Facebook. Newsletters. Media Events. Blogs. All are great tools for marketing – but which ones lend themselves to the best results for destination marketing? I’ve narrowed down my top five choices after working with destinations both small and large, niche and broad. Here’s how you can dive deeper into each of these destination marketing tools to make your efforts really count:
1. Social Media
Don’t stop reading – I know you’ve heard this already. You have a Facebook page for your county or destination, and you may have Instagram or Twitter too. But starting the channel and posting content regularly is only half the battle. Your social efforts need to inspire engagement, in the form of likes, comments, shares or retweets.
Crowdsourcing is one good way to make this happen. Visit Ithaca, a CVB in the Southern Finger Lakes, does Instagram takeovers with members of their local community. Not only does it relieve staff of managing the channel for a day, but it involves the locals, features a variety of perspectives, and allows visitors to see an “authentic” day-in-the-life.
And to that point – social media is a great place to build your local following and base, so they can be brand ambassadors. Don’t be afraid to spend some time (and even some ad dollars) talking to this group and building community pride. You’ll see it pay off when your engagement spikes (and the locals begin answering visitor questions online before you can even get to it!).
2. Influencers/Public Relations
We’ve been hearing a lot about influencers lately, and how they are the next big thing in PR. These are people who have built an online following for their personal brand. Their followers look to their recommendations and knowledge in a particular focus (travel, style, food, beauty, etc.).
It can be exciting to start seeking out travel influencers to endorse your area – but in some cases, it can also be expensive. So that’s where we can get creative, and think outside of the box.
Over the 2016-2017 Winter season, our team worked on a campaign that positioned Syracuse, NY as the “Official Home of Winter.” This included hosting a group media FAM, and showing them all of the great winter assets (indoor and out) found around the city. One of the journalists who attended the FAM was an influencer – but it wasn’t all about travel for him, it was about style. This influencer, along with his personal photographer, took a series of model-esque shots around the city. He showed off some amazing clothes – set against the backdrop of the striking views and fluffy snow of Syracuse, NY. He made the city look cool, without trying, and inspired his followers to see Syracuse in a different light.
Don’t discredit influencers who are not solely focused on travel. Travel can mean food, or beer, or skiing, or shopping, or a lot of other things. When you seek out influencers to target, think about finding the right fit for your destination and the assets you have.
3. Trade/Travel Shows
There is serious value in attending a trade or travel show, but choosing the right one can be a challenge. I attend upwards of 6-8 travel media events a year, but there are two in particular that blow me away. These are the conferences that provide both inspiration, and personal connections with media and/or influencers.
The TravMedia IMM Show in New York City was held for the first time in NY in 2017. Hundreds of top-tier travel journalists, bloggers, broadcasters, and influencers attended. Registration included a chance to meet with up to 24 of them in brief, one-on-one appointments. The meetings were pre-matched, and with the vetting done, they provide engaged conversation with people who can increase your destination’s visibility in a big way.
Another favorite of mine is the PRSA Travel & Tourism Conference – held in different spots across the country each year. The conference offers three days of specified workshops and seminars to inspire you and make your destination marketing better. On day 2, the conference hosts a “Media Mixer” that provides key face-to-face time with top-tier media in the industry. It’s less structured and more networking-driven, but sometimes that casual conversation helps you build stronger, more lasting connections.
4. Live Streaming/Content Creation
Own it! Sometimes the best person to write about your destination – is you. Whether it is a page on your website that lists the top 10 restaurants in the area, or a blog that dives into the history of one of your chefs, be the expert that travelers rely on.
Mix it up with both written and visual content to keep it interesting. Tools like live streaming (available through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) allow you to document an event or attraction in real time with real-time engagement. Find new ways to showcase your destination. It could be as simple as taking a kayak out on the lake and live streaming the scenery on a beautiful autumn day. If it’s authentic and interesting, it’s content worth creating.
And don’t be afraid to get in front of the crowd and become the personality! Bristol Mountain featured a series of videos “Girl on the Snow” – in which their host, Emily, hit the slopes to chat with fellow skiers. It was a great way for visitors to get a sense of the mountain, and return skiers began to recognize the “Girl on the Snow” – building a sense of brand and community.
Adding podcasting to my top five tools for destination marketing might seem a little obscure – but it’s actually a great way to get your destination noticed by an audience that may not be looking in your direction yet. Podcasts are similar to a radio show in style – but they come in all shapes and sizes, industries and markets. You can listen to series about starting a business, or catch up on historical tales not taught in school. Or, you could tune into to one of the various travel podcasts out there – both for promotion and for inspiration.
Most podcasts welcome guests on the show, either regularly or a few times a year. A great example is our Break the Ice Media hosted travel podcast, called Destination on the Left. New episodes drop every Wednesday featuring marketers, industry leaders, and businesses within the travel and tourism umbrella as they share their successes, struggles, and creative approaches to destination marketing. Take the opportunity to talk about your destination to listeners who subscribe, or hear from other marketers to learn what they are doing to generate buzz around their destination.