In selecting a successor, I would urge the bureau’s board to look for someone with some media relations moxie. As of this writing, I have never had a single contact initiated by the MVB, even though I am an enthusiastic supporter of the annual Art Walk and have been honored to be a participant in that event. I have also been known to lob an occasional unvarnished opinion or two on these pages.
Had I the responsibility for the MVB’s public relations, I would have put me high on their list for news releases. (Assuming they do news releases.)
One of the highlights of my checkered past was to have my paintings exhibited at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre a couple of years ago during the Art Walk. I felt like the real deal, even though one reader in attendance at the exhibit pointed out that I look much older in person than the photograph that accompanies this column.
I’ll bet Picasso didn’t have to put up with that kind of abuse. Of course, Picasso wasn’t a modest and much-beloved columnist, either.
All I know about the Art Walk, the Christmas Walk, the Taste of Marietta and other activities emanating from the Marietta Visitors Bureau has come from people other than bureau personnel. I shill for no one, but I do have a strong affinity for The Square and for the hard-working people around that area who are trying their best to maintain a healthy and viable downtown Marietta and to get people to spend some time and dollars there.
I am told that there was some thought among a few of the MVB board members to simply go through the motions in selecting a new director; that there may have been a hand-picked candidate being positioned for the job.
All of this was going to be done behind closed doors. Wiser heads have prevailed — at least as far as understanding that the Open Records law clearly prevails in this case; I’m not sure about the hand-picked candidate — but to even think about closing the doors on the selection process is evidence enough that there is a dose of reality missing in the organization.
The Marietta Visitors Bureau is funded in large part from the city’s hotel/motel tax and automobile rental tax. The money for the organization comes from a vote of the Marietta City Council. This year’s grant was $197,000.
However anyone wants to slice-and-dice it, selecting a new director for the Marietta Visitors Bureau is the public’s business.
Clearly, the place could use a little help — no, make that a lot of help — in the public relations department. I labored on the corporate side of life as an external counselor for almost 40 years and considered the media as critical to the success of the organizations I represented. That is because the media is a pass-through to you.
It was my job to know the media, to have them get to know me and then hope for a fair opportunity to tell my side of a story through them to the various publics we served. I didn’t sit around and wait for somebody from the media to call me; I was a proactive cuss.
Now that I have been on the media side of the fence for a number of years, I never cease to be amazed at the poor media relations skills of many organizations and individuals, sitting on their duffs and not telling us why what they do should matter to you and to me — be we customers or constituents.
There are a few good ones that make the effort but mostly it is out of sight and out of mind.
To this writer, the MVB is a non-entity. What I know about events going on in downtown Marietta is not because of the MVB but rather merchants in the city who have taken the time to let me know — sometimes sharing their own frustrations with the MVB’s insular and self-congratulatory attitude.
Whenever the board gets around to naming a successor to Ms. Jenkins, I hope they will encourage the new director to do a better job of outreach. The organization should be Good News Central and we should all be a part of spreading the word about Marietta but for reasons that escape me, the Marietta Visitors Bureau doesn’t seem to understand that.
If anyone at MVB disagrees with my opinions, maybe they will let me know.
If they do, it will be the first time I have ever heard from them.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.