Friday, May 25, 2012

Not too much to ask

Most of the 1,416 businesses in Blaine County depend either directly or indirectly upon successful tourism.

That means they depend on the success of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance in attracting visitors to the area.

No one with any kind of stake in the success of the local economy wants the alliance to fail in this mission. It has been fully staffed since last fall, so the re-building period that ensued after the cities dismantled a previous marketing group should be over.

As they consider the alliance's new budget proposal, it wouldn't be unreasonable for the cities to ask questions, offer advice and set up parameters for how the alliance markets the area.

It wouldn't be unreasonable, for example, for the cities to require the alliance to have its summer marketing program in place by March 30 and its winter marketing program by Sept. 1 each year.

During a Ketchum City Council meeting in April, the alliance had nothing to show when asked about this summer's marketing and said it was working on it.

The area is now approaching the Memorial Day holiday weekend and the alliance's website for visitors is still populated with winter photographs, and summer marketing is still under wraps.

It wouldn't be unreasonable for the cities to require that the area's major seasonal events be featured prominently on the alliance's website—the mountain bike race, major performances and festivals—instead of being lost in a flowing list of lesser events. It's a smart change that could be easily done within the $20,000 earmarked for the website in the current budget, $38,000 for content production and $5,000 for website maintenance.

It wouldn't be unreasonable for the cities to find out what they've gotten for the significant sums the alliance spent last year on its website, Youtube/Facebook platform development, website updates and hosting, and video content.

It wouldn't be unreasonable for the cities to add up the easily trackable views of the alliance's videos on Youtube and ponder whether that line of endeavor is worth continued expenditures.

It wouldn't be unreasonable to require that the alliance not put all its eggs in the electronic media basket given that we live in a transitional age in which the jury's still out on all-Internet advertising.

It wouldn't be unreasonable to ask that the alliance not count stories that appear in newspapers and magazines—the very vehicles it refuses to support with advertising—as marks of its own success unless it's been directly involved.

The cities shouldn't micromanage the alliance, but it wouldn't be unreasonable for them to ensure that taxpayers' money is being spent well and wisely. The cities can, indeed, be the judge of that.

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