When it comes to wooing corporations and their surrogates, District marketing officials apparently find candor an effective strategy.

They showed off their moves last week to a delegation of visiting corporate-relocation experts from Ernst & Young LLP.

Right off the bat, the team of executives from the D.C. Marketing Center and the Greater Washington Initiative noted that on Friday the visitors' tour guides didn't take the scenic route from Silver Spring to downtown D.C. but steered their charter bus down gritty Georgia Avenue.

Later that day, D.C. marketing officials opened up about problems with the public school system and what they called the District's "unreliable" permitting process.

Other tours "try to present a perfect picture," said Valentin D. Hernandez II of Ernst & Young's real estate advisory service office in Phoenix. "No city is perfect. It's good to be able to present issues you're still dealing with."

The hosts, however, didn't dwell on other flaws, including one that appeared in the D.C. Marketing Center's PowerPoint presentation about city goals: No explanation was offered for why the District aspired to improve water quality "so that the Anacostia is a river you can swim in." Swimming in the river is prohibited because of pollution, including raw sewage, but who wants that much candor on a first date?

Instead, the marketing officials talked up the city's pluses, such as its booming commercial real estate market and highly educated workforce. They planned to follow up with a stroll through Old Town Alexandria and a river boat ride before sending their guests off with a nighttime champagne-infused tour of the major monuments.

-- Annys Shin