By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE—(February 27, 2014) It all happened so fast. The Montrose Office of Business and Tourism (OBT) was formed in 2013, shortly after the City of Montrose chose to seize the Retail Enhancement ($230,000) and Tourism Promotion funds ($400,000) formerly administered by Montrose ACT (which was created by combining the Montrose Area Merchants Association, Chamber of Commerce, and VCB through a City initiative in 2010) in January of 2013.
Heading the OBT—and overseeing all tourism promotion and retail enhancement expenditures since that time–is Assistant City Manager Rob Joseph, a former masters level intern from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) who, according to his resume, had no prior professional municipal work experience and whose resume lists only two paid positions since 2004 (the year he interned for a U.S. Senator in Delaware)—a brief stint as a humanities instructor with Front Range Community College in August of 2011, and as an online instructor with Santa Fe Community College beginning in 2006.
Despite this apparent lack of management or government experience, Joseph, who arrived in Montrose in January of 2012, was reassigned to the position of Assistant to the City Manager in May of that year. In January of 2013, after just seven months on the job, Joseph, whose resume does list a book-in-progress on developing something called “Charismagnetism” and extensive multilevel marketing experience, was promoted over a pool of more than 71 applicants to the position of Assistant City Manager, at a salary of $80,000 per year.
In our last issue, we reviewed the more than $100,000 worth of expenditures from the two public funds that were used to remodel space in the Elks Civic Building as a Downtown Visitor Center in 2013.
For this issue, the Montrose Mirror reviewed more than 300 pages of expenditures obtained through Public Information Request as well as information about the process by which Joseph was hired to learn how the City has spent the retail enhancement and tourism promotion funds since that time. Here, we look at how much (roughly 90K) the OBT, which has yet to create and hold a successful event, spent to advertise Montrose between January of 2013 and January of 2014.
For advertising in the Colorado State Visitor Guide and other services offered through Miles Media Group, LLC of Colorado and Florida, the OBT spent $37,481; With Texas Monthly publisher Emmis Publishing the OBT spent $9,503; with a company called Internet Honey the OBT spent $6,453; with AAA Colorado Inc. the OBT spent $5,842; with the Montrose Daily Press, the OBT spent $4,867; with Cherry Creek Radio the OBT spent $2,502; with MBC Grand Radio of Grand Junction the OBT spent $2,490; and with The Slope (Watch Newspapers) the OBT spent $1,665. Tiger Oak Publications (Colorado Meetings & Events Magazine) was paid $1,755, while Gray Television Group of Atlanta received $891 and Telluride’s Brown Mountain Broadcast received $175. Banners and miscellaneous flags from Megapixel Digital Imaging ran to roughly $4167 while miscellaneous promotional materials from Montrose Embroidery cost $2,909 and from Marco Meeting cost $1,474; Ad design by Kane DeZign cost $2,190; web design by Icon Enterprises cost $2,500.
Other miscellaneous advertising-related expenses include $421 with American Writers & Artists (AWAI), a company that sells home-study courses for professionals hoping to change careers by learning direct response copywriting (including the popular Michael Masterson course “The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting”); $504 to Black Canyon Jet Center; $425 to the Western Business Alliance, a local business and membership organization; $400 to High Noon Productions for a license to use a Black Canyon video; $400 to David Nunn for an online Visitor Guide; $350 with the Alliance for Innovation; $250 with the Colorado Association of Destination Marketers; $49.90 to something called Fam News.
The Mirror asked for an explanation of the expenditure of community funds on a home-study copywriting course, an expense which had not been discussed in a public forum. The explanation is as follows:
“It looks like we are trying a different way of handling travel writing whereby we train locals to write travel stories about their personal experiences in the Montrose area for publication in state and nationwide magazines and publications,” City Manager Bill Bell said. “This is a new way of handling travel writing, as opposed to the traditional method of wining and dining travel writers when they come to town, although we will still give localized guidance to writers as they come to town in the future.”
Assistant City Manager Rob Joseph, who made the purchase, offered this explanation for the expenditure: “My thought is that we will run workshops to teach our citizens how to put their passion, excitement, experience and love for the area on paper. The plan is simple – they will write of their recreational and lifestyle experiences and we will use those stories to attract visitors by posting them on the Visit Montrose website, on marketing e-mails we send, in the newly-redesigned visitor guide, etc. Once they have been published by us, they can then reach out to publishers of travel magazines (which we will supply) across the country and sell their articles. Now it gets exciting — Montrose gets to have this ongoing free advertising exposure in multiple travel publications and our citizens make money.
“The same story can now potentially recirculate dozens of times and if we do it the way I’ve envisioned, this becomes the lion’s share of our advertising!” Joseph said.
“The benefits for us are large,” Joseph claimed. “We get to write (and/or train others to do so) travel articles from our region in highly descriptive and compelling ways using the exact techniques that professional FAM trip writers use except with one difference: we can write in an experiential and passionate way they cannot. We then use those articles to inform our redesigned visitor guide – these are stories that sell and result in higher conversion rates by interested readers – and other marketing collateral.
“I have enrolled OBT in this program because it teaches regular people how to write travel stories,” he said. “I believe that no one can sell anything unless he has personally experienced it. We have many locals who love recreating in Montrose and area, but they don’t know how to put their experiences into words – and especially words that evoke the senses and sell.
“This is my belief,” Joseph said. “No travel writer can ever write a local travel article as well as a trained local can.”