San Luis Obispo’s social media campaign took a twist Friday when the city’s first-ever city ambassador was terminated.
Instead, a “street team” of volunteers will be used to promote the city via social media.
Bentley Murdock, an 18-year San Luis Obispo resident and professional musician, was hired in late February under a one-year, $50,000 contract.
That contract was terminated Friday, said Ryan Allshouse, senior account executive at Rosetta. Allshouse would not elaborate on why the decision was made.
Murdock could not be reached for comment Friday.
The city has a $600,000 marketing contract with Rosetta. The social media ambassador program is part of those services.
Murdock’s job was to promote the city through social media and build a community of online users that would eventually be self-sustaining.
Murdock was also tapped to lead the city's Tourism Business Improvement District's social media efforts, promote local hotels through social media marketing, and attend local events and then showcase them online.
The marketing plan has now been expedited to the third phase, said Molly Cano, tourism manager for the city.
Cano referred questions about the decision to terminate Murdock’s contract to Rosetta. The money that would have been spent on Murdock’s salary will not be reinvested into the marketing program.
That phase relies on community volunteers to spread the word about what events, activities and landmarks are unique to San Luis Obispo.
“Marketing programs are always living and breathing things,” Cano said. “You continue to modify as the campaign builds.”
Cano said that the marketing program is working by driving referrals to the city’s main tourism website. Since the inception of ShareSLO.com and the Twitter hashtag “#shareslo,” social referrals to the city’s website have more than doubled, Cano said.
Murdock was one of 44 people who vied to become the ambassador, submitting videos for consideration and online voting during a six-week campaign.
The top 10 applicants were then interviewed by a panel of representatives from the tourism district, the city, local marketing agencies and the tourism industry.
“Our role is to provide value back to our client, in this case the TBID at this point we felt there needed to be a change,” Allshouse said. “The street team, comprised of many community members, is really the guts of the whole program.”