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Monday, December 17 , 2018, 7:23 am | Overcast 53º


Noozhawk Talks: For Shannon Turner Brooks, There’s No Place Like Santa Barbara

Tireless promoter of South Coast as a destination revels in magic and beauty of the place we call home

As communications director at the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission, it’s Shannon Turner Brooks’ business to talk — a lot — about Santa Barbara. Here Noozhawk gives her the chance to talk — a little — about herself, as well what’s going on at the CVB.

Shannon Turner Brooks of the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission says the 'really cool part of my job' is taking people out, 'whether it’s for a travel TV show or just showing people around ... I don’t think I ever have gotten over how pretty Santa Barbara is, just what a beautiful place it is.'
Shannon Turner Brooks of the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission says the “really cool part of my job” is taking people out, “whether it’s for a travel TV show or just showing people around ... I don’t think I ever have gotten over how pretty Santa Barbara is, just what a beautiful place it is.” (Elite Henenson / Noozhawk photo)

Leslie Dinaberg: Can you explain how the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission is different from the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Organization?

Shannon Turner Brooks: Our mission is to market Santa Barbara as a destination for tourism and film production. We bring people here who spend money in our community and then leave, whereas I think the chamber is more about business development and people moving here. Then we work with the Downtown Organization, like on epicure.sb (a 31-day, communitywide culinary extravaganza in October), that’s a good example of our partnership. We collaborate with them on a regular basis.

LD: And film production is different than the Santa Barbara International Film Festival?

STB: It is. We get a lot of commercials, catalog shoots, photo shoots and then feature films. It’s Complicated was one that was filmed recently — Sideways, too — but we’re used more often for one day of shooting or getting a few scenes here.

Film commissioner Jeff Alexander’s job is basically connecting people, whether it’s location scouts or producers, with the locations they need and the resources, and showing them what we have. So if they say, “I need a Wild West saloon,” we say, “Here’s Maverick’s, that’s where you should go.”

LD: People always hear about Sideways or It’s Complicated, but I know there are a lot of smaller things going on, too.

STB: The bread and butter would be the commercials like car commercials and fashion photography for catalogs. ... Definitely more of the production is in North County.

LD: That makes sense just because of the open space. Can you explain your job a little?

STB: As communications director, I manage all of our public relations, so I’m the primary media liaison. A big part of my job is working with travel and lifestyle media from around the world to generate editorial coverage about Santa Barbara. I set up press trips, come up with story ideas and pitch Santa Barbara. We put on media events; relationship building is a big part of that. We put on a dinner in L.A. recently. The California Travel and Tourism Commission hosts media receptions in New York, L.A. and San Francisco, so I represent Santa Barbara at those. I’m always telling people what’s new and what’s going on in Santa Barbara.

Then we have press trips, so I’ll work with the local community to set up hotels and restaurants and whatever experiences or interviews they want to get when they are here. There’s a lot of just meeting with the media and talking with them, and being a resource and a fact checker. You’re a journalist so of course you know, sometimes people will say, “I’m looking for something on a romance theme or green wineries or something like that.”

LD: It’s a lot of knowing everything that’s going on.

STB: Yes, keeping tabs on everything that’s going on and being creative, and also coming up with new ways to sell the destination. This year my big push in the winter was to celebrate a century of cinema on the American Riviera. 2010 was the 100-year anniversary of filmmaking in Santa Barbara and, at the same time, It’s Complicated was going to be released Christmas Day, and then the film festival had its 25th anniversary. So I could package that as one story and get that out. That ended up generating a story that went out on the Associated Press wire, the AP travel editor put that out and then USA Today put a huge front of the travel section feature on that. I think we got more than 100 placements just from that kind of idea. We had our micro site where people could go for itineraries and we did It’s complicated hotel packages; it was kind of creating things that they can interact with, whether it’s the location they can go to or hotel packages inspired by It’s Complicated.

LD: Do you often host the media?

STB: Golf Digest came here and they did this huge feature in the December issue about wine and golf so we used the Sideways story with that. We host about 70 travel media every year. For the most part it’s print, although a lot of it is online now, like the international travel TV shows that come through. We recently had GMTV, which is kind of the British equivalent of Thelma & Louise-style road trip, so we set them up with paddle surfing with Blueline Paddlesurf, they stayed at San Ysidro Ranch and we went to Alma Rosa Winery to kind of do the Sideways thing. It varies.

LD: Do you ever get weird requests?

STB: Occasionally there is an obscure request or a journalist will send out a note to all the PR contacts saying I’m looking for X, Y and Z and we don’t have anything. But mostly it’s the other way around. They’re surprised by certain aspects of Santa Barbara because a lot of people think of it as kind of high end, luxury, celebrities, and we have all these interesting aspects to our culture. I just did a promotion of the green environmental aspect and the food and wine has been really big lately. More often than not it is pleasantly surprising when people look at all that Santa Barbara has to offer.

LD: How did you get into this kind of work?

STB: I went to UC San Diego and studied communications, and my last six months there I had gotten an internship through school at a magazine. (After that) I moved to Santa Barbara because I grew up in Lompoc and I always loved the area ... I had originally looked for jobs with magazines, in publishing, and as you know, it’s not a very big media market as I quickly discovered. I think it was actually my mother who saw this ad for the visitor’s bureau. It was actually for an administrative assistant, so I probably wouldn’t have looked at it, but the description of it was interesting with the travel and the marketing and the film, so I applied. It ended up being a marketing coordinator. ... That was 10 years ago in July that I’ve actually been with the visitor’s bureau, fresh from college.

LD: What’s changed in Santa Barbara in the last 10 years?

STB: It’s been interesting to see more of the changes of our product. We’re always looking for what’s new and seeing the evolution as new businesses come up. Our wine industry has exploded. I think when I started we were at six wineries and now it’s like 175. I was really involved in the Sideways marketing campaign and that was really interesting to see the effect — which we are still seeing. People from the press are still interested in that angle.

LD: What do you do when you’re not working?

STB: I do love to travel. I love travel and I always have to have a trip in my mind, whether it’s a weekend getaway to San Francisco or an international adventure.

LD: What’s on your mind right now?

STB: Well, I’m going to go to Treebones in Big Sur with my childhood friends. We have an annual get-together and there are five or six of us.

LD: Are you going to stay in the yurts?

STB: We are actually upgrading to the yurts because, typically, we’ve gone camping and we’ve decided we’re grown up so, yeah, we’re splurging on the yurts. I’m also going to North Carolina and I’m going to Sardinia next May. ... Then I love to eat and drink, of course. (Laughs)

LD: You have a good job for that.

STB: I get to do a lot of that for my job. Everything I know about wine I’ve learned from my job, from just taking journalists out to the wineries, and meeting with winemakers or working with them on our events. I really enjoy that part very much. I’m very lucky to have the talented winemakers that we have. I just think it’s so pretty to go up into the wine country.

LD: Are you professionally obligated to try out any restaurant that opens up?

STB: I try to. (Laughs). We have a new blog actually, which has been fun. I’m trying to do a weekly post. There’s also a newsletter that I do.

Santa Barbara is a small town but it’s very food-oriented, so anytime there is something new it’s very exciting. So, yes, I try to keep up on that. I’m a vegetarian so sometimes I write about things that I don’t actually eat but I appreciate all of the local sensibilities. I’m not a moral vegetarian so I think people should eat what their body tells them to eat. I like to do yoga, I love the beach — all the fun Santa Barbara things: hiking, beaches, yoga, seeing family and friends. There isn’t really time for much else. I do like to read and I read a lot.

LD: Do you have a favorite local spot?

STB: With my job, that’s a dangerous question politically. I do think that Casa Del Herrero is spectacular and I would like to live there. I love the old Santa Barbara vibe. San Ysidro Ranch is quite stunning as well; that’s another place I would like to live. The Courthouse, the view from the clock tower, which is where I send all of our visitors and media. When I have friends come to town I usually take them there for the proper tourist photo. It’s special.

LD: You probably get to do more of that than most people.

STB: That’s true. It’s a really cool part of my job taking people out, whether it’s for a travel TV show or just showing people around. It’s always nice to see things through fresh eyes and how beautiful it is and how much they appreciate it. I don’t think I ever have gotten over how pretty Santa Barbara is, just what a beautiful place it is.

Vital Stats: Shannon Turner Brooks

Born: Feb. 11 in San Francisco. Grew up in Lompoc.

Family: “I’m not married. My mom’s always looking for a husband for me.” Parents are retired teachers living in Lompoc (mom is Santa Barbara County Planning Commissioner Marell Brooks), plus a brother, sister-in-law and nephew in Santa Barbara and another brother in Monterey.

Civic Involvement: Downtown Organization’s Cultural Committee, board member of the Santa Barbara Performing Arts League

Professional Accomplishments: “I appreciate being able to help all these different local businesses promote their success. That’s really the point of our organization is to promote the community and bring in tourism tax dollars. It’s very much a people-oriented job. We work with all of these local companies and it’s great to be able to help them in any way that we can.”

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Bone People by Keri Hulme and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Little-Known Fact: “I’m addicted to music. I really love music and all day long I listen to Pandora radio.”

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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