Ocean Shores Marketing and Sales Manager Diane Solem revealed a new ad campaign for the city last week in her first formal presentation to the City Council since taking the new position last year.
Much of the strategy revolves around more a active social media presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube. The city is working locally with Greater Grays Harbor Inc., the umbrella group promoting the area and its economic development, and currently has ads on the group’s website, Solem said.
The ultimate goal is for the city to have a more cohesive, comprehensive social media strategy and presence.
“We need to start owning our hashtags,” Solem said. “We need to draw on engagements through promotions.”
The intent is to run paid ads through the so-called shoulder season before summer to enhance the social media presence.
“The beauty of social media is that you can always measure” who comes there and where they are from, Solem said. “It’s not like a billboard outside of the city where we don’t know how many people actually saw it.”
Social media allows tracking of response rates, how long visitors stay on certain pages, what their ages are and other information.
Another goal is to hire bloggers and social media writers to help promote Ocean Shores weekly, bringing readers and visitors back to landing pages.
“This is a team effort, and, as a community, we should all be shouting out great thingsabout Ocean Shores on our social media,” Solem said. “We should be sharing posts about all our businesses, our whale watching, our photography.”
The city also has secured an in-kind donation of a billboard spot at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport based on its creative campaign. The billboard says, “Explore the Shores.”
“We’re going to focus on shores rather than the beach,” Solem said. That’s because “we can market the shores in the shoulder season.”
A past campaign sponsored by the Ocean Shores Co-Op with city Lodging Tax funding used the slogan, “More than a beach.”
“If we were putting all our equity in the beach, it’s hard to get people out here all the time,” she said.
Focusing on the shores of Ocean Shores, according to Solem, allows the city to market things like the photography attractions, the golf course, the fresh waterways, the arts community, and other features of the area.
Solem also urged better cooperation between businesses and the tourist-related industry in promoting the city, its attractions and events.
Another new link is with the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission and getting Ocean Shores on the map of the Olympic Peninsula Culinary Loop.
The group is having a meeting and luncheon at the Ocean Shores Convention Center on April 16.
At the same meeting, Council members began to review a proposed resolution that would change how the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee awards lodging tax proceeds, and the requirements placed on those receiving the money.
“We have not been entirely happy with what we have in place, so what we have done is go out and look at how other places are doing it,” Mayor Dingler said of how the funds are distributed under a process created by the state. A summary of the proposal states: “The city of Ocean Shores has substantial funds available from Lodging Tax, and wishes to formalize its association with recipients in order to provide clear instructions as to when and how reports are due and the obligations which come with receipt of Lodging Tax funds.”
The change would not significantly affect the amount of money the city can disburse from the share of the revenue, with most of the money dedicated to the city’s debt obligations on the Convention Center.
Of the remaining amount, 90 percent will be available to fund requests for which the city “does not make multi-year commitments for tourism promotion services,” according to the resolution.
Proposals for funding would be accepted from the first working day of September through the last working day of September each year, with a form available from the city.
After that, the LTAC members will meet in October to review the proposals and then make recommendations to the City Council for funding. The meetings are to be conducted under the regulations of the Open Public Meetings Act, and all recommendations shall become public documents.
A key new part of the LTAC proposal would require better documentation of how the funds are used.
“One of the difficulties we’ve had is that people take the money … and then they forget that you have to report on how you spend the money,” Dingler said.
City Finance Director Angela Folkers said there has been confusion over the past few years about what the city expects from the LTAC members and what guidelines are set for making decisions.
There have been reporting issues with applications as well, and Folkers said the proposed changes are an attempt to “clean those items up and trying to make this a more transparent and efficient user-friendly process on both sides.”
The Council did not yet take a vote on the proposed changes, and the mayor said the proposal would be brought back with some modifications.