CAPC hears from Paradise on marketing plan
By Samantha Jones
The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission had some special guests at its regular workshop on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
Visiting from Florida, Paradise Advertising and Marketing representatives presented information to the commission on the marketing plan for 2020 and how that will look in 2021.
Paradise representative Kristen Murphy said Paradise has worked with the commission for exactly one year, saying the company was tasked with evolving Eureka Springs' brand. Paradise put together a plan for 2020 that included marketing campaigns for spring, summer and fall, Murphy said, but the COVID-19 pandemic completely changed everything.
"At that point, we had to pivot our plans. At the end of March, we actually pivoted your strategic planning three times," Murphy said.
So far, Murphy said, Eureka Springs has fared well throughout the pandemic. Many of the visitors over the past year have come from Fayetteville and Springdale, Murphy said, with the remaining visitors coming from areas targeted by Paradise's marketing campaigns.
"Eureka Springs has done extremely well compared to other destinations," Murphy said. "Other destinations are down still — double digits down — and you guys are up. That's incredible."
Moving forward, Murphy said, Paradise will take information derived from her trip to Eureka Springs and combine that with quantitative data describing tourism trends. All that information will help Paradise create a strategic framework, Murphy said, which will be presented to CAPC staff for approval.
"Hopefully, they like what they see and then they'll approve us to move forward and we'll build the tactical plan," Murphy said. "That's when we'll really work with [interim director] Gina [Rambo] and her team to develop the PR plan."
Paradise hopes to present all that information in January, Murphy said. Murphy then took questions from the audience, when commissioner James DeVito asked if Paradise would continue targeting the younger market or if that was a "one-off thing" because of COVID-19. DeVito said COVID-19 will continue to affect everyone for the next nine months to a year.
"Do you anticipate the change that has occurred because of COVID … is that going to sustain?" DeVito asked.
"You know, I'm not sure I'm comfortable answering that, and I say that because the data is evolving all the time," Murphy said. "The big game-changer that happened recently was the announcement of the vaccine."
Murphy said she's not sure yet how the vaccine will impact travel patterns and DeVito said the vaccine won't be available for another nine months.
"Once I have the data available for that, I'm absolutely going to layer that into it for sure," Murphy said. "I just at this time don't feel comfortable answering that question."
"So you're going to stay flexible?" DeVito asked.
"Absolutely, 100 percent," Murphy said. "In March, we pivoted three times. We've probably had six or seven different plans mapped out. It's extremely critical if we're going to be successful that we stay nimble and flexible and on top of the latest trends available to us."
Commission chairwoman Carol Wright then asked how Paradise expects to market for 2022 and Murphy said that's a challenging question to answer.
"The majority of the clients we're working with aren't planning out past the next six months," Murphy said. "There's no one destination that's doing it exactly the same. I'd just encourage you, just like we are, to stay nimble and on top of things and collaborate on how we're going to tackle … 2021."
Also at the workshop, the commission heard from Eureka Springs Arts Council chairwoman Sandy Martin about the future of May Festival of the Arts. Martin proposed dropping "May" from the name of the festival and just calling it Festival of the Arts. Then the festival could be spread throughout the year, Martin said, which would allow the event to remain flexible depending on how the pandemic pans out.
The commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at The Auditorium.