Katie Peterson was chosen by the organization’s board of directors Aug. 19, following Theresa Jenkins’ retirement after 29 years with the Marietta Visitors Bureau. Peterson was already an employee of the organization and was mentored by Jenkins.
Peterson recently earned a “Travel Marketing Professional” certification after completing a three-year program with Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College.
When she was selected as a finalist for the executive director position last summer, Peterson said she was going to “up the technology game,” of the Marietta Visitor’s Bureau.
“I have been thinking about this since the day I started working here two years ago,” Peterson said.
This week, the Marietta Visitors Bureau launched MariettaSquare.com, a newly redesigned website with a free online community calendar.
The constantly updated tool is a centralized, community-driven resource where tourists and residents can find information about where to “eat, shop, stay or play” in Marietta.
“Social media is great to get everyone excited, but the website provides the detailed information they need,” Peterson said.
Free publicity for public events
Earlier this year, Peterson said she reached out to Matt Green with Populace, Inc., a travel and tourism technology company, to redesign the website for $2,000 and create the online calendar for $1,600.
“I had really shopped around and talked to a couple website designers,” Peterson said.
Peterson said she wanted a design that was sharp, clean and inviting based on the existing burnt orange, light blue and olive green Marietta Visitors Bureau logo.
“I definitely wanted a picture with everything listed,” Peterson said. “(Green) knew the look and feel we were going for.”
The best feature, Peterson said, was the ability for her staff “to go into the back end” of the website to more easily update information, which is being updated weekly for the main page.
The calendar is updated almost daily because all local businesses, merchants, charities and individuals are encouraged to add upcoming events to the webpage.
Peterson said the Marietta Visitors Bureau is just beginning to alert the Cobb community about the open accessibility of the free online calendar.
“Hopefully within the next month everybody will start promoting their events,” she said.
To submit an event to the “Marietta Calendar of Events,” visit www.mariettacalendar.com and click the green button labeled “+Post Your Event.”
Once submitted, the event will be reviewed by staff at the Marietta Visitors Bureau. Adding photographs or other graphics is highly recommended.
New coordinator promotes spring event
Before taking over the executive director role, Peterson worked as the bureau’s marketing and public relations manager.
In February, Peterson hired her replacement, Sarah Sloan, 22, who is the Marietta Visitors Bureau’s new Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator.
“We are very excited about the look and feel of our new site. We feel as though it is easier to navigate and will be much more useful to the visitor,” Sloan said. “It’s a complete 180 of what the website used to be.”
Sloan, who was born and raised in east Cobb, graduated from Georgia State University in December, where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in hospitality administration.
Before taking the job with the visitor’s bureau, Sloan completed an internship with the Georgia Aquarium in the Event Services Department, where “she gained valuable knowledge in event logistics,” Peterson said.
Sloan said the past month has been about learning the ropes.
“Essentially, next year I will put my own spin on things,” she said.
Sloan said her young age means she knows how to handle technology, a skill Sloan plans to use to get people talking about the city on Facebook.
“I really want to spread the word about Marietta,” Sloan said.
Sloan’s first test will be the upcoming 21st annual Taste of Marietta on April 27 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the Square.
Sloan said she will know if her marketing work is a success if the attendance at the event is high and people are talking about their great time on social media.
“Especially those first-timers who haven’t seen it yet,” Sloan said. “I am just hoping for a gorgeous day.”
A Taste for the festival season
The Marietta Visitors Bureau, which operates the Welcome Center out of the former Western & Atlantic Railroad Passenger Depot, promotes the city as a tourism destination with an emphasis on heritage and culture.
In June, the Marietta City Council allotted the Visitors Bureau $197,500, about $16,500 a month, from the city’s fiscal budget.
The tourism grant money is awarded yearly from hotel/motel and auto rental taxes and accounts for 75 percent of the Visitors Bureau’s budget
The Taste of Marietta is a big fundraising event for the Marietta Visitor’s Bureau and kicks off the festival season in Cobb.
Both Peterson and Sloan spent Friday afternoon at City Hall to organize the event with city staff, including the layout of the booths, electricity needs, the amount of police presence, how vendors will load in and out and changes to traffic patterns with roads blocked off.
“A lot of things are already set, but as with any event, things are never always the same,” Peterson said.
The approximately 70 restaurants participating in the Taste of Marietta were also finalized Friday, including food trucks and carts.
Many familiar restaurants will be returning to the event, “which is always great,” Peterson said. “People always look for their favorites.”
For the first time this year, The Local, a new eatery at the corner of Roswell and Atlanta streets, Red Sky Tapas & Bar, a new east Cobb restaurant offering small plate entrees and live entertainment off Johnson Ferry Road, and Hoof and Ale, a burger and beer joint on Roswell Road, will open booths.