaign also parallels a renewed interest in the inner-ring suburbs as young families, weary of long commutes and scant services, are moving closer in.

“We attract young people because they want to be close to Minneapolis. They can find homes that are a good value. They come here to start their families,” Berggren said. “We offer people starter and move-up housing.”

Carmichael Lynch Spong shared its findings with the City Council last week and started brainstorming about ways to reshape the city’s image.

“What is the highest ground you can claim and support? It has to be aspirational, but it has to be true to who you are,” said Jack Stanton, with Carmichael Lynch Spong.

The council grappled with what was the city’s “high ground” — diversity, business growth, location?

Some of the firm’s findings about Brooklyn Park’s image:

• The Twin Cities business community recognizes Brooklyn Park’s recent successes attracting new businesses, including large corporate campuses and smaller mom-and-pop restaurants and shops, but the good news hasn’t spread to a broader audience yet. In recent years, Target has expanded its campus in the city and Olympus Surgical Technologies America, a Japanese-owned medical technology company, is constructing a $36 million manufacturing plant.

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