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Promoting the valley

Sarah L. Stewart
Dominique TaylorPeeples Ink Public Relations is one of the largest public relations firms in the Vail Valley. The team includes, from left, Katie Coakley with Isabella, Pat Peeples, Kelly Paton with Ferdinand and Jens Werner with his daughter, Murphy.
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In this election year, were all too familiar with the spin doctors the media manipulators who can humanize their candidates slip-up in the same breath they demonize their opponents gaffes.But unless youre a journalist or a business owner who uses their services, you probably dont know the valley has plenty of its own public relations practitioners.People think of public relations as spin, and therefore somehow contrived, says Pat Peeples, founder of a prominent PR firm in the valley, Peeples Ink.But she and others argue their efforts are much more authentic than that. After all, Youre only as good as your client, she says. And Vail, it seems, isnt such a tough sell.Either way, public relations is just one part of what has made Vail the destination it is, Peeples says. From passing ballot initiatives to selling resort developments, placing national magazine articles to promoting Warren Miller movies, local public relations folks help clients reach their most sought-after prize: you, the buying, voting public.

Since its earliest days, Vail and public relations have gone hand in hand, says Peeples, whose company counts the Vail Local Marketing District among its clients.Vail has been blessed by a number of visionaries who got it, and public relations was a part of it, she says. Vail Resorts has been a leader since its very inception in visually depicting how beautiful this place is.Now, there are more public relations specialists in the valley than there are pharmacies more than two dozen, including both PR agencies and individuals who work at various local nonprofits, resorts and other organizations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks Colorado 12th among the number of public relations specialists, twice as high as the states population rank.The depth of talent within the community is extraordinary, Peeples says. Its an enormous strength of this place.From the Solaris project in Vail Village, which voters approved in 2006 with help from Kristin Kenney Williams, owner of Commfluent LLC in Minturn, to articles in Conde Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure, local PR efforts are evident in the valley and beyond.And dont forget all the visitors. Theres a reason theyre here and Back Bowls, five-star restaurants, fresh powder and luxury lodging dont equal droves of tourists if no one knows about them.

Pick up the Jan. 31 issue of U.S. News & World Report, and youll find Vail, Colo.: No Worries in Ski Country, an article that characterizes Vail as a bright spot amid the countrys economic downturn.Its a far cry from being a flashy advertisement for the Four Seasons Residence Club at Vail, the under-construction project mentioned in the third to last paragraph of the story. But the article appears in the magazine partly due to the efforts of Emily McCormack, who owns Hula Communications in Breckenridge and does public relations for that project.Public relations specialists must look at the big picture surrounding their client, then pitch story ideas that are favorable to their clients to media outlets.So its easy to see how a national article contrasting Vails still-buoyant economy with the rest of the country would be a good thing for a company trying to sell high-end real estate here.An article will convey information that you normally cant convey in an advertisement, says Christa Johnson, marketing and project manager for Playground Destinations Inc., the listing agent for the club. It resonates with people at a deeper level.Editorial placement is the golden egg of a marketing effort: Not only does an article lend more credibility to a project than an advertisement, but it also costs nothing but the fees PR practitioners charge.Its hugely important, says Marty Suarez, marketing director for the Cordillera Metro District, which also works with McCormack. Our budget is not big enough to get ad placement in these types of magazines.

In January, Peeples, McCormack and about 10 other area public relations pros visited New York to pitch Vails summer events to national media, from The Wall Street Journal to Money magazine.Working together comes naturally to many of the valleys public relations practitioners: Theyve done it before. Many got their start at Vail Resorts, when its corporate headquarters was located here. When Peeples was at Vail Resorts in the early 90s, she hired Paul Witt, who now operates Witt Communications in Eagle, to work in the companys corporate communications department. McCormack later worked for Witt at Vail Resorts, doing Beaver Creek communications. So now when a project necessitates teamwork, help is never far away.Theres no one effort that brings a project to a successful outcome. Its truly a team effort, Williams says. You want to do whats in the best interests of your client.Shes currently collaborating with Witt on communications for the Eagle River Station project, a planned residential and commercial development in Eagle.But even when bidding against each other instead of collaborating, the volume of business in this area helps keep relations friendly.Theres definitely enough work to go around, Witt says.In fact, being from this area can give the valleys firms a leg up on the big-city competition, attracting media and clients with Vails name recognition.Were enjoying a lifestyle that people truly want to talk about, Peeples says. Being from Vail opens doors that probably wouldnt be opened as readily.


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