NEW BERN — Thinking of taking a trip to New Bern, North Carolina’s first state capital, but don’t know where to stay? No problem, ask Ellie. Want more information on retirement options? Ellie can be your guide.

The thing is, Ellie isn’t actually real. It’s an automated chatbot created by a partnership between digital marketing firm BluePrint Business Communications and software platform Ellie for New Bern’s official tourism website.

Home to Tryon Palace and the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, the city is located about 112 miles east of Raleigh.

“We have programmed [the tool] to serve as a one-stop-shop for all things New Bern,” said BluePrint’s founder and president Brice Connors.

“With a website as large as New Bern’s, it is easy for users to run into navigational issues,” he added. “This is where Ellie streamlines the process and provides the user with what they want when they want. Whether you are planning your trip six months in advance or you just happened to come to town, Ellie takes the hassle out of traveling.”

Brice Connors (left) and business partner Matt Potts (right)

Fresh from graduating UNC-Chapel Hill, Connors started up his Raleigh-based agency back in 2017. Since then, he’s been working to establish himself as a major player within the trade industries.

Recently, he landed a “full-service marketing” contract with the Craven County Tourism Development Authority. The group is responsible for developing and promoting New Bern, Havelock, and Craven County as travel destinations.

“This contract is a big deal for our firm because it is an opportunity to expand into the tourism sector,” he said.

Given the uncertainty with the pandemic, “it’s even more of a big deal right now because the people of Craven County are relying on our expertise and fresh vision to guide them through these uncharted waters.”

Meanwhile, as part of its plans to scale, the agency is getting ready to set up an office in the coastal city.

“While winning Craven County’s business was no easy feat, the hard part has just begun,” he said. “We want New Bern to be able to compete from the jump with the likes of other coastal communities and this starts with implementing an aggressive paid ad strategy, placing fresh creative, and showcasing New Bern’s southern charm.”