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After eight years of working with public relations firm DCI, the Williamsburg Area Destination Marketing Committee voted Monday to switch to New York-based Percepture.
WADMC gets the money generated by the Historic Triangle’s $2-per-night tax levied on all hotel rooms sold. It must use that money to promote the area to tourists.
As part of that mission, it uses a public relations firm to help generate favorable media coverage of the area in national publications.
For example, if a writer from a national travel magazine chooses to write a profile of an attraction in the Historic Triangle, it exposes the area to a huge audience of potential visitors. So far in 2015, media placements have generated an estimated 200,528,291 impressions.
The deal with Percepture runs from Aug. 1 through December 2017. It guarantees the firm $10,500 per month.
Additional money can be paid to the firm for other expenses like travel, however WADMC must approve those expenditures prior to the disbursement of funds. After the deal expires in December 2017, WADMC can renew the deal for a one-year period up to five times.
Percepture is tasked with continuing to convince travel writers to write articles about the Historic Triangle and what it has to offer visitors. It must also work with other agencies — like Luckie & Company, which has designed a new slate of advertisements for the area — to develop plans for marketing the region.
The deal spells the end for DCI, which has been WADMC’s public relations firm since 2008. WADMC’s bylaws require the committee to put out a request for proposals every eight years on all of its contracts.
After releasing a request for proposals earlier this year, WADMC decided it liked Percepture’s proposal the most.
Corrina Ferguson, WADMC’s executive director, said WADMC liked Percepture because it keeps Veronica Stoddardt — a former editor of USA Today’s travel section — as an editor-in-residence. The committee was similarly impressed with other members of Percepture’s senior management.
She also praised Percepture for the research it did on the area prior to submitting its proposal to become WADMC’s public relations agency.
“They wrote some sample pitches that show they understand our challenges,” she said, noting Percepture specifically addressed the need to show how the Williamsburg area offers visitors more than just history-related activities.
Percepture’s website touts articles in publications like USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post and Time magazine. It has worked with clients including Sony, Verizon, the Canadian Tourism Commission and the New Jersey Department of Travel and Tourism.
Ferguson said it was a difficult choice to leave DCI, as the firm did “great work” for WADMC, however Percepture’s proposal was too good to ignore.
Other tasks assigned to Percepture include serving as a point of contact for media outlets, coordinating visits to the Williamsburg area for members of the media, working with WADMC to secure more favorable deals for advertising and proposing major marketing initiatives for the area.
The WADMC board voted 9-0 to approve the contract. York County Supervisor Walt Zaremba and Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny were absent.
The yes votes were Williamsburg Hotel & Motel Association President AJ Patel, Busch Gardens Park President Carl Lum, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Executive Director Phil Emerson, Colonial Williamsburg Vice President of Communications Michael Holtzman, Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance President and CEO Karen Riordan, Williamsburg City Councilman Doug Pons and James City County Supervisor Kevin Onizuk.
Onizuk and Pons’ votes each counted for two, while all other members counted for one.