Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Members get seat on marketing board

Alliance offers olive branch to business community


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley Marketing Alliance board of directors has approved the appointment of a member-elected business representative to the organization.

The alliance's board has been made up of representatives from Sun Valley Co., the city of Ketchum, the city of Sun Valley, and two at-large members appointed by the other board members. One at-large member, Jane Rizzo, recently resigned, leaving that position open.

The alliance presented its quarterly report Thursday to a joint meeting of the Sun Valley and Ketchum city councils, which provide the organization with the bulk of its funding.

Arlene Schieven, the alliance's president and chief marketing officer, told council members that the organization heard from the business community at its Dec. 15 membership meeting that business owners wanted more than a seat on the advisory board.

"The key issue that emerged there was board representation," she said. "The members felt very strongly that they would like to have an opportunity to have a business-member representative on the SVMA board. Once we have that resolution, we will continue our membership drive."

That approval came Monday. With positive feedback from both councils and the board's approval, one seat on the board will now be a member-nominated, member-elected position.

Brooke Wojcik, Sun Valley's representative on the alliance board, said during the meeting Thursday that now is the time to engage the business community.

"[It] is good timing for us to show our business members that we're listening to them, that we heard them on Dec. 15, and that we're treating their concerns ... as seriously as we possibly can," she said. "We are really trying to bring them into the fold and garner their support."

The alliance is in the middle of its annual membership drive. An announcement about the new board position will be made in mailings to members and potential members that will go out this month. The organization also will continue to clarify its mission as a destination marketing organization rather than a traditional chamber of commerce.

"We want to be really clear moving forward that we are not referring to ourselves as the chamber of commerce," Schieven said. "Our activities are not consistent with a chamber of commerce."

A destination marketing organization seeks to raise awareness of an area, promoting long-term development. Chambers of commerce focus on advocacy of business interests and promoting individual businesses.

"All of these activities that we're tasked with are strategic marketing," Schieven said.

Because the alliance is just over one year old, it doesn't have year-to-year comparisons to gauge success. Instead, Schieven said, the alliance looks to brand awareness, brand engagement, sales, and members and stakeholder engagement.

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The alliance tracks, for example, how many people are on its email list, how many opened the email messages, and how many click on and through the links on a webpage.

By far the highest click-throughs are for web specials, she said.

Sun Valley Facebook fans are highly engaged, she added, and the numbers have grown rapidly.

"They're commenting all the time," she said. "(There are) lots of posts, very good compared to the competition."

Sun Valley Councilman Bob Youngman, however, was less impressed about the data and wanted better metrics to measure success.

"We need you to come forward to us and tell us ... what's meaningful, what's a benchmark, what can we expect from you, what are you going to commit to getting to or at least attempting to get to," he said. "I'm ready for this data to start coming forward so that we get a sense for what our taxpayers are getting for their dollars."

Without that, he said, the data isn't useful in measuring cities' return on investment.

"You tell us a bunch of stuff and we have no idea what it means," he said. "It's not benchmarked, it's not taken relative to past performance. There's no real data there. It's all platitudes. You didn't say a single negative thing, that I heard. I don't know an organization that runs that has nothing but positives, so I'm concerned."

Schieven agreed to provide other comparative data, which Youngman asked to see before the end-of-season report.

"We don't have benchmarks because we haven't done it before," she said. "But we can benchmark ourselves against industry standards."

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com

See them in action

The next Sun Valley Marketing Alliance's board meeting is March 5. The board meets at 10 a.m. twice per quarter, at the alliance's offices on Spruce Street. The public can observe board meetings, but must make a reservation. The schedule for the remainder of the year is: March 5, April 12, June 4, July 12, Sept. 6 and Oct. 11. For information, call Linda Horn at 725-2109.

Know the history

For a recap of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance's activities, as well as a history of how it got started and how it's funded, log on to www.mtexpress.com and type "marketing alliance" in the search field on the page's left-hand side.




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