Jillian Fisher, the City of Kingston’s coordinator of tourism and cultural affairs, immediately corrected me when I asked her how Kingston can best realize its potential.
“We’ve passed that point where we say Kingston has so much potential,” she said. “All one has to do is walk through the Stockade District. The majority of the storefronts are filled, and it’s a foodie’s dream. Kingston is absolutely fulfilling its potential. And that goes for Downtown and Midtown as well.”
Several of the places Fisher is most enthusiastic about are located in much-maligned Midtown: “Cornell Street Studios has come out of the gate with some really great projects,” she said. “In addition to art shows, they have a full range of fitness programs and are offering basket weaving as well as songwriting classes. Kingston Library has great stuff going on. UPAC is a great venue, with top acts in an intimate setting. When you look at that cluster, it forms a nice triangle.”
Add to those attractions the Center for Creative Education, whose youth dance ensembles and percussive orchestra perform throughout the region, and the renovated Carnegie Library building. The Broadway corridor has come a long way, according to the city tourism coordinator. “For people who hold to previous views, I say, ‘Open your eyes.’”
Each week Fisher, e-mails out press releases on what’s happening in Kingston. Detailed descriptions of events are bracketed between two pithy paragraphs describing Kingston’s propitious location and cultural attractions, complete with the tagline, “Kingston: Where History Meets the Hudson.” Fisher’s weekly missive is distributed not only to local media but also to The New York Times’ various section editors, the travel section of USA Today, and a variety of national magazines — as well as the producers and director of the film The Sisterhood of Night, which was shot in Kingston last fall.
“My distribution list is expanded continuously,” she said. The latest addition is a new magazine about Kingston published by Yellowbook. In addition, Fisher is assiduous about posting tidbits of information, from photos of the sumptuous pastries at the city’s cafes and bakeries to updates on current events to reminders to buy local, on her Facebook page. “I have ‘liked’ virtually every single business in the City of Kingston,” she said. “I’m sharing all their posts. I would encourage every business to have a Facebook page and post frequently.”
Because Fisher bases the content of her press releases on material sent to her by cultural organizations and other groups, it’s important for people to pass on whatever information they have about their upcoming events, she said.
For her part, she’s friended numerous media sources on Facebook and LinkedIn. She credits the social media with creating an instant buzz about the city. “I’ve seen things I’ve posted on Facebook wind up within ten minutes on online versions of newspapers. The first person to sign up for One Billion Rising was a journalist,” she noted, referring to the recent event held at BSP.
Fisher also is responsible for putting together the Kingston Visitors’ Guide, which comes out in April and is currently taking up much of her time. “I’m calling all the museums and asking their schedule for the year. It’s about constantly following up.” National magazines may work up to five months in advance of publication, so getting them information early is essential for possible coverage. The inclusion of the Kingston farmers’ market in an article about end-of-summer road trips in the August 2012 edition of Triple A’s magazine was anything but happenstance. The energetic Fisher had cultivated a relationship with the editor and made sure information was provided well within the deadlines. The Kingston farmers’ market ended up 15th on the list of events, which isn’t bad considering the article covered attractions in six states, she noted.
“Because the City of Kingston is my client, every single event in the city is my client,” she said. “Events are money.” She’s already working on The Burning of Kingston, bringing everyone involved to the table in order to gather general information for her pitches to magazines, which will be followed up by more specifics as the event approaches.
Fisher not only promotes events, she also creates them. One example is One Billion Rising, the Feb. 14 event protesting domestic violence against women that was held at BSP. After the principals of Hale Advisors, a national media company located in Kingston, heard Eve Ensler, whose groundbreaking play, the Vagina Monologues, helped launch a movement culminating in the founding of One Billion Rising in 1998, speak at Omega Institute, they were inspired to hold an event here in Kingston and hired Fisher to structure and execute it. Fisher brought in Natalie Merchant and most of the people on the panel about domestic violence.
In fact, it was Fisher’s launch of the Kingston Chili Cookoff that led to her job for the city as coordinator for public relations under the Sottile administration. Unfortunately, the economy tanked after she was hired in February 2008, and she was let go that November.
The city government under Mayor Shayne Gallo hired her under contract last May. Meanwhile, Fisher did publicity for the Kingston Farmers’ Market, one of her first clients after she started her own firm in January 2009.
“My brother [Adam Snyder] said you should open your own public-relations firm, and for Christmas he bought me my own domain name, which was the impetus for Jillian Fisher Public Relations,” she said. A talented musician who dedicated one of his CDs to Kingston, Adam Snyder now lives in Los Angeles but still owns a house in Kingston and is a great supporter of the city.