Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Marketing Alliance reacts to funding cut

Organization’s president says decrease will have ‘drastic’ effect

Express Staff Writer

Arlene Schieven

The city of Sun Valley’s decision to reduce its funding of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance by $100,000 will have a “drastic effect” on the organization’s summer 2013 campaign, Marketing Alliance President and Chief Marketing Officer Arlene Schieven said this week.

“It won’t affect our winter campaign for this year,” Schieven said. “It is well under way and we have made many commitments already. However, for next summer’s campaign, we will have to focus more on social media and less on paid advertising.”

The cut occurred when the Sun Valley City Council unexpectedly voted during its second budget hearing Aug. 16 to reduce the city’s fiscal 2013 commitment to the Marketing Alliance from $350,000 to $250,000. The budget amendment was proposed by Council President Bob Youngman.

Neither the public nor the city of Ketchum—Sun Valley’s partner in funding the Marketing Alliance—was informed that the amendment was under consideration. However, Youngman’s view on the subject should have come as no surprise. At a June 28, 2010, City Council meeting, Youngman said “governments funding marketing is inappropriate.”

“I will support [Sun Valley’s contribution to marketing] going to zero in 3 to 5 years,” he said. “I just think it’s inappropriate for us to be sending that money in that direction.”

Youngman made the comments after he spearheaded in January 2010 the idea of establishing a new entity to market the area to potential visitors outside Blaine County.

Youngman did not return a phone call by press time Tuesday requesting comment on whether his proposal to decrease Marketing Alliance funding was based on his thinking in 2010 or on budget constraints the city is currently facing, particularly due to a forensic audit that the city commissioned in April.

Either way, the decrease in funding for the Marketing Alliance will require slashing the organization’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget—listed at $1,093,600 before the cut—by just over 9 percent.

“It’s unfortunate because, ideally, you want a multi-tiered campaign that covers a broad spectrum of media, but we need to put our limited funds where they will be most effective,” Schieven said. “We really want to keep the momentum going—the worst thing you can do is get something going and then abandon it.”

Jake Peters, Marketing Alliance board president and Ketchum’s representative to the organization, said he was “not done fighting this.”

“I might be unrealistic, but I’m not done,” he said.


“We really want to keep the
momentum going—the worst thing
you can do is get something
going and then abandon it.”
Arlene Schieven
Marketing Alliance president

Schieven said that if the Marketing Alliance could convince the Sun Valley City Council to reconsider its decision before next summer, the impact to the Marketing Alliance’s campaigns would be “minimal.”

During a Sun Valley council meeting Aug. 21, Councilwoman Michelle Griffith made a motion to reverse the decision to decrease the Marketing Alliance’s funding. The motion died for lack of a second. For now, the Marketing Alliance will have to tighten its belt.

“I will be presenting a revised budget to our board next week,” Schieven said Monday.

Peters said the organization is already being run very efficiently.

“It’s a very lean organization,” he said. “Our overhead is only 18 percent and there are only four full-time employees. All the board members are volunteers.”

At Sun Valley’s first budget hearing on Aug. 7, Sun Valley resident Jim Bronson asked how the Marketing Alliance planned to address negative public sentiments, specifically allegations that the organization’s overhead is bloated and its employees are overpaid.

“We’ve been focusing on more communication with our members,” Schieven said in a recent interview. “We need to take that one step further and take it past our members and to the community. We need to inform the people about what we do and have them ask questions.”

Schieven cited the Marketing Alliance’s small budget and large mission of running the Visitor Center and promoting the valley to outsiders as reasons for its limited public relations work inside the valley.

“It’s clear that we need to increase our efforts in that area without losing sight of our core mission of marketing the area to outsiders,” Schieven said.

Brooke Wojcik, Sun Valley’s representative to the Marketing Alliance board, expressed support for Schieven’s vision for the future of the Marketing Alliance.

“Arlene is one talented lady,” Wojcik said in an interview. “She’s an absolute pro. We’re lucky to have her.”

However, Wojcik expressed frustration toward the Sun Valley City Council for keeping her, the city’s representative on the Marketing Alliance, “out of the loop” on the decision to decrease its funding.

“That to me is the long and short of it, that [the Sun Valley City Council] made the decision without giving me, their representative, a heads up at least out of respect,” she said.

Brennan Rego:

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