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Dunedin OKs marketing company contract
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DUNEDIN – Now that Dunedin has its own brand, it needs help promoting it and making the most out of its small public relations budget.

At the May 15 meeting, the Dunedin City Commission unanimously voted to award a two-year contract to Aqua Marketing & Communications Inc. of St. Petersburg for $25,000 per year to provide public relations management services.

Aqua Marketing has clients throughout Florida and even internationally. Similar clients include Manatee County’s convention and visitor’s bureau, West Palm Beach’s economic development and marketing, Charlotte County’s visitor and convention bureau account, and the TradeWinds Resort on St. Pete Beach.

The company’s expertise includes tourism, hospitality, municipal services and economic development, said Dave Di Maggio president of Aqua Marketing & Communications. They have won numerous awards, and Di Maggio said they are good at being responsible stewards with the public’s money.

“As far as what we can bring to the table, let me use the example of Manatee County to the south,” Di Maggio said. “Their marketing budget, which we help manage for them, is a $2 million marketing budget. The work we did for them in PR alone last year had a measured media value of $3.5 million. So we essentially, through PR, was able to extend their budget by 75 percent.”

The plan for Dunedin’s strategy is a one-week orientation, followed by a two- to three-week discovery period, which includes site visits, area tours, establishing key contacts, and stakeholder interviews, said Megan Brewster, the Aqua public relations manager who will be handling the Dunedin account. Then there will be about two weeks of planning, which includes strategic and tactical direction, identifying editorial leads and contacts, creating media lists and a public relations calendar.

“Next comes the fun part,” Brewster said. “In public relations, there are a lot of devices that we use. We use pitches, we use press releases, we use media alerts. Based on timing and subject matter, we will either be sending out a pitch, potentially to national media, sharing a story idea or inviting them down for a visit. It could be a press release going out ahead of an event, trying to garner some pre-event coverage. It could be a media alert for a press event, inviting the media for an announcement that we’re making.”

Aqua also will build relationships with appropriate media contacts, and also integrate with the current social media team, Brewster said. Both teams will coordinate so each knows what the other is doing, and Aqua will help provide additional strategies and input.

“In addition, for no additional cost, we would offer our services during any kind of crisis, assisting in communications, whether it be a plan in case there are weather issues or media training for someone not familiar with reporting on crises in the community,” Brewster said.

Commissioner Julie Scales, who also serves on the board of the Pinellas CVB, wanted to know how Aqua plans to work with the CVB.

“We’ve been working in the tourism arena for 15 years now,” Di Maggio said. “I personally and some of my staff have a prior history of working directly with the CVB. … They know us, we know them. It’s important for us to sit down with them and talk about how we can work together. We can probably leverage each other’s abilities.”

Scales agreed, adding that she definitely sees plenty of opportunities to “beef up” the “synergy” between the two entities.

“I just don’t think people are fully aware of the potential in that relationship,” Scales said. “They obviously have a huge budget and we can tap into that, and they’re very open to that as long as it fits their mission.”

“They’re very cooperative,” Di Maggio agreed. “Anything that would help Dunedin would help them.”

Bob Ironsmith, economic housing and development director, said that he has talked with Visit Dunedin, the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce as well as the Dunedin Merchants Association, and all were supportive of bringing in Aqua Marketing and working together with the company.

Mayor Dave Eggers appreciated that there has been meetings with the city stakeholders such as these local groups.
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