Downtown groups reflect on their advertising strategy | Sarasota


As a foreigner in Sarasota, Stephanie Immelman focused on the emphasis on a message as downtown leaders gathered on Tuesday morning and debated the best strategy to promote the downtown core by as a destination.

“If you don’t come together, if you keep doing disparate actions, you will never be successful,” Immelman said.

Immelman, executive director of the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative, has been a central figure in an ongoing conversation about whether different downtown groups can work together on advertising initiatives.

After the Downtown Improvement District invited Immelman to speak at a meeting in December to discuss marketing and special events, the council hired her to help design a strategy to create a centralized authority focused on promotion. downtown. The conversation widened to include the Downtown Sarasota Alliance, with new DSA chairman Shay Atluru working to reorganize the group to focus on achieving that goal.

Previous efforts to get downtown stakeholders to unite behind a common cause have been unsuccessful. Different elements, different boundaries and different goals among the leaders led to divisions, which led to different groups pursuing different promotion strategies.

Those divisions erupted at Tuesday’s Downtown Improvement District meeting, where Atluru and Immelman were seeking approval to embark on the first phase of a joint promotional campaign. They were joined by current DSA President Francine DiFilippo Kent and Raymmar Tirado, founder of media company Sarasota Underground and chosen creative director of the DSA Marketing Initiative.

The group had requested approximately $ 14,000 for the first phase of implementing the new marketing strategy, which included developing partnership agreements, reorganizing the DSA and conducting legal reviews. For a year, the group hoped to get more than $ 100,000 in funding from DID, more than double what DID currently spends on advertising.

This was a concern for Mark Kauffman, a member of the board of directors of DID. He was concerned that the self-tax entity was the sole contributor to the marketing initiative, especially since DID has a relatively small footprint in the greater downtown area.

He also made a list of other initiatives the group wanted to pursue, which were largely related to capital improvement, and he questioned whether marketing should be a priority.

“Do we have the money to put all of this here?” Kauffman said.

Immelman and Tirado said the group will seek additional sources of funding, including monetizing the web presence of the marketing campaign.

For his part, Ron Soto, member of the board of directors of DID, was not convinced that the strategy of the DSA group was optimal for promoting the city center. Soto is president of the Sarasota Downtown Enrichment Association, a group of merchants who do their own promotional and marketing work. Soto suggested his organization had greater reach on Facebook than Sarasota Underground and the DSA, and he said the group would not stop their promotional work even if the DSA initiative was funded.

“At the end of the day, I’m not going to change a thing for one reason: we’re doing a hell of a job,” Soto said.

Immelman and Atluru have expressed optimism about the possibility of working with Soto. Atluru said he had moved to Sarasota relatively recently and hoped he would not be encumbered with any baggage that might have precluded more productive partnerships in the past.

“As far as I know, we are a big and happy downtown,” Atluru said. “This is where we want to be.

Ultimately, DID agreed to fund the $ 14,000 first phase of the marketing initiative, asking the DSA Group to work with Soto to update their strategy and hopefully develop more support. large.

Atluru said the promotion effort was a work in progress and he hoped a broad coalition of inner-city actors could come together to contribute what they could. Immelman agreed and reiterated his belief that the concept could only be successful if everyone participated.

“It’s not a zero-sum game,” Immelman said. “We have to do it together. “

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