Promote, Protect and Improve the Grand Strand
by Melissa LaScaleia
The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce is over eighty years old. It is comprised of two parts— a Chamber of Commerce, and a Convention and Visitor’s Bureau— both of which offer a wellspring of resources to the community.
The chamber side helps support the local business community through educational classes, programs, affinity business programs, and networking events.
“These programs have been in place for the past ten years,” says Diana Greene. “But what we do and how we do it has changed dramatically.”
Diana has been working for the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce for the past nineteen years. As the chief of administration, she assists with a variety of branches within the chamber including: communications, information technology, human resources, the visitors centers, and emergency management.
Last year, the chamber offered 93 in-person classes through the chamber academy, their education program. Classes cover a wide range of topics on things like annuities, HR issues, marketing your business, and more. Chamber members have access to all classes for free.
“We also have a Grand Strand Young Professionals Program,” Diana says. “The goal is to help young people ages 21 to 40 to build connections in their industry, to support them as they’re growing in their career so they will stay in our community—and help to build it, to make it stronger.”
The program is currently in its 9th year, and has over 200 professionals involved.
Another valuable resource for small business owners is the chamber’s Advocacy Program, which offers assistance on legislative issues that would be beneficial or applicable to them.
“We’re always advocating for small business to help them as much as we can, to make it easier for them to succeed,” Diana says. “We have a staff member who does nothing but advocates for us both locally as well as nationally.”
The chamber has an advocacy committee which is made up of chamber members. They establish the year’s goals for the organization and compile a list of things that they want to address, which is then approved by their board.
“Committee members tell us the ways in which we need to go out and advocate for them— we will go to Washington D.C. when required, hold receptions, events, and invite legislatives in at the state and national level,” she says. “We have lobbyists who help us as well. We work in collaboration with the Grand Strand Business Alliance in some matters. We all have the same end result— we want to help the Grand Strand.”
Diana also runs the Leadership Grand Strand Program, which is currently in its 40th year. This is an annual nine-month-long program which combines aspects of leadership training, community service, and community awareness.
“The program is not so much about developing your business as it is about developing yourself,” says Diana. “It makes you stronger and more capable— it broadens your perspective. You receive a lot of training improving you, so that you have more to work with, to give back.”
The program was created to connect people with the community, to inspire them to help their community organically.
“We all have talents and skills that we can use,” Diana says. “It’s about helping people recognize what they’re capable of doing, and getting them engaged to do it. We teach people how things work behind the scenes. How things run at a county level— how rezoning works in practice.
“It’s a great feeling to see the people who have gone through the program putting what they learned into practice. Ultimately, we help people build a personal brand for themselves through what they discover as being a part of this program.”
On the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau side of things, the chamber offers assistance to consumers and groups.
“It’s a constant evolution,” Diana says. “As marketing options change and consumer behaviors change, we change too. As a destination marketing organization, we have to stay current all the time.
“Today, there are many different demographics that we cover that extend beyond individuals and families: millennials, millennials with kids, weekend getaways, girlfriends getaways, multi-generational family vacations, grandkids and grandparents traveling together; couples, families, sports enthusiasts, younger generations, weddings, honeymoons, nature enthusiasts, empty-nesters, seniors, golfers, fishing and boating enthusiasts, and those looking for general water activities. We also do a lot of promotions of Myrtle Beach as an autism-friendly destination.
“There are a myriad of ways that we try to reach out to visitors and let them know about the things that would be of interest to them based on what their needs are. It is definitely not a cookie-cutter approach to service.”
The chamber has employees solely dedicated to assisting customers with any kind of group need— meetings and conventions, sports teams, motor coach groups, tours.
To reach their customers, the chamber employs a variety of techniques: everything from digital marketing, television and social media, to public relations and attending travel and trade shows. They also do some print advertising.
“We’re high-tech, but high-touch,” Diana says. “We run the gamut. We utilize highly sophisticated digital elements, but we also we have a very strong public relations element, where we’re always trying to tell a story about our area.”
The chamber has a lot of partnerships with major brands, and they do a lot of in-person promotions at festivals and sporting events where they can promote their brand— VisitMyrtleBeach.com. They also do initiatives with air service, especially non-stop flights to the Myrtle Beach International Airport, which has the most direct flights— arriving and departing— of any other location in South Carolina.
“We have a very strong team; we have a mobile visitor center which we send out to work at consumer events and sports games, and discuss with people who we are and what we’re all about in person,” Diana says.
“We have a ton of brochures and information in all of our visitors centers,” she continues. “We answer a lot of questions on social media via Facebook, Instagram, as well as through our website, to help people plan their trip. We’re always responding to peoples’ requests for information, and we welcome them to reach out to us online or face-to-face.”
“We’re constantly evolving,” she says. “It’s never the same thing twice. We are constantly striving to answer the question: ‘How can we best tell a story and get a good response back?’”