Payson lovers last week unleashed a campaign intended to jump-start Payson’s economic recovery with a jolt of positive energy.
“The thing that distinguishes Payson is this unique combination of a life of adventure and hometown living,” said Donovan Christian, pastor of the Expedition Church, one of a core group of people who envisioned the new “Adventure Where We Live” campaign.
The group on Friday showcased new videos, promotional posters, ads and an innovative “passport” program intended to ensure visitors and residents savor Rim Country’s great spots — and vital businesses. More than 150 community leaders assembled in the Sawmill Theatres building to hear the pitch.
“If we bring the positivity to Payson, people will hold that flag up and fly it,” said local business owner Joe Klein. He said he wants to counter the complaints of people always looking for problems. “I believe we will tip the scales quickly. We’re a community standing up for ourselves. We’re going to kill everybody with kindness. We’re going to kill everybody with positivity.”
Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Cameron Davis said the group involved the town, which has now developed a logo, videos and a comprehensive marketing approach based on the theme of “Adventure Where We Live.”
He said when he saw the proposal “I thought, this is the next evolution — this is where we need to go — this is exactly the perception we need to send out to the rest of the state of Arizona.”
The group’s enthusiasm and the videos and posters provoked frequent applause from the audience, which included town councilors, school board members, chamber of commerce members, town, school and county officials and many local business owners.
The town’s current marketing programs frequently include the slogan a “cool mountain town.” The “Adventure Where We Live” campaign picks up that phrase and builds on it.
Many of the posters and visuals were based on the photography of Craig Miller, better known as DJ Craig — who provides music and takes photography at town events throughout the year.
“This is a beginning,” said Mayor-elect Craig Swartwood. “This is the tip of the spear — the rest of it is kind of up to all you guys. It’s for you. It’s for us. It’s a true public private partnership that’s going to hopefully go like wildfire — it will make us a better community and hopefully for you businesses it will help you to thrive. This is not just Payson. This runs from Tonto Basin, down by Tonto National Monument, to Pine/Strawberry, up to the Rim — it’s regional promotion.”
The group is still developing a “passport” program, to encourage people to visit both top attractions in Rim Country and local businesses. The group will develop a booklet with 35 places, each with two or three business sponsors. People — especially kids — can collect stamps or cellphone pictures of codes in each place and business. This will enter visitors in a drawing, with thousands of dollars in prizes.
Davis explained, “We want to create a breadcrumb trail throughout our community of all the things to see and do. We want to help our visitors discover all that we have to offer. We will create an app they can download and put on their smartphones and through the proceeds of the sponsorship create an incentive for people to want to do this.”
Mostly, the group wants to inspire pride in Payson — and engage residents in an effort to explain to outsiders and one another what they love about the town.
Klein said he fell in love with Payson as soon as he moved here and his friends from the Valley felt the same. Several have already moved to Rim Country. But he discovered a frustrating division in the community.
“I kept running across people who couldn’t say enough positive things. Then I would come across people who couldn’t say enough negative things. And they were completely ignoring the things we love about this community,” he said.
He hopes the campaign can focus on the youth in the community.
“If we can make the youth of our community the heroes — this community will change. If you want anything to be healthy, you invest in the children. Make them feel like they’re the heroes. They’re going to work really, really hard if they feel like they’re the heroes of our community.”