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Tourism: Interviews begin for county marketing director

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

The first round of interviews with candidates for the tourism marketing director for Georgetown County is scheduled next week.

Annette Medlin, Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce president, said she and members of the county Tourism Management Commission hope to sit down with six candidates for the new full-time position on Monday and Tuesday.

Finalists are expected to be called back in for a second interview the week of Oct. 31.

The goal is to have the director hired by Dec. 1. The position was created and funded under a new arrangement with the chamber and the county, which is expected to save between $50,000 and $95,000 by eliminating the need to outsource marketing services.

“We had some really good applicants from all over the country and all over the state and the region,” Medlin said.

More than 100 applications were received and she spent last weekend reviewing them and narrowing the selection to 15, which she forwarded to commission members first thing Monday morning. They were requested to send feedback to Medlin by the following morning, but as she prepared to start calling candidates Tuesday afternoon, she had heard only from the commission chairwoman, Helen Benso.

“I think they trust me well enough to narrow it down as long as they sit in on the final interviews,” Medlin said.

Medlin said there were a good number from people “just applying for anything they see.” That made it easy to eliminate about half the applicants. She was able to cull another 20 or so after that, she said, but narrowing the selection further was a challenge.

“I don’t think we’ll have any trouble bringing in the right person,” she said.

Benso agreed. From her initial review of Medlin’s choices, she said it looked like “an exceptional group.”

Medlin looked for specific qualifications including experience with grant writing, tourism and marketing, she said. She was also looking for a familiarity with the community, and most of the 15 she picked live in the area.

“There were a couple from out of the area. Several that sent materials in from out of the area either lived here or vacationed here before, so there was some sort of allegiance to the community,” she said.

A new marketing director won’t be the only addition for the Tourism Management Commission over the holidays.

Plans are for a new version of Georgetown County’s tourism website to roll out on Jan. 1.

The commission agreed last week to hire a local company, Case Solutions, to do the work following a closed-door discussion that lasted about 20 minutes.

A request for bids resulted in 14 proposals, but it came down to Case Solutions and Rawle Murdy of Charleston, the agency that handles the commission’s advertising and created the county’s Hammock Coast brand.

“It was a hard decision,” Benso told a Rawle Murdy representative. “It had nothing to do with your proposal. It was just spot-on.”

The choice was based on price and the fact that Case Solutions also did the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce’s website and is working on sites for the city of Georgetown and the county Economic Development Alliance.

“We thought there was some synergy,” Benso said.

Case Solutions offered to do the job for $10,000, about $40,000 less than Rawle Murdy.

“The prices we got were all over the board,” Benso said. “Some went up to $90,000.”

Both finalists used a take on the “Don’t Come to Hammock Coast” campaign Rawle Murdy created for the county to promote their proposals. The cover of Rawle Murdy’s depicts the “crazy tourist guy” used in Hammock Coast ads holding a sign that reads “Do not read this Proposal.”

Case Solutions’ proposal features another model holding a sign asking commission members to “please don’t hire” the agency.

The redesigned site is supposed to highlight more of the area’s events and attractions, and emphasize the fact that it is the county’s official tourism site, encouraging visitors to bookmark it as a resource for future information.

Benso said it is “critical” the new site be up by the first of the year, because people are already planning their spring and summer vacations in January.

“We want a new fresh look right out of the gate,” she said.

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