Medicine Hat stands out as a community that is alive with a vibrancy and spirit few communities get to witness in this day and age. Their residents are friendly and welcoming, with many coming from across the country and even from around the world to make this their home. In a single word it can be said that Medicine Hat is all about opportunities both in business and in pleasure, avoiding the long commutes, elbow to elbow crowds and hassles of the big city. It is a safe, comfortable, and affordable place to live and where family and friends can prosper individually and as a community. Residents speak of being able to experience life up close and personal while providing “a soft landing and a springboard, a retreat and a hive of activity – and always a place to savor life”. Their vision is being “a community of choice where people seek to live, work and play”. This is where the concept of a city as a brand came into play as one of the ways to promote and realize their vision.
Recognizing that Medicine Hat is a special place to achieve one’s dreams, community leaders wanted to tell their story in a compelling way that would attract new visitors, new business/investment, and new residents. The best way to do that was to take a page out of the world of retail and commerce and define a community brand as a focal point of reference from which future developments would occur.
The genesis of the Medicine Hat story began back in October 2014, using as a launch pad work previously done by the Tourism Industry Group. Discussions ensued with community leaders as well as residents via in person focus groups as well as an online survey. The group used social media and advertised input opportunities at public venues. They also launched the Medicine Hat: Favorite Places campaign, which asked residents to identify their favorite places and spaces in the community. Research also included survey data from residents and non-residents (primarily Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina) to help understand how others perceive Medicine Hat. These efforts ensured that the community brand identity is genuine and authentic to the Medicine Hat experience.
Beginning with the Esplanade Center, it is not a stretch to claim that it is the cultural soul of the community. It opened its doors in celebration of Alberta’s centennial in 2005. This is where “arts and heritage come to life in Medicine Hat, where the stories of their great collective culture are told through music and dance, theatre, painting and sculpture, exhibitions and installations, artifacts, objects’ d’art and more.” It showcases Canadian architecture just steps from the South Saskatchewan River and it occupies a prime location on downtown’s elegant First Street South.
To tell the Esplanade story properly, community leaders knew that the messages they wanted to convey were being limited by the static signs placed throughout the facilities, understanding that they were incapable of showing all the venues and keeping pace with the changes in programs and presenters. This resulted in a failure to keep attendees informed about current and coming events. The team at the Esplanade turned to digital signage as a solution, understanding it had the potential of providing an ideal set of tools to help solve their communication and dissemination of information problems. This is where Capital Networks fits into the story.
Capital Networks was selected as their digital signage partner for three primary reasons:
- First an enviable reputation and track record in digital signage dating back to 1991. This illustrates the respect they have earned for that what they have done in the past and this gives confidence in what they will do in the future.
- Secondly, Capital Networks provides a full menu of content management system options on any platform and it can be custom tailored to each application. A key part of the process was spending time up front to insure a perfect fit.
- Finally, is providing true hands on service during and after the sale. Medicine Hat and the Esplanade team wanted and needed a partner to engage with and stay the course and Capital Networks provided that.
One of the first decisions was one that would have the most impact on the network. There were two choices on the table. One was to utilize an on-premises solution and the second was to go with software as a service (SaaS), a hosted approach. In discussion with the Esplanade stakeholders, it became obvious that a fully hosted solution was the right one for them for several reasons:
- At the top of the list was that there would be less burden on their staff and allowed them more time for their normal day to day.
- Regarding operations, a hosted solution is generally quicker with regards to going live.
- There would be no servers. No server maintenance. No installation needed and as a result, less space needed for storage of equipment.
- Ease of continuing expansion (as Medicine Hat planned to do)
- Since there can also be a fair amount of turnover within municipalities, the hosted model offers the nicety of having to do less training less often.