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News TDA reviews marketing strategy for future

Pandora, Charlotte and Facebook among options

Franklin's Tourism Development Authority met on Monday evening to discuss the 2014-2015 budget, but before they hammered out a plan, acting chairman Summer Woodard provided the board with print outs of last year's budget and the room occupancy tax report that provided monthly collections figures.

With a budget of $100,000, tax collections were reported at $99,648.38. Out of the budgeted amount, $80,413 was spent leaving a balance of $19,586.93.The balance is a result of a decrease in festival funding requests and a smaller amount being spent on Facebook ads and Google Ad Words than had been budgeted.

The collected tax comes from the room or rental occupancy tax that is gathered when visitors stay in local motels, hotels, cabin rentals, etc...

Figures presented showed that collections were down in May and June of this year by $525.57 and $81.55 respectively.

As the board was faced with adopting its budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, attention turned towards recommendations that Premiere Marketing made at last month's meeting. Premiere, who was tasked with managing the TDA's marketing strategy in the previous fiscal year, suggested a budget of just over $120,000 with the following line items:

  • Local Businesses/Festivals: $30,000
  • Atlanta Billboards: $35,000
  • Pandora Radio: $30,000 (Minimum expenditure of $20,000)
  • Membership: $400
  • Events Page Premium Banner: $4,800
  • Facebook: $10,000
  • Google Ad Words: $10,000

“I like the idea of Pandora but I'm kind of concerned with the idea of diving in head first,” said Matt Bateman. “But I see there's a a minimum requirement of $20,000.”

As Woodard pointed out, the Town Board of Aldermen only provided the TDA $100,000 to work with despite them having a reserve of almost $170,000. The TDA is a functioning arm of the town. To add anything more than that, Woodard would need to ask the aldermen to allow it.

Discussion moved to the digital billboard that had been pitched at last month's meeting by Allison Outdoor advertising. The billboard has a rotation of advertising and is located on the Georgia Road, but as Cheryl Pullium pointed out, was absent from the recommended budget.

“I don't know why Premiere didn't put it on here,” said Josh Drake. “But let me tell you why I don't like it. First, there's a marketing approach to the billboards in Atlanta where they are visible during popular times of travel. But let's say you're traveling to Gatlinburg for vacation and you come through Franklin and you see a billboard for Franklin. Number one, your vacation is already planned. Number two, when you get home you're not going to remember that billboard.”

But Pullium disagreed with the notion, with Bateman echoing sentiments that have come up in recent public forums.

“We've got the bypass out there that everybody complains about,” he said. “I mean what are we doing to get them to come into Franklin.”

Woodard suggested striking out the line item that would send $5,200 to the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and instead use the cheaper option that was offered by Allison Outdoor Advertising of $350 each month.

“Considering that we have $150,000 over the $120,000 that's budgeted, I'd hate to see us cut out the Charlotte Chamber,” said Drake. “I would rather see us go down to the minimum of $20,000 to Pandora and keep the $4,200 on the local billboard and then keep the Charlotte amounts. This would actually bring it to a lower amount overall.”

Before the budget meeting came to an end, Bateman took an opportunity to bring discussions back to a more local focus.

“This is a lot of money to be spent on advertising,” he reminded the board. “What part of our budget can be used for more ground level stuff here in town? What can be done to increase curb appeal, that invests in the town?”

Drake and board member Mike Gruberman pointed to the wording in the North Carolina Statutes that say a TDA is to “promote,” but Bateman questioned whether that was a clear definition.

“Our charter is development,” said Bateman. “Economic development comes to mind. All I'm saying is why not explore using some of that to improve very ground level type things, if we can.”

A suggestion was to add a miscellaneous line item to the budget that would serve as a “catch-all” type fund where if something were to come up, the TDA could use the available funds to pay for it.

One example that was discussed involved a country music band, Shenandoah who was touring the area and had a cancellation so they ended up playing a free concert in downtown Franklin back in the late ’90s after the town fronted the needed funds to make it happen.

Drake made a motion to adopt a budget of $118,400 with the wording being changed in the first line item from local businesses/festivals to festivals/miscellaneous. Gruberman seconded. It passed unanimously.

  • Miscellaneous/Festivals: $30,000
  • Atlanta Billboards: $35,000
  • Pandora Radio: $20,000 (Minimum expenditure of $20,000)
  • Membership: $400
  • Events Page Premium Banner: $4,800
  • Facebook: $10,000
  • Google Ad Words: $10,000
  • Local Billboard: $4,200
  • Local Audit: $4,000

Pullium motioned to allow Woodard to approach the town board in order request an allotment of $118,400 for the fiscal year of 2014-2015. It passed unanimously as well. The next TDA meeting will be held on Sept. 8 at 5:30 in the Franklin Town Hall board meeting room.

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