Visit Topeka recently promoted Michaela Saunders to the position of Vice President of Brand Strategy. In the new role, she leads the marketing team tasked with moving Visit Topeka and its collaborative partners forward. The marketing staffs of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, GO Topeka, Heartland Visioning, Forge, Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development and 712 Innovations joined forces with Visit Topeka in May of this year.
“Taking on the marketing efforts of so many organizations has been a huge task. Michaela has proven she is capable of leading a marketing team focused on improving Topeka & Shawnee County,” said Brett Oetting, president & CEO of Visit Topeka. “The word ‘strategy’ in her title is a testament to her thoughtful approach in ensuring each piece of the puzzle is of equal importance aimed at what’s best for the community.”
Saunders joined the Visit Topeka team in early 2016, after moving to Topeka in 2011 to serve as Web Editor at Washburn University. In more than four years at Washburn, she transitioned from a career as an award-winning print journalist into a digital strategist. Before coming to Topeka, Saunders spent nearly eight years as a reporter for the Omaha World-Herald. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and a Master of Liberal Studies from Washburn University.
During Saunders’ service, Visit Topeka has more than tripled its social media audience and has seen significant increases, from locals and visitors alike, in social content engagement, website visits and event attendance at festivals. Several initiatives have launched, including the responsive VisitTopeka.com, the free Visit Topeka app, the attraction brochure program and the recently launched Grapes & Grains Passport. The team also has been recognized with state-wide awards for its website and visitor guide.
“We are a great team and I’m excited about what the future holds for us and for Topeka & Shawnee County,” Saunders said. “Our team’s goal has been to help visitors and locals experience the community we love, to provide useful content that enhances that experience and to ultimately drive economic development. We’ve expanded that to serving members, informing site selectors, educating entrepreneurs, engaging volunteers, encouraging makers and inspiring young professionals and every Shawnee County resident to get involved with their community.”
Matt Pivarnik, president and CEO of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce and GO Topeka agreed, adding: “Visit Topeka and Michaela have done a great job taking our organizational marketing efforts to the next level, from developing marketing personas to making sure board members understand our engagement analytics. We look forward to the marketing team continuing to improve Topeka & Shawnee County’s message that we are a great place to live, work, and play.”
Saunders is a 2015 graduate of Leadership Greater Topeka. She is a member of the Forge leadership team, the Topeka Collegiate School marketing committee and a founding advisory board member of The Exchange, the Washburn University food pantry. She lives in Topeka with her husband and son.