Claremont Insider: Upon Further Review

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Upon Further Review

Yesterday, we posted an email we got from Vanessa Hua, the author of the San Francisco Chronicle travel piece on Claremont.

We also received this email from April Economides, who like Ms. Hua wanted us to know that the Chronicle piece was not part of the city of Claremont and Chamber of Commerce joint PR campaign.

However, Economides also wrote that the Chronicle article was the result of her own PR work while she was publicist for the Claremont Museum of Art and the Hotel Casa 425 in the Claremont Village Expansion. Ecomonides said that she pitched the story idea to the Chronicle and was also responsible for last year's Huell Howser KCET video pieces on Claremont, as well as other news bits that about Claremont that appeared on CNN and in print media.

Economides wrote that she had no hand in the content of the pieces, which she said was left up to the news outlets. We thank her for that clarification. It does seem to verify our initial reaction that there had to be someone pushing all these stories on Claremont.

We understand the need to gin up business for all these new enterprises going in downtown. Our beef with these sorts of PR efforts is that that they gloss over the real issues in Claremont - for instance, the concern that the changes brought on by the Village Expansion will end up destroying the feel of the old Claremont Village. Further, all this PR noise gives the folks in the Claremont 400 cover to avoid confronting those issues.

April Economides is the founder of the public relations firm Green Octopus. Here is her email:

Hi there,

I saw your post about the SF Chronicle article and wanted to let you know that it actually was not the result of the Chamber/City’s PR effort. I pitched the travel story on Claremont as part of my work as the (former) publicist for the Claremont Museum of Art and Hotel Casa 425 (‘former’ because I’ve retired my PR hat to enter a full-time MBA program). I also landed the Huell Howser shows on the Packing House and Folk Music Center, the recent CNN segments, and many of the regional/state magazine/newspaper articles within 2007, none of which involved City or Chamber efforts.

When I pitched travel stories on Claremont, nearly every editor I talked with said they were uninterested in doing a story on Claremont because they did one three/ten/whatever years ago. What they were interested about were the new things about the city, like the packing house and museum, for example. This is of course natural, since media usually report on new things. But while my city-wide pitches included the museum, packing house, and hotel, it’s important to understand that most of the bizs/orgs/great places I listed as examples for editors were existing ones (like Some Crust, Harvard Square CafĂ©, RSA Botanical Garden, etc.), and I emphasized the city’s quaint village, historic architecture, trees, and great pedestrian life above all else.

It’s a PR person’s job to pitch story ideas, but the media decides what to publish. I know that small local papers don’t always follow these ethics, and sometimes even huge ones (like with national politics!), but, thankfully, this was the case with all of the publicity I mentioned above. My pitches have never mirrored the end result, and I’m happy, because it means the media has done its job by thinking for itself vs. letting me craft the story. Travel pieces in particular bring disappointment to people who know a place, since it’s entirely based on the writer’s tastes and opinions, which of course are unique. I never agree with everything a travel writer recommends.

All of the recent publicity on Claremont brings people to the city that might not have otherwise visited, and these folks end up spending money in both the village and expanded area. For example, a lot of folks flocked to the packing house after the first Huell Howser episode ran, but many of them also walked into the original village and I’m sure spent money there too. Similarly, the Chronicle story will probably bring some new visitors into town and into some of the village’s cafes/shops/etc.

I can understand why you made the assumptions you did. Hopefully my email not only clears some stuff up but also helps you feel more positive about the recent coverage on the city.

Your fellow citizen,

April Economides