Commission changes how it markets events

Marianne Gillespie

Chillicothe events will be marketed differently due to the Chillicothe Marketing and Tourism Commission revamping its strategies.

For the last five years, local groups requested donations for their advertising and promotion of events with the commission approving the funding.

In the past, the commission split the budget and gave about half to the groups, said Lisa Burnett, city economic development director and chairwoman of the commission.

In the beginning, the commission received only four applications. Last year, it received

15.

Because of the large number, the commission met with a representative of each group, and ended up funding nine groups, for a total of $9,000, Burnett said.

“We weren’t getting as big a bang for our buck as we could by giving money to each of these groups by splitting the pie,” said Burnett.

Now, the commission will choose advertising mediums to help all the groups and promote Chillicothe.

In 1996, the Chillicothe City Council approved an ordinance for the Hotel/Motel tax, allowed under state statute.

Motels within city limits would charge the 4 percent tax to each transient, or visitor, Burnett said. The visitor is exempt, however, if he stays more than seven consecutive days. The tax revenue is then sent to the city quarterly.

In August 2005, the council approved increasing the tax to 5 percent, the highest allowed by state statute.

The money generated from the tax grew from more than $5,600 in fiscal year 1996-97 to almost $26,000 in 2006-07.

In 2002, 2003 and 2004, the commission promoted Chillicothe at the Home Show.

Now the group sponsors advertisements in local newspapers; radio spots with JMP Radio, which includes three radio stations; and the Chillicothe page in the “Neighbors” section of the Peoria Journal Star.

The commission also advertises in the biannual Peoria Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s visitors guide.

The PACVB also aids in passing out information during March Madness in Peoria.

Each year, the commission pays for a new city brochure, which includes a calendar of the events for the current year. About 5,000 of them are made and done for this year.

Burnett also takes brochures around to areas such as Princeton, Henry, Lacon and Galesburg. She said she attempts to cover areas within a 30-to 50-mile radius of Chillicothe.

Due to building relationships with other officials in other towns, she swaps brochures and information about upcoming events with them.

The commission also pays for changes to the city’s Web site.

This year, Chillicothe also will grace the pages of the River City Expo’s official air show booklet.

Burnett stressed that, when the commission pays for an advertisement, many times they include the calendar of events, which helps out local groups.

The commission also is responsible for paying dues to groups like the Ronald Reagan Trail Association, Tri-County Riverfront Forum, Friends of the Illinois River and also making a donation to Relay For Life.

Sometimes groups may benefit from a live radio remote or something else, but Burnett said she helps facilitate the special promotions by passing along the event’s contact person and phone number.

The commission meets the third Tuesday of every month at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting is open to the public and also to residents’ suggestions, Burnett said.

Each month, the 11 members discuss advertising opportunities.

The members represent various entities with a stake in promoting Chillicothe.

“They take it seriously, as it affects them,” said Burnett.

According to city ordinance, at least nine are needed to make up the commission, with six additional members possible. The mayor appoints the members.

“It’s a great group of people, and I’m honored to chair the commission,” said Burnett.

Currently, the group is putting together a questionnaire for the maid service at the motels to find out where visitors live, why they are stopping in Chillicothe and how long they will stay.

Additionally, the group is compiling the responses of a community survey, which was sent to every business in Chillicothe.

Only 27 were returned, however.

Though the commission has changed its funding requests, Burnett said, if a group needs money to advertise, the commission is still open to a request.

She also suggested that each of the groups holds a little money back from its profits to spend on posters or other advertisements.

Those who want to be included in the listing of Chillicothe events should e-mail or call Burnett.

The Web site includes the full year’s events. Additionally, if residents would like forms for people to download from the city’s Web site, they should contact her.