MPA Strategies’ Ashley Hunter wants to put the shine on Blythewood

Blythewood’s newly contracted marketing strategist, Ashley Hunter, owner of MPA Strategies, right, assists the town’s planning commission chair, Rich McKenrick, with formatting the information received from the town’s stakeholders survey so it can be analyzed and published. | Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – Blythewood’s new marketing effort kicked off May 1, the day Ashley Hunter started work at town hall. Hunter’s marketing firm, MPA Strategies, was selected by the Blythewood Town Council for marketing and grant writing by a competitive RFP process.

“My job is listening to what citizens and businesses are saying, listening to what the leaders are saying, and actively seeking funding and promotional opportunities,” said Hunter, 40, a University of South Carolina graduate who lives in Cayce, one of more than a dozen cities and towns around the state that MPA Strategies has done work for.

“I am excited about this,” she said, “and I do see really good things coming.”

Hunter says she first got her start in understanding the needs and struggles of local governments while working with the Municipal Association of South Carolina years ago.

Seeking to make a difference by filling in the gaps in areas like communication and grant-writing, she started her public relations company in 2011 and has done work for cities and towns across South Carolina since then.

Her company, which employs five people across the state, does a bit of everything from web development to grant writing to press releases and social media. Her two elementary school-age daughters, who’ve grown up attending town events as she’s built her business, also participate and regularly enjoy being a part of her efforts.

Both young girls were excited to chime in as their Mom picked them up during carpool while doing this interview.

Hunter says she was surprised to learn what a gem Blythewood is – especially since, despite living close by and promoting South Carolina towns for a living, she didn’t know much about it.

“I see lots of small towns, I see lots of large towns, I see lots of local governments and lots of operations, but when I came to Blythewood I was wowed…. They’ve got great people, great businesses, there’s history, there’s art, there’s outdoors, there’s trails, there’s parks – they’ve got all the components; it’s just pulling it together and making sure people know about all the town has to offer,” she said.

“I think Blythewood checks all of the boxes – and somebody needs to share the story of the great small town feel.”

She said the next step for Blythewood comes in the form of promoting what’s already going on and finding funding (without raising taxes) for additional projects in recreation and other areas that can positively impact quality of life for Blythewood citizens.

“There’s a lot that the town offers, and people here are on the right track,” Hunter said, “so I feel like I have a unique opportunity to come in at the right time and maybe be that little extra catalyst.”

She said her focus right now is in three areas: finding grant funding for needed projects, devising an organized way to promote the town’s events, and communicating with the citizens about what their local government is doing for them.

Among the specific efforts she has in the works:

Taking a series of photos of the town and its amenities and events to use in promotional materials

Revising the town’s newsletter and integrating social media into its communication strategy and adding additional components to broaden its reach. This includes creating a more comprehensive event calendar to include everything from weekly activities, like the Blythewood Farmers Market to major events. “We’ll be sending more press releases from the town to share the positive things that are coming up,” she said.

Seeking opportunities for collaboration involving local businesses and others

Seeking grant funding for recreation projects like trails and upgrades to playground equipment. The funds are out there, she said. “Let’s bring them!”

Creating a budget one-pager to illustrate to citizens where funding comes from and where their tax dollars go. “Showing that town leaders care about being good financial stewards is important to everyone in Blythewood, “ stated Hunter.

Communicating to the public about Blythewood’s comprehensive plan, which is currently in the midst of its once-a-decade revision process. “This is an incredible opportunity to receive feedback from citizens and businesses.”

“You’ll see a series of social media posts that are coming soon on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter from the town that will show what the town has done in the past 10 years and what the town is interested in doing and wants to do in the next 10 years for a glance back and forward,” Hunter said.

Town Administrator Carroll Williamson said he’s looking forward to working with Hunter to promote the town and help to develop its tourism potential.

“We are excited about having Ashley on board,” he said. “She will be managing our social media platforms, promoting Doko Manor as a destination for events, obtaining grants to improve an already great quality of life here in Blythewood and much more.”

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]