Visit Winston-Salem has a new president. Stephanie Pace Brown took over on July 1 for Richard Geiger, who retired after 13 years of running the tourism agency. Brown’s career in the industry includes working for The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and serving as president of Explore Asheville.
WFDD’s Paul Garber spoke with Brown about her goals for Visit Winston-Salem and what attracted her to the job.
On Brown's decision to come to Winston-Salem:
"Professionally, I really liked that Visit Winston-Salem has such a strong foundation. Richard Geiger did a wonderful job here and built a great team. And one of the things that really attracted me here was a can-do attitude and a very tangible momentum and a desire to move things forward. And so I'm really happy to join that team and play a role in writing the next chapter."
On her short "elevator speech" to pitch Winston-Salem:
"I think Winston-Salem is a great place to visit because we have the things people like to do. We have a great art scene with museums and galleries and access to the artists who live here. Our food and craft beverage is wonderful. Plus, we have outdoor recreation, beautiful climate, you know, all of the things that people like to do on a getaway are available here."
On places Brown has discovered since taking the job:
"I've been touring — in our business, we call it "fam-ing," short for familiarization. And I've been doing those kinds of in categories. ... One week I was really focused on arts, museums, galleries, art institutions downtown, meeting the people who present festivals. I did a whole week on sports venues and had very, very rigorous touring of all of our sports assets. I'm beginning to meet more of our restaurant owners and tour wineries. I've been diving in on weekends into our natural assets. Sometimes, you know, when we live in a community, and we're not really out immersing ourselves in all of those things, it can be easy to think that we're not a place for visitors."
On Brown's priorities for her new role:
"It really boils down to delivering the most impactful, compelling messages that we can to our audiences efficiently. You know, so we look for opportunities to create strategies that target our best possible customer. And then we're also embarking on new forms of research to understand our markets and our audiences and where we have the most potential to invest our advertising dollars to produce the greatest return on investment for the community."
On what she sees as the biggest challenge to getting folks to Winston-Salem:
"I think getting the word out about what we offer is always a challenge, and then telling the story in a very compelling way. We are not an Orlando with singular major attractions. What we offer is really a sum of the parts. We need to be able to articulate to visitors what all of these parts create, in terms of an experience for them when they visit and also develop a brand personality that resonates with people who live here and also motivates people who will come."