Starting with her tenure at Houston First Corporation over 14 years ago, CMO Holly Clapham-Rosenow shared with attendees of the AMA Houston June Luncheon how she and her team developed their organization into the nationally acclaimed Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) it is today. She stated their path to success started after the high of hosting the 2014 Super Bowl wore off, when she noticed major challenges her organization had yet to face.

 “We did not invest in technology," Clapham-Rosenow said. "Our website was simply a member directory, masked in photos.” Along with the lack of technological advances, Clapham-Rosenow also noted the lack of collaboration amongst team members. “The editorial content was limited to only members. And as a team, we didn’t talk to each other. It’s not that we didn’t like each other, we didn’t know each other.”

Though she was excited to share her realizations with the marketing team, her efforts to create change and innovation were met with opposition. Yet Clapham-Rosenow continued to press forward and found ways to succeed. Slowly but surely, her vision for growth and her unwavering commitment for her department to become a true marketing team was realized. They worked together to revamp their website's content and genuine working relationships among team members began to emerge throughout the organization.

“We became a team and encouraged each other," Clapham-Rosenow said. "We were very immersed in our work and each other. And when it got tough, we would throw dance parties.”

These changes led to the idea for the wellknown My Houston campaign. During a meeting in 2007, Clapham-Rosenow said, “We are going to develop an imaging campaign of celebrities talking about why they love Houston. It will be unscripted and completely authentic. We are going to call it My Houston.” This was met with overwhelming silence, but with the help of fellow Houstonians and the eventual support of her team, the idea exploded. In 2008, the campaign launched nationally in the Wall Street Journal and gained regional and nationwide recognition from media outlets like The New York Times, CNN, CNBC and CBS. The two-year campaign enlisted more than 30 celebrities from Beyoncé to ZZ Top, all who participated at no cost. It also went on to receive over 20 marketing awards and garnered the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau with a value of over 38 million dollars.

After the huge success of the My Houston campaign, Houston First Corporation continued their streak of being the leaders of innovation in the CVB industry. Still spearheaded by Clapham-Rosenow, in 2009 they were the first CVB to launch the first freestanding LGBT website called MyGayHouston.com, and in 2010, their Spanish website became the first in CVB history as well with record breaking stats. Next, Clapham-Rosenow created a campaign that would use graffiti as its messaging canvas. Although still faced with some resistance, Clapham-Rosenow and her team again met success. The Inspire Houston mural is now the most Instagrammed photo in Houston and has been featured in the USA Today, ABC News and Texas Monthly. The mural has further positioned Houston as the cultural capital of the nation.

With such an inspiring story of perseverance and success, Clapham-Rosenaw left the luncheon attendees with these final words of wisdom. “Be authentic. Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Your department culture is the foundation of your work and every now and then, have a dance party.”

As CMO of Houston First Corporation and the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, Holly Clapham-Rosenow leads the extremely important task of marketing Houston as the place to be. Under her leadership, their marketing team has won over 60 awards and she has led her team to become pioneers within their industry.

Join us for our next networking luncheon August 9 to hear Dani Nicholson, director of marketing and communications for OpenStax, and Daniel Williamson, managing director, share how their non-profit is changing the future of education. The talk will focus on using your mission to your advantage and how to turn your users into your best sales force.

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