Denver pitches official Web site

City will advertise its Web site in an aggressive marketing campaign, unusual for the government sector

In an aggressive campaign beginning May 1, Denver will advertise its government Web site through community newspapers, radio spots and a city-owned cable channel. It's an unusual move within a sector unaccustomed to such marketing efforts.

"I see the need being precipitated by the competition out there," said Steve Hansen, marketing director for the city's Television and Internet Services Department.

Scores of "imposter" sites — such as news, travel or "underground" sites — bill themselves as "the official Denver Web site," he said, and then provide links to the city's site (www.denvergov.org), which was launched in 1999.

"We felt like we had to do a full-blown branding to the public," Hansen said, adding that the initial marketing push will last through November.

Hansen and Byron West, director of the 22-person Television and Internet Services Department, presented their strategy to several other municipal officials at the Public Technology Inc. conference last week in Scottsdale, Ariz. They showed print advertising campaigns that promote the government site as the primary source of information for constituents and said the city-owned Channel 8 also would air ads.

Marketing is a difficult concept for governments to embrace, said Hansen, who added that it gets a "bad rap." West said officials have a mindset that they don't need to publicize services and offerings because people will come to them.

"Government sets itself up that other people have to come to it because they have to," she said. "[But] we're in the best position to present this information." West said the campaign could not have happened without high-level support from the city government. The city budgeted $90,000 last year for the effort, and $84,000 this year, they said. This enabled the department to hire a professional marketing firm.

West said she's seen "pockets" of marketing done by other municipalities, but only where a specific service was promoted. "As a general principle...you don't see it adopted," she said.

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