Firm hired to polish Anchorage's image

ANCHORAGE (May 3, 4:10 p.m. ADT,) (from The Associated Press) - Anchorage has an image problem, and city boosters have turned to an East Coast public relations firm to help solve it.

The Anchorage Economic Development Corp. has signed a three-year, $450,000 contract with Development Counsellors International, a New York City-based firm that specializes in winning national and international media exposure for cities, states and foreign countries.

It will try to counter misperceptions that AEDC officials say many outside business people have about Alaska and persuade them to move to Anchorage.

Kevin Pearson, AEDC vice president of business development, said many corporate executives have an impression of Alaska as being underdeveloped, remote, exotic and rustic.

The perception is reinforced by the tourism industry, which spends millions promoting that image. It can work against the AEDC, which gets public and private funding to promote Anchorage as a place to do business, Pearson said.

Development Counsellors International will develop a marketing and public relations campaign aimed at changing those perceptions. It will target executives in specific industries, including global logistics and air freight, technology and light manufacturing.

Anchorage-based public relations firm Walsh Sheppard Flynn will work with DCI on the campaign, Pearson said.

The companies will pitch Anchorage's location as a business asset.

The goal is to change the impression of Anchorage as a place that's "in the middle of nowhere" to being "in the middle of everywhere," said Rob DeRocker, DCI's executive vice president.

DeRocker and other people from DCI were in Anchorage last week for a three-day "immersion tour," meeting with business and civic leaders.

Once it has a plan in place, the firm will begin working on planting favorable stories about Anchorage in national and international news media, targeting business publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Fortune as well as trade magazines.

Among its current clients is Tacoma, Wash., where officials say the marketing program DCI developed has helped draw at least a dozen new businesses and earn it the distinction of being the only city in the state that had job growth last year.

"We hired them four years ago, and since then we've had more than 250 positive articles written about Tacoma," said Juli Wilkerson, director of the city's Economic Development Department.

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