During two trips to Europe — Italy and Greece in 2005 and Paris and Germany in 2010 — Kelly McCandless remembered to bring along appropriate footwear for when she and her husband visited nice places. When you think about it, tromping through a nice restaurant in your hiking boots just doesn’t cut it.
The birth of her daughter some 18 months ago tempered McCandless’ travel plans for the time being. But she plans to again venture overseas when the time is right.
McCandless joined the Billings Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2008 as a guest services manager and leisure sales manager. The position gave her important hands-on experience working in the travel industry.
Using money from a $1-per-night fee on hotel rooms, the Tourism Business Improvement District has gained a lot of marketing clout in promoting Billings as a tourism destination. That success has been reflected in a significant increase in hotel room occupancy.
Last year McCandless was named the chamber’s communications manager, and she now handles the chamber’s websites, media relations, publications, social media and leisure travel marketing.
“What I’m doing now is what I’ve always wanted to do, but I have an opportunity to work in travel," the Billings native said. "It’s lots of fun.”
Describe how you got where you are in your work today:.
I was fortunate enough to hear about a new opportunity with the Billings Chamber/CVB in my last semester of college. I applied for the open position, but was not selected for it. I am grateful, though, that the organization saw something in me and chose to create a position for me to begin in. Five years and three positions later, I am doing exactly what I love to do for an organization and a community I am sincerely passionate about. The leadership within the Billings Chamber/CVB has always looked for the strengths within their employees and works to create positions that work toward those strengths. My current position as communications manager was created for me as a result of a proposal I made suggesting the position to not only work to my strengths but to create efficiencies for our organization.
What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business?
Balancing the eyes and mind of the consumer/member with my marketing, advertising and communications. Striking a balance between the latest and greatest marketing tool and what the real needs for communicating with our client base can be difficult.
What did you learn from that challenge?
I’ve learned that being new and cutting edge isn’t always the right approach. It’s better to create a complete and appropriate message geared toward the client than to latch on to the newest tools and techniques.
If you could make one positive change in Billings, what would it be?
I would resolve the issues with the school district. A healthy and productive educational system is one of a community’s most important foundations. Ours has struggled for years and the need for change and improvement is dire. I closely follow the work currently taking place and look for opportunities to get involved in the changes on the horizon.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job?
It's based on knowledge and recognition among our membership and the community. I am tasked with sharing the broad variety of messages our organization has to share. I’m doing my job well when people tell us they read about what we are doing or saw something we are working on out in the media sphere.
Which living person do you most admire?
My grandmother. She is confident, intelligent, caring, graceful, warm, gracious and beautiful. She means the world to me, and I will have achieved wonderful things in my life if I can be half the woman that she is.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
My daughter. May be cliché, but I just can’t top that.
I’m happiest when I’m…
Relaxing with my family.