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Fond du Lac's PR project: how local leaders are looking to flip the script with a more positive narrative

Posted at 6:53 PM, May 30, 2024

FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — It’s no secret that people like to trash talk or poke fun at their hometown—but now, leaders in Fond du Lac are saying those words matter. And, they're working on a new effort to change the city's image for the better.

I asked people what they thought about Fond du Lac

"I love it," Fond du Lac resident Megon Dorsey said. "I'm originally from California, so it's a big difference from there. It's very calm and quiet and family-oriented."

Dorsey's opinion is a narrative city leaders want to promote. But, not everyone feels the same.

"When I talk to people, they seem to have a negative view of Fond du Lac... but for our personal experience, we have a great time in Fond du Lac," one resident told me.

Locals I talked to said they generally liked the city, but said they believed people outside of Fond du Lac may perceive the area negatively, thinking it's boring or full of crime.

"I think it's kind of a real-world perception of most of the towns now, there's crime, there's drugs, the morale's gone down quite a bit," said resident Linda Miller.

Joe Venhuizen with Envision Greater Fond du Lac, the county’s chamber of commerce and economic development office, said community leaders are taking notice.

"There's a community perception issue here," Venhuizen said. "And it isn't unique to the Fond du Lac area, not at all. I think it's a Midwest humility thing, as much as it is a community-specific issue, but recognizing that we can improve a negative narrative is the first step in saying we can do something."

Leaders in business, nonprofits, and tourism met this week at an event they called "Telling our Community’s Story: Creating Purposeful Promoters" to figure out how to change the narrative.

"It's critical that we're putting forward the best narrative possible for our community because employers are actively seeking people to come into the community, Venhuizen said.

Craig Molitor with Destination Lake Winnebago, the county’s visitors bureau, said one part of the plan is to train hospitality workers, or people who often interact with those who may provide a "first impression" of the community.

"You’re talking bartenders, the folks who clean the rooms, the folks that check people into the rooms, shopkeepers," Molitor said.

The visitor’s bureau will offer a free, online “Fond du Lac ambassadors” program that teaches workers how to hype up their community.

"We’re going to give them tools to find out what’s going on in the community so they can’t say ‘Well, I don’t know what’s going on!’" Molitor said.

The program will also help train the workers in customer service, and how to best welcome people to the area.

This is all with with the goal of having more neighbors like Megon Dorsey.

"I love it," Dorsey said.

Molitor said the worker training program will begin in the next couple weeks, and leaders will continue to have conversations on how to best promote the city.