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Tourism: Never mind the hammock, town brand is Only Pawleys

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Pawleys Island isn’t enough. It’s now getting a brand identity to help market the town’s vacation rental properties.

“I’m excited about it,” Mayor Bill Otis said.

The campaign planned to launch this summer builds on the theme, Only Pawleys.

The town made its first steps toward entering the digital advertising age last week, hiring a branding and website developer and sharing a social media platform with the county Tourism Management Commission, which markets Georgetown County as the Hammock Coast.

The evolution of the Pawleys Island marketing effort is being prodded by county tourism director Lauren Joseph, who is serving as a consultant to the town commission for a $300 monthly fee paid to the Chamber of Commerce.

Members of the town Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee appeared reluctant to spend their funds on digital advertising without assurances of a return. Having a website and an e-mail data base, Joseph said, is the only way to gather feedback on potential visitors.

The committee selected TP Brand House to design a website after founder Tracy Pope made a presentation featuring the name “OnlyPawleys.com” and a variety of ways it could be used to promote “the original beach vacation.”

Pope’s bid for the work that included designing and printing rack cards was $24,000. The committee also considered a bid of $17,500 from Tim Barnes of The Impact Guys to design a website. The higher bid was accepted because it would be a turnkey job where the committee would have had to supply Barnes with copy and images.

Pope had registered the OnlyPawleys.com as his own before the presentation in case the committee chose another bidder. “That’s a T-shirt,” said committee member Hamp Johnson.

The committee also agreed to pay $3,000 to join the county Tourism Management Commission in a year’s subscription to CrowdRiff, an Internet search of photos posted on social media, to promote tourism. The committee gets ownership of the photos. The county is paying $17,000 for its part of the service.

Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri said use of the photos for promotion made CrowdRiff a bargain. Still, the committee was divided in its vote to approve the expenditure.

Committee members reluctantly gave Joseph permission to spend up to $15,000 on any bargains she finds from S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism at a regional co-op marketing meeting June 1.

“The question is not how little can we get by with,” said committee member Robert Moser. “It’s where do we get the money to buy all we need.”

Otis reminded committee members that half of the $15,000 approved for Joseph’s shopping spree will come from a $45,000 PRT grant she obtained for the island.

While the island’s marketing plan shifts toward digital, there is still a need for print. Joseph said the typical Pawleys Island vacationer is older with a higher income than others and relies on print advertising to make decisions. She proposes spending $121,000 on print advertising over the next 18 months.

Those purchases include $19,900 for two ads in Garden and Gun magazine and $12,000 for three ads in the Atlanta Journal Constitution “Go South Carolina” and “Fall Travel Guide” and $15,000 for the AJC’s Living Intown and Living Northside magazines. She also plans $8,000 in advertising in Carolina Living Magazine’ $2,665 in GuestQuest; $7,500 for the S.C. PRT Vacation Guide; $25,600 in the S.C. and N.C. Newspaper Network; $3,000 in South Carolina Living Magazine; $25,600 in the Southern Living Travel Directory and $1,425 in the Hammock Coast Visitors Guide.

The town has more to spend this year because it didn’t do any marketing last year after shifting that responsibility from the nonprofit Pawleys Island Civic Association to the town Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee. In spite of that, Otis said he had been told that real estate companies that handle island properties expect a strong season this year.

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