18 Dec 2015

Abbotsford, Canada: How to launch an economic development website

Alissa Sklar is the director of marketing for GIS Planning. She has extensive experience as a consultant, writer and educator in the fields of technology and communications. Dr. Sklar has a Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts of Amherst, and has as worked closely with B2Bs and economic development agencies to assess, develop and implement social media strategies for business development.

Abbotsford Canada GIS website launch

Our clients come from many places across the U.S. and Canada, and we love watching the different, creative ways they choose to launch their new websites. The City of Abbotsford's Economic Development department (CAED), in the province of British Columbia, caught our attention with a particularly innovative plan to showcase their new online tools. Working with DCI, they put together the great strategies outlined below.


“Film premiere” launch party: The big event took place at a VIP movie theatre in Abbotsford, with community stakeholders, including Mayor Henry Braun, city councillors, chamber of commerce members, business owners and realtors. As you can see in these pictures, attendees dressed up and enjoyed the presentations and tour of the new website, including AbbotsfordSiteFinder.ca, the first GIS location analysis application in British Columbia.


Visuals: The economic development team worked with DCI and local team Original Ginger to ensure their branding and promotions were consistent across their website, printed materials and social feeds. There were lots of pictures included in their live Twitter feed from the launch itself, including our own Pablo Monzon (in the image below).

Press release: The economic development team coordinated the issue of a press release and online announcement to an extensive list of site selectors and top economic development professionals. 

Pablo Monzon Canada GIS launch

Blogging: The economic developers at Abbotsford understand the significance of blogging, both to get out important announcements and updates about their community, but also to provide a consistent flow of indexed pages to help them be found in online searches. They are short, succinct and informative. Check out their blog here.


Social media: The active @AbbotsfordEcDev Twitter feed was abuzz in days before, during and after the launch with links to the new website, images from the launch and screenshots of the new website, as well as properties of the week. They made frequent use of hashtags such as #bizfriendlyabby, #tomorrowsthinkingtoday and #bizabbygoeslive to track their messaging and enable searches (see below). CAED has their own active YouTube channel, including a video tour of CAED's mission.

Clear explanations: It's important to explain your activities to the lay person who may not be clear about the goals and activities of economic development. From journalists to community businesses, it's always helpful to be clear about the value of new tools. This explanation from their press release is a great example:

“This type of specific geographic and demographic information is sought by businesses looking to relocate or expand and we are providing them a with a one- stop-shop business portal on our website,” said Wendy Dupley, Executive Director of Economic Development. “It allows them to print maps, find available property and develop custom information for their business. It is an innovative tool of which Abbotsford will be the first community in British Columbia to employ."


Engaging all stakeholders: Including everyone in the launch encourages buy in, but it also helps people understand the importance of economic development initiatives in the community. The participation of city councillors, real estate brokers, chamber of commerce members, and small business owners gives all of these people a chance to celebrate and appreciate these place marketing initiatives.


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