Port Royal considers hiring company to help solve 'identity crisis'

emoody@beaufortgazette.comAugust 23, 2013 

Port Royal Town Hall

STAFF PHOTO

The town of Port Royal is seeking an identity that draws visitors, business and money, and it might hire a marketing firm to help find one.

"We have a bit of an identity crisis," town manager Van Willis told the town's Redevelopment Commission on Thursday.

The town needs a brand, he said.

It's not alone. Several Beaufort County municipalities and organizations have come to the same conclusion, including Bluffton, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Beaufort, USA.

Part of the town's problem, commission members said, is drawing a distinction in the minds of outsiders between Port Royal and the adjacent city of Beaufort since the two are frequently lumped together.

A USA Today article about Beaufort's title of "happiest seaside town," as decreed by Coastal Living magazine, illustrated the confusion: An image accompanying the article was of Port Royal's shrimp docks.

Another problem: Quaint, sleepy towns are a dime a dozen, and many locations use the same or similar slogans, commission members said.

"That's been one of the things that has been a challenge for us," Willis said. "What do we market?"

Willis and Councilman Joe Lee said they have contacted marketing firm Roger Brooks International and received an outline for a branding campaign they could do themselves.

Commission members seemed to agree that an outside, unbiased perspective was needed. The cost of such a study was not discussed. Willis said he would return with more information.

The commission also wants to help businesses attract more customers, especially visitors to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and prevent their money from "leaking" to other municipalities, such as Bluffton and Beaufort.

Willis said a theme and sense of continuity, as well as a significant "anchor" business or attraction, could help bring people to Paris Avenue.

The commission said it would enlist residents and business owners in any branding campaign. "Because they're all part of Port Royal," commission member Phil Alling said. "And certainly the more buy-in you can get, the easier this will become."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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