Nicole Mahoney: 00:17 Well listeners. This is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. Welcome to this week’s episode with another very smart guest Ginna Royce from Blaine Turner advertising. Ginna and I met through the agency management Institute, a network of agencies, committed to lifelong learning and best practices that helps us be better advocates and partners for our clients. When I learned about Ginna’s work with the CVB and her region of West Virginia, who her agency has been working with for 34 years, I knew she would have a lot to share with you, our listeners and Ginna does not disappoint in our conversation to share as many golden nuggets that any tourism marketer can use to increase leads and maximize results for their campaigns. We also talk about collaboration as the CVB that Jenna works with now includes three counties within the mountain air region of West Virginia. Ginna graduated from West Virginia university and founded Blaine Turner advertising in 1986.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:19 She is married with three dogs and has traveled to more than 30 countries. Get your notebook ready. I am sure you will want to take notes from this episode, but first I have this important message to share with you, Ginna, thank you so much for joining us. I know this conversation is going to be full of great ideas for our listeners and we’re going to get so much out of it. But before we get started with the questions, can you share a little bit more about your journey and your story in your own words? I find it, it just provides so much more context to the conversation. Sure. I’d love to thanks for having me. Uh, the agency blamed Turner advertising started in 1986. So this is our 34th year. Uh, the backstory on that is that my maiden name is Turner. So I was single when I started the agency and I went to my dad and asked him for some seed money.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:12 And he basically said no, and he didn’t think I would ever make it. He said, you’re too young. You should go work for a utility. Uh, they pay pensions and that’s the safest way. And so I found the money somewhere else and I decided to name it after my dad, whose name was William Blake Turner. And I named it Blaine Turner because B put me up in the phone book and I thought if it does go down in flames, it’ll have his name on it. So it was my way of getting back at him. Um, obviously the agency succeeded and he wears always blamed Turner advertising, hats and shirts now. So that’s the story. Um, that I married my husband two years after I started the agency and he came to work at the agency. He was my first boss out of college. He hired me and then he

Ginna Royce: 03:01 Watch me started the agency and decided it would be a good partnership, uh, in a lot of ways. So we got married and he joined the agency. So we’ve been in business. Um, like I said, since 1986, we’ve had tourism from the very beginning. We had a convention of visitors Bureau and we still have the same CVB today. We also specialize in healthcare. We have several health systems and a managed care organization for an entire state, and then we handle manufacturing. So we try to stay a little bit nimble and not so specialized that may be a recession in some area would take us down basically for that tourism client, I would say, um, to any CMOs out there for tourism, uh, they want leads, lots of leads. And our director wanted lots of leads that engage with their content and they wanted content from their leads. And that’s what we did

Nicole Mahoney: 03:53 I do for her. So that sort of explains it

Ginna Royce: 03:55 Where we’re positioned as far as tourism.

Nicole Mahoney: 03:58 Absolutely. Well, and I think that this is going to be really interesting because I, I like that. You’re not just solely in tourism. And you have these other, these other verticals that you serve. You mentioned health systems and manufacturing, because one of the things that I, you know, talk a lot about is needing to learn, you know, from other industries and from other places and trying not to be so stuck in the, you know, in a silo. Um, and so I, I love that you can bring that, you know, kind of, um, experience to the conversation, but the other cool thing is that you’ve been doing this for 34 years. So I can imagine you’ve seen a lot of, uh, evolution. I mean, since 1986, marketing has certainly changed quite a bit, hasn’t it?

Ginna Royce: 04:43 Yes, yes. We started out as a print design boutique, and then every time a client said, can you do this? Can you do websites? Can you do radio commercials? We said, yes. And then we came back to the office and figured out how we were going to do it. And so, yeah, it’s, it’s the clients that have pushed us to the point that we are today, which is full service.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:01 Absolutely. Can we talk about the client you have been serving for 34 years, the CVB. And could you share a little bit about their story because I know when you and I first met, um, prior to this, uh, this interview, um, you know, we had talked about how you’ve been working with the CBB, um, through, I can’t remember how many directors, but several directors and you really are the one that’s, that’s got the long history with the organization. So can you share a little bit about the organization with our listeners? Sure. It’s a,

Ginna Royce: 05:33 It started out as a small, you know, just startup CVB that was membership based and then it became, um, it fell under a lodging tax piece of legislation that was in the state of West Virginia. So now they’re all bed tax-based and then they brought in another account.

Nicole Mahoney: 05:48 So there they’re two County, three counties now,

Ginna Royce: 05:51 And they I’ve been through probably four or five directors. And it’s, it is it’s, we’re like the one constant. And it’s funny, the most recent director she’s been there five years now and she’ll say, Hey, I met with this person the other day. And I said, yeah. Um, just so you know, they were on your board of directors about 15 or 20 years ago. So we have this, I call it intellectual inventory, you know, where we can basically say we tried that or that person was very helpful or, you know, go down this path, but take this, this policy with you. So it’s, it’s been really helpful for her. And, um, it’s been a labor of love for us. I can truly say that there is, um, there are only a few, a handful of clients that you feel are part of your family. And even though we’ve been through different directors, that CVB is just an extension of the agency.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:43 Yeah, absolutely. So, um, in, in the, uh, three counties, I, I love that it’s three counties because it’s, you know, it’s more of a regional approach, I think, which I, which we talk a lot about on the show. And, uh, you had mentioned that they go under, um, visit mountain New York country, right. In West Virginia.

Ginna Royce: 07:02 Yeah. So they were under greater Morgantown CVB, which, you know, even though it was a city of Morgantown were in town, they considered an area, but the other areas felt like they were underserved as far as the name. And really once we said, visit Mountaineer country mountain, your country is a region. And the Mountaineer comes from the state of West Virginia, but also in Morgantown, we have West Virginia university and the mascot is the Mountaineer. So it’s, um, it’s a symbol of pride and it has a lot of nostalgia tied to it. So when we went to visit Mountaineer country, uh, even though people outside of West Virginia might not know the exact location, we do have a lot of tie to the university. And a lot of our visitors are because of the university. So it really, it rounded out in the end. Um, and we went through that brand transition over a year and we, it was maybe the end of 2018 through 2019. And now we’re, we’re firmly visit Mountaineer country.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:59 Um, can we talk a little bit about how that, um, how that worked the brand transition? I love talking a little, a little bit more in detail about that. Cause I know listen to us, you know, um, are constantly talking about, and in the tourism industry about brand and positioning and you know, how do we serve the visitor while also balancing with, you know, the constituents and what the stakeholders are looking for. I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about how the branding, you know, came about maybe the process that you went through.

Ginna Royce: 08:33 Sure. The, so we have an SEO specialist on staff and the first time I went back to his office and said, we’re doing a brand transition, his hair stood on end. And he said, do you know what this is going to do to our SEO? Do you know? And I said, well, then, you know, we need to figure it out. And so what we started doing with the logo, for instance, it’s a greater Morgantown CVB. And underneath it said a part of Mountaineer country or Mountaineer country. And every time that Morgantown appeared on the website, we followed it within Mountaineer countries. So people started seeing for the first baby five or six months, every time they saw Morgan town or greater Morgantown, they saw mountain your country. And then we slowly transitioned to visit Mountaineer country on top and greater Morgantown area on the bottom. And then, uh, now we just use Morgantown for SEO purposes, but really we say North central West Virginia, if people need a geographic location and, uh, and the, the brand graphic, the, the logo changed dramatically, we went from something that was very modern and update to something that was a little more rustic and representative of the outdoor adventure activities that we have in the area.

Nicole Mahoney: 09:47 Yeah. That’s so interesting that, um, you know, you really had to think about the SEO and kind of that the value that you’ve been building up right. For, for SEO. So I really like how you took that approach, where it was this phased approach and it gave you, it sounds like it gave you the time, not only to, to, uh, warm up, you know, the visitors and the stakeholders to this new branding, but also maybe gave you the time to put the building blocks in place. Um, especially as it relates to SEO and, and the other assets for the brand. Is that right?

Ginna Royce: 10:23 Oh yeah. I mean, you, when you sit down and you think about all the things that need changed from your letterhead to your signage, to the vehicle wraps to even your social media and, you know, all of your, your handles, your addresses, everything had to be changed. So we just took it in phases and we were very careful to make sure that we didn’t leave our audiences behind. And we also had a different communication strategy for every audience, whether we were talking about, you know, local government visitors, the university, our hoteliers, our attraction and activity managers and owners, everyone had a specific communication that addressed this, and we made sure we didn’t leave anybody behind. Right.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:07 I think that’s such great, great advice that you have a different strategy for each audience. I think sometimes that really gets overlooked and you think you have your one message and you forget, you know, that you do have these different audiences that are looking for different, uh, things from, from your CVB. And so I think that that’s really great how you did that. So I’m, I’m curious, you know, what you’ve done to stand out from the crowd in a creative way. It sounds like this branding is one piece of it, but there’s something that really stands out in your mind as being just a really creative way that this region has really stood out.

Ginna Royce: 11:47 Well, I don’t know if this answers your question specifically, but one of the things that we found to be extremely successful, our giveaways, and once I convinced this new director about the advantages of giveaways and we tried on boy, we, I don’t think we’d ever walk away from them. At this point. These giveaways offer the opportunity to really show off our region and engage people with our activities. So we’ve done. Um, you know, we, we’ve done all of the, the adventure giveaway, the lover’s giveaway, the girlfriend’s giveaway. The guys give away the family giveaways. And most recently we’ve found that offering a choice of giveaways has really been successful from viewpoint. People get to choose what they want. They get the exact trip that they want. So maybe it’s a kayak trip versus a mountain bike trip versus a cabin. And then they also get to engage with different activities.

Ginna Royce: 12:50 Instead of us just putting one girlfriend’s activity out there, or one family activity, we get to show several different things. But in the end, all we have to do is pay for one prize. So that’s been just that. We’ve just headed out of the ballpark with that. And it also gives us some, some background research, you know, we’re, we’re currently doing a cabin giveaway, so it’s a summer cabin or a winter cabin. And we’re finding out that the summer cabin is three times more popular than the winter cabin. Interesting. Can you, can you talk a little bit about how you structure these giveaways by choice? Um, is this a social media campaign? Is it an integrated campaign across several channels? Can you give us a little bit of the behind the scenes? Yeah. So we put together the giveaways, we offer them across all of our social media digital.

Ginna Royce: 13:40 We use Google ads, Facebook ads. We do blog posts. We also create videos to go with them. So those go on YouTube. And then we use a platform that if you enter the contest, then you get another opportunity to get more entries into the contest. If you share it on Facebook, if you tweet it, if you blog about it, if you, whatever you do to engage with that giveaway, that furthers our, our exposure, you get more entries. So we only count when we’re reporting. We only count unique entries, but we also tell them, but this is how many times it’s been shared. And, uh, and the interesting part is, you know, once COVID hit, our client came to us and said, okay, now what? Because no, one’s going to want to travel. And so what we did was we said, you know, let’s still engage with the people that want to get outside and play, but let’s not make them have to travel.

Ginna Royce: 14:38 Let’s offer them the piece of equipment that we’re showing in the giveaway and we’ll ship it to them. So we have, I think, three giveaways. Um, one was a mountain bike. One was a, and I believe another one was a, a standup paddleboard. And we just do, did videos on each one of these. We showed people using them, but the prize was the actual piece of equipment. So anybody that was interested in doing that activity really engaged with it, but they didn’t feel the pressure to have to travel here. And another one that we did was just choose when you want to come. So the headline was when, and when you’re ready come to Mountaineer country. So we just, we just left it open, you know, with this giveaway, whenever you want to come, it’s, it’s ready, willing, it’s ready for you. And, um, and we can’t wait to see you.

Ginna Royce: 15:26 So they’ll just, those have been extremely successful. I mean, they only last 30 days, sometimes we partner with, uh, a print, you know, a magazine or a digital property, and they’ll promote it for us as well. And then sometimes we just do it through our own owned media. But, um, what we find is out of all the entries that we get, and I’m talking again with unique entries, 50% of our entries actually opt in for our newsletter. So starting in March until August 31st, we increased our opt in database for our newsletter 71% with just giveaways.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:07 Wow. That’s this year, since the pandemic started.

Ginna Royce: 16:10 Yes. Since the pandemic started. Yes.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:12 That’s amazing. Yeah. People want to travel,

Ginna Royce: 16:17 They want to, they want to dream. They want to get out there and we’re just giving them an opportunity to dream about it.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:23 Absolutely. And then you have that now expanded database. So as soon as it’s safe and, and travel opens up a little bit more than it has right now, you’ve got all of these new people to talk to. Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That’s really, really awesome. I love that. And so earlier you mentioned how you get a little bit of research out of this. So when they’re entering, they’re picking, they’re picking which prize they want. Is that how it works?

Ginna Royce: 16:48 Yes. When you enter, you choose the prize that you want. So that gives us an idea, you know, do people want to do, uh, kayaking over paddleboarding or, you know, do they like mountain biking over fishing? Uh, but then it also gives us a little bit of demographic research. We asked for their age, we asked for their zip code, uh, when the last time they were in West Virginia, those can also be incorporated into the entry form.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:14 That’s great. I love that. That’s a really, a really great golden nugget for, uh, for our listeners and a great idea. So I appreciate you sharing that with us. And I also love how you are leveraging these giveaways during the pandemic, um, you know, and how you’re still able to build that newsletter list and build audience, uh, even despite, you know, what we’re going through right now. So I think that’s just really great. And it reminds me of earlier in our conversation when you met, you know, the wants leads and, um, this sounds like a really great strategy as a way that to grab those leads, isn’t it?

Ginna Royce: 17:57 Yeah, absolutely. And we follow each time someone signs up for the newsletter, they get a follow up email, thanking them and then asking them a few more questions, you know, do you want more information on the arts? Do you want more information on dining, on sports, on fairs and festivals? So then we drop those into databases and make sure that anything that comes up that that would be relevant for them. They get an email blast or they get that newsletter.

Nicole Mahoney: 18:23 That’s great. I also wanted to talk a little bit about collaboration with you, and I’m interested to get your perspective on, you know, the, the change that this organization went through, um, where you set when you started working with them. They were one County membership based eventually, um, you know, funding came from occupancy tax, but then it’s evolved to two counties and now three counties. And so I’m curious from your perspective, um, you know, how has the collaboration, uh, for these counties, have you seen it expand on what they’re able to do? Like what are some of the benefits that you’ve seen come through because of the collaboration?

Ginna Royce: 19:04 Well, for instance, the last County that joined, brought a state park with it. So obviously that was a, a nice little crown jewel for us, but we didn’t have a state park before.

Nicole Mahoney: 19:16 So, um, you know, every time we

Ginna Royce: 19:20 Spanned, we’re able to expand the offering to our visitors and make, you know, make the area more interesting and more attractive. We recently with the COVID and gosh, so much has changed since then, but we put together a community resource guide immediately and created this landing page and say,

Nicole Mahoney: 19:39 You know, here’s, what’s going on, here’s a link to

Ginna Royce: 19:41 Do, you know, the restaurants that you can get take out. Here’s a link to people who have gift cards to help them out. And that thing took off. And, you know, it was something that we hit before the chamber, before the city council or any kind of city government, we got that page up and rolling, and then we became the go to source. So actually those other entities just started using our links since we had. So, you know, we just had legs by then. And it was really, it was interesting because you know, the bigger the area, the more people you can serve and you’ve got different hubs in those three counties. So, you know, people do come from one County to another County to work or to visit family. So it was a more, a complete picture of what was going on with COVID and the service.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:31 And did you find through, uh, through that resource page, um, where you obviously, you were talking more to the residents within those three counties, and so did you find, um, that maybe you were reaching other stakeholders and maybe pulling in information that you wouldn’t typically have pulled in for an outside visitor?

Ginna Royce: 20:50 Well, you know, that’s the beauty of that page. We realized that it was more of a local resource, but then what we decided to do was a pledge program. So we did two, we did a commitment to safety for the businesses, and we bid, did a pledge to protect four individuals. And we have a page where you can go on and say, as a business, I’m committed to safety and following the COVID guidelines. And then you put your, we put your logo on there, you get a sticker for your window. Uh, we have a gallery that people can take their pictures and post there. And then for the individuals, they all show get a Facebook frame to use on Facebook. So what that did was give any visitors, coming to the area, the opportunity to see people who were pledging to protect and the businesses that were committed to safety, and it had got them involved in, you know, like, wow, these people are taking this seriously.

Nicole Mahoney: 21:50 Absolutely. I think that’s, uh, that’s really great. And I love the individual piece. I’ve seen a lot of the businesses that have pledged, but to actually have the individuals also take the pledge, um, I think is great. Yeah.

Ginna Royce: 22:04 Yeah. They, they really got behind it and people had fun with the Facebook frame and, and they get their stuff. They don’t get a window decal, they get a sticker and I’ve seen him around town. You know, people are using them on their, their Yeti’s and you know, their notebooks and it’s, it’s fun to watch this kind of take off.

Nicole Mahoney: 22:22 Absolutely. So are you doing any planning for 2021? What, what types of things are coming up? I know it’s such a, you know, a tough time right now, um, to know exactly how to plan, but I also know that you need to have a plan. So I’m just curious what your crystal ball is saying about, you know, what you’re going to keep doing at least, uh, you know, going into 20, 21. Well, gosh, Nicole, you sound like my client, cause that’s why she did that a couple months ago.

Ginna Royce: 22:51 So what are you going to do for 2021? And, um, and, and one of the things that we’re really looking at hard is, you know, like I mentioned, West Virginia is just so rich in outdoor activities. And some of the research that we’ve found is that a lot of the tech minded people, the software engineers, the coders are very outdoor oriented and adapt. I’ve worked venture oriented. And if you look at some of these large companies, especially like Silicon Valley, if you look at San Francisco during the pandemic, a lot of the companies who Google Apple, they found out that these people did not need to come to the office, that they really could work remotely. And what that meant for those people, those workers is they really can live anywhere. They want, they don’t have to pay the high rent in downtown San Francisco. They don’t have to live in the large cities.

Ginna Royce: 23:44 They can anywhere and still hold that job at that fantastic salary. So in 2021, we’re looking, and there are other, obviously other States and communities that are doing this as well, but we’re looking at really getting in front of those workers and say, Hey, give us a try, come here for the weekend and see if you wouldn’t want to live here and work here. Your dollars are going to go so much further. I mean, our quality of life is excellent, but the cost of living is low. Uh, you’re going to be able to do anything outdoor oriented. We’ve got, um, the, the water we’ve got the mountains, we’ve got, uh, kayaking, whitewater rafting, mountain biking. We’ve got skiing. There’s trails. I mean, there’s just the rail trail system. There’s just so much here. It’s one of the best ropes course on the East coast is just 20 minutes from the center of town. So that’s our plan for 2021. One of our, our pieces of the plan is to go after these remote workers now that they’re looking for maybe a different place to live.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:49 Yeah. And I think that’s really awesome that you’re looking for those opportunities. You know, there’s one thing to say, we’re going to, you know, talk to the traditional audiences that we’ve talked to and we’re going to make our plans maybe flexible based on what’s happening, you know, in travel. Um, but really trying to think of where are the opportunities coming out of this pandemic and looking for those and figuring out how you can get in front of those people. So I love that you’ve honed right in, on tech workers in general and how they align with, you know, what your destination has to offer.

Ginna Royce: 25:26 Yeah. Yeah. We’re excited about it. We’re just in the infantile stages of trying to come up with, you know, the creative and the approach and the media, but, um, it does look like a really great program for us to step off on.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:40 Yeah, that’s really awesome. After 34 years, I’m just curious if there are any best practices or anything that stands out in your mind that you can share with our listeners. Um, you know, that you’ve kind of learned along the way in terms of tourists.

Ginna Royce: 25:56 You know, what I found out is to make sure that you have guidelines in place before exploring any partnerships or co-op opportunities. You need to know what’s on the table and what’s off. You don’t like access to your leads or space on your website or your sponsorship policies. Um, you know, being a tourism entity, um, we get a lot of requests and we get a lot of don’t. You want to sponsor my art exhibit and can you just send this, uh, this event out to all your leads and you really need to make sure that all of your, your policies are in place so that, and they’re visible so that people understand where you’re coming from and why, and after that, just set expectations and hold everyone accountable.

Nicole Mahoney: 26:38 That’s such great advice. And I love that you brought up the sponsorships co-ops and all of those things that you’re trying to manage when you’re putting together a regional marketing program, the way, um, the way your client is. And I think that’s fabulous advice, a to have those guidelines, but also to make sure that they’re visible and that people can find them. I think that’s just a really, really fantastic advice. So do you have any final thoughts to share with us before we say goodbye? And also, um, if you could share where our listeners might find you, if they would like to reach out,

Ginna Royce: 27:17 I guess I could share another one little nugget that my SEO specialist came up with and it’s called affiliate marketing. So any of the tourism entities out there, if you’ve got a website and you’ve got a lot of visitors and you’ve got a lot of content, you can actually go to something like event bright

Nicole Mahoney: 27:34 And see if one of the local fairs or festivals is

Ginna Royce: 27:37 Selling tickets on Eventbrite. And you can apply for that link to be on your site and actually make commission off of tickets.

Nicole Mahoney: 27:46 You get sales. So we have,

Ginna Royce: 27:48 I had a local event that was very, very successful here, and they were selling tickets on event bright. And we had probably more visitors to our site. Our SEO is doing better than theirs. So we went to event Brite and said, can we put the link to their ticket sales on our website? And they said, yeah, you pass all of the, all the tests and you have plenty of visitors. And I think we made like $2,400 in commission just, and that was just over three weeks just putting that link on our site. So, um, that’s just my, my other little nugget that I’ll share today.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:23 That’s a really good one, especially as, especially as deemos are trying to figure out, you know, other, other revenue sources. I think that’s just, that sounds like a really great, a great idea. I appreciate you sharing that. Yeah. So, and if anybody wants to find me,

Ginna Royce: 28:39 Ginna, G I N N a@blaineturner.com and, um, we are always looking for new partners and new challenges. So we would welcome anybody to even call and just ask us questions.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:52 We love to help people out. Fantastic. Well, Ginna, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. You provided so many golden nuggets throughout this entire conversation. I know there’s a lot here for our listeners, uh, to benefit from. And, uh, I thank you again for joining.

Ginna Royce: 29:11 Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Nicole Mahoney: 29:13 Thank you for listening all the way to the end of this week’s episode. This gives me a chance to ask you for a favor. We have a goal to reach 100 ratings and reviews on our podcast. By the end of 2020, we are already well on our way to meeting this goal, but need your help. I love sharing my interviews with you, and if you enjoy them too, I would, uh, greatly appreciate you giving us a rating and review click the iTunes or Stitcher link on destination on the left.com or leave one right in your favorite app where you listen most often, it only takes a minute and your support means a lot.