Members of the mayor’s “What’s in a Name?” selection panel have received some bad news: they are guaranteed of sorting through at least 1,000 suggestions made in about 700 entries — a daunting task in any judge’s playbook.
Entry deadline isn’t until Sept. 30. So the numbers will grow.
“And that’s a good thing,” Tennessee’s longest-tenured mayor stressed.
“It seems that whenever the Cleveland Daily Banner has a story [about the contest], it brings a new flood of entries, and that’s good,” Rowland said. Now several weeks in the making, the mayor’s brainstorm has been blessed by the full Cleveland City Council and MainStreet Cleveland, whose downtown membership heard the mayor’s original announcement just a few days after it was proposed to city leaders.
In order to stay objective, neither the mayor nor any Council members are directly involved in the contest. Nor will they serve as judges. And they’re not submitting slogan ideas, either.
“The Council and I have not submitted any names in order to be impartial, as the Council will have to approve the final selection,” Rowland explained. “The contest does wrap up on Sept. 30, and then they [submissions] go to the judges. I would not want to be a judge.”
In spite of the large number of ideas submitted so far, and the fact that the deadline is still almost a full month away, Rowland encouraged area residents, and community outsiders, to continue to allow their creative juices to flow. Ideas should continue to be sent in, he offered.
“I would solicit as many thoughts as possible, as the winner may still be out there,” the mayor stressed.
The incentive is likely playing a role in keeping the ideas flowing. Once the judges have made a recommendation, and City Council members have signed off on it, the name-tag champion will receive a $1,000 cash prize compliments of several Cleveland businesses and leaders who wanted to lend their special support to the initiative.
Last month, the mayor solicited another group of innovative minds — school students. The fact that Cleveland City and Bradley County school systems had reopened their classrooms for another season prompted the mayor to encourage local principals and teachers to get the kids involved with submitted ideas of their own.
Judging from the numbers, the school idea might be working. In slightly more than two weeks, the idea submissions have doubled. On Aug. 15, some 500 potential tags had been submitted; by the start of September the number had risen to four digits.
Those few Cleveland residents still in the dark about the naming contest might be asking, “What’s in a name ... and why is it important?”
Rowland will answer the question as often and to as many people as needed, because he believes in its message.
“A name is a distinction by definition,” he stressed. “It can be a nickname, a slogan or any type of descriptive tag line that reflects an image or perception; in this case, such an identifier would befit Cleveland and its Bradley County heritage.”
It has worked for others.
Perhaps “The Big Apple,” “The Windy City” and “The Big Easy” might ring a few bells. Within Tennessee, local residents will recognize “Music City” (Nashville), “The Friendly City” (Athens) and “The Scenic City” (Chattanooga).
It’s all about branding. It’s a lot about marketing. Cities that sell themselves to travelers often do it with an image because images lead to map placement — and word-of-mouth advertising by visitors who have come and gone, and have liked what they’ve seen.
“My advice to those submitting an entry is to make it brief and to offer something that is not only ‘catchy,’ but would create conversation or questions,” Rowland explained. Too, ideas — if at all possible given the age and scope of Cleveland and Bradley County history — should take into account total heritage and people impact.
“Another suggestion I would make is for anyone with an idea ... don’t tell me what it is,” the mayor stressed. “Write it down and submit it as an entry so that it can be accounted for.”
Melissa Woody, vice president of the Convention & Visitors Bureau for the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, has drawn the assignment of chairing the selection committee.
Contest sponsors whose contributions have made the $1,000 cash prize possible include Pioneer Credit, Brenda Lawson and Associates, Don Ledford Automotive of Cleveland, Logan-Thompson PC, State Rep. Kevin Brooks, Bender Realty, Ed Jacobs and Associates, Wacker Polysilicon North America, Bank of Cleveland and Jones Management.
Mailed entries may be sent to the Office of the Mayor, Cleveland Municipal Building, 190 Church St. N.E., Cleveland TN 37311. Entries by email may be sent to email@example.com.
Entries are accepted not only from Cleveland and Bradley County residents, but outsiders as well because frequently visitors will capture a perception of the community that local residents might never have considered, Rowland explained.