Council issues RFP for marketing Blythewood

BLYTHEWOOD – In its latest effort to decide how to best promote and brand the Town of Blythewood, town council has posted an RFP (Request for Proposal) on the Town’s website (townofblythewoodsc.gov) intended to attract the professional services of a qualified full-service marketing, advertising and/or grant writing services agency.

“The Town desires to grow its economy by fostering sustainable tourism, economic development and effectively market the Town to increase visitation and improve the quality of life for all citizens,” the RFP states.

The laundry list of necessary qualifications include proficiency in all phases of marketing, advertising and promotion through social/digital media, print media, public relations, photography, industry relations and more.

The RFP opened on Dec. 30 and all submissions must be received at Town Hall by Jan. 15, at 5 p.m.

At issue is whether to continue giving the 30 percent state accommodation tax revenue to a non-profit to handle Blythewood’s marketing or to contract through a non-profit for a firm of the Town’s choosing that would focus on Blythewood’s particular marketing/branding needs. The statute does not allow for the town government to hire a firm directly with the 30 percent funds. The 30 percent funds must go to a non-profit to either do the work or to farm it out.

Last year, council gave the 30 percent, which then amounted to $26,000 to Columbia One, a non-profit that promotes the City of Columbia. The money was to be spent to promote Blythewood. However, during the meeting on Wednesday, Mayor Bryan Franklin termed the allocation to Columbia One as “wasting our money.”

At a Dec. 9 special called meeting, Councilman Donald Brock suggested the town could control its own marketing by contracting – either directly or through a non-profit – a professional marketing firm that would focus on Blythewood’s specific marketing needs – public relations, marketing, advertising, press releases as well as branding. To that end, he introduced Ashley Hunter, owner of MPA Strategies, who presented to council three different levels of service – basic, enhanced and full service which would include grant writing as well. MPA’s municipal clients include Greenville, City of Casey and Florence.

“I’m not against this,” Councilman Eddie Baughman countered, “but Blythewood’s brand has been strong since 1879. Blythewood sells itself. We have social media, we have our website, we have basically everything.”

Thirty percent of the Town’s state accommodation tax revenue that would be allocated next year for marketing is estimated by Franklin to be about $40,000.

The RFP refers to a selection committee that will review applicant submissions and make recommendations to council. Mayor Bryan Franklin told The Voice on Wednesday that the selection committee will be the town council.

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