DBED: Here's how we're selling Maryland to business

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By Andrea M. Vernot

A report on Maryland’s competitiveness released by the Greater Baltimore Committee last week generated considerable buzz about the State’s efforts when it comes to strengthening our economy and creating and retaining jobs. The report, which was framed over the past year from interviews with business leaders and economic development officials, called for, among other things, an “aggressive, coordinated, long-term and well-funded” marketing strategy that uses business successes to tell the Maryland story.

We are fortunate that Governor Martin O’Malley believes in the power of effective innovative communications and challenged our agency –- the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), long considered the State’s economic development marketing arm –- to think outside the box in developing a campaign to promote the State’s competitive advantages.

Since June 2009, DBED has been engaged in a three-pronged marketing strategy built around research, communicating the State’s assets and shifting the narrative from reporting on the accomplishments of our agency to doing the very thing that the GBC report recommends –- selling Maryland through the strength and successes of our business community.

We created –- for the first time –- a Division of Marketing and Communications, which brought together marketing, public relations, graphic design and research, and added a new interactive function. We canvassed our stakeholders –- customers and critics alike –- and formed our strategy around three key themes: location, innovation and education. The result was the bold and audacious MaryLand of Opportunity advertising campaign which highlights the CEOs, entrepreneurs and trailblazers in industries like cybersecurity and biotechnology that give Maryland its unique competitive edge.

We repositioned and adopted key marketing activities through the business community’s lens. As part of the redesign of our website, www.choosemaryland.org, we introduced an aggressive social media platform to market Maryland businesses on Facebook, a branded YouTube channel -- MDBiz TV -- and using @MDBiz as our Twitter handle. Today, we communicate directly with 10,000 people daily.

We launched three Pulse e-zines, which deliver integrated, rapid news to more than 16,000 businesses on corporate investments, economic and employment data and international successes. A fourth Pulse e-zine focusing on life sciences and biotechnology will soon debut. And we created a branded suite of collateral materials that tout the State’s competitive advantages in core industries.

These efforts have reaped rewards. By employing the best practices of the businesses we want to reach, we have garnered recognition for our innovative website design, Land of campaign, CyberMaryland research report and use of social media by no less than four regional and national organizations, including the Council for Community and Economic Research, the New Media Institute and the Center for Digital Government.

While the launch of DBED’s marketing effort may seem bold during a time of limited resources, the fact is, there was no better time to create this campaign and strengthen our partnerships with the business community. As outlined in our annual report, our goal, like that of the GBC’s report, is to continue to provide relevant, meaningful and timely information in the places that our key customers –- Maryland’s businesses and entrepreneurs -– convene, communicate and collaborate.

We hope to learn more on how we can continue to strengthen Maryland’s economy on Monday, December 20 when Governor O’Malley convenes with the business community in a forum, Maryland Forward: Jobs and the New Economy.

Andrea M. Vernot is Assistant Secretary, Marketing and Communications, for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.
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