Author Archives: Stephen Koranda

Tourism Industry Undervalued – Needs Repect

At a recent town hall meeting, Oklahoma Lt. Governor Todd Lamb made a pretty good case that the tourism industry is one of, if not the most undervalued industry. “Few grasp the tourism industry’s impact on Oklahoma. They don’t realize U.S. travelers spend $7.2 billion in Oklahoma in 2012 or tourism generated $385.3 million in state taxes – the third largest revenue stream in state government – and $188.5 million in local taxes that year.”

rodney no respect

Beyond the numbers are all of the issues destination marketing professionals have to deal with. I recently spoke to a Chamber Leadership Class about issues related to tourism. After I shared my list, they started sharing theirs and frankly, I was speechless.

There’s the issues to be expected:

– the belief by residents that there’s ‘nothing to do’ and thus, they don’t help promote the destination.

– the lack of a high-class, ‘white cloth’ restaurant

– the lack of night life

– the lack of quality and variety of retail

– the need to improve downtown

But then there were the issues that again, left me speechless. Destination marketing professionals work with real estate developers, volunteers, elected officials, our Chambers and economic development offices to spur growth in our downtowns, add variety to the retail mix (or add retail to a heavy office use.) We work to beautify our entryways and make good first impressions.

How do you deal with out of state oil companies that don’t ‘buy into the local community’ through sponsorships or volunteerism? They certainly don’t show appreciation to the community by keeping their work spaces clear of debris or mowed (let alone landscaped.) What’s the solution to those same companies that over occupy the hotel rooms and stain them with their dirty, grimy work boots and clothes? And find an answer to very high paying drilling positions – so high that mothers and girl-friends don’t have to find a job leaving many retail and service (restaurant) jobs left unfilled.

Then there’s drugs. I have been privileged to go through DMAI’s Certified Destination Marketing Executive program and countless tourism conferences. Never once did the subject of drugs come up. But in some destinations, it is a real issue that is affecting tourism.

Too many believe a CVB simply places ads, mails visitor guides and on occasion, put on an event. Destination marketing involves management of the issues related to the community as an attractive destination to visitors – valuable visitors spending a LOT of money – so much money that, at least in Oklahoma, tourism is the third largest revenue generating industry in the state. That is a profession worth some respect.

Koranda Named A Constant Contact Solution Provider

Stephen Koranda, Back To You Marketing, Named a Constant Contact Certified Solution Provider

Norman, Oklahoma, marketing expert to help small businesses and nonprofits achieve meaningful marketing results 

NORMAN, OKOctober 1, 2014 – Stephen Koranda, Founder and President of Back to You Marketing, has been named a Certified Solution Provider by Constant Contact®, Inc., the trusted marketing advisor to more than 600,000 small organizations worldwide.

As a Certified Solution Provider, Koranda has completed the Constant Contact Certification Program which provides training on the Constant Contact Toolkit™, marketing best practices, and business development. This training imparts industry-leading knowhow on marketing and services to create meaningful results for program participants and the clients that they serve.

“I’m delighted at the certification as it allows me to combine this education with more than 25 years of marketing experience and success and help Oklahoma small businesses achieve meaningful marketing results,” said Koranda.

“Our Solution Providers are an incredibly valuable asset to small organizations—they’re the agencies, consultants, designers, and developers who we trust to provide hands-on assistance to small businesses and nonprofits. The certification program gives our most engaged Solution Providers access to the education that keeps them on the leading edge of marketing best practices. Small organizations can be confident that when they’re working with a Certified Solution Provider, they’re getting quality expertise that will drive the success of their business,” said Arthur Steinert, vice president and general manager, channel partner sales and marketing, Constant Contact. “By becoming a Certified Solution Provider, Koranda has shown true commitment to understanding and implementing best practices in online marketing—and delivering measurable results for the clients that seek the services of Back To You Marketing.”

About Back To You Marketing

Back To You Marketing is a full-service marketing firm. While their strength is in destination marketing (tourism) and economic development, their experience and skills transcend industries.  From advertising campaigns to marketing plans, print ads to social media, Back To You Marketing have assembled a team of professionals able to connect you to solutions, creatively solve problems, and strategize solutions. 

About Constant Contact, Inc.

Constant Contact helps small businesses do more business. We have been revolutionizing the success formula for small businesses, nonprofits, and associations since 1998, and today work with more than 600,000 customers worldwide.  The company offers the only all-in-one online marketing platform that helps small businesses drive repeat business and find new customers. It features multi-channel marketing campaigns (newsletters/announcements, offers/promotions, online listings, events/registration, and feedback) combined with shared content, contacts, and reporting; free award-winning coaching and product support; and integrations with critical business tools – all from a single login.  The company’s extensive network of educators, consultants/resellers, technology providers, franchises, and national associations offer further support to help small organizations succeed and grow. Through its Innovation Loft, Constant Contact is fueling the next generation of small business technology.

Constant Contact and the Constant Contact Logo are registered trademarks of Constant Contact, Inc. All Constant Contact product names and other brand names mentioned herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of Constant Contact, Inc. All other company and product names may be trademarks or service marks of their respective owners.

‘sō shəl (verb) people engaging with each other – Pt. 2

“Social media” suggests that we are sociable with those that like us, follow us or connect with us. However, as we get busier and busier, we too often either use a social media management tool like Hootsuite, schedule our posts/tweets and never review them after they are posted. Or we quickly log on to Facebook, post and log off, never reviewing the interactions.

Last month I shared a few ways to engage more through Twitter. As Facebook changes their algorithms and our posts appear in less and less news feeds, we focus on Facebook and – as our new definition of social suggests – design activities in which people engage with each other for pleasure.

1. Like every comment. Simple enough. Outside of the absolutely bashing comment – “The Anywheresville Zoo is the worst ever…” – like every comment! They took the time to comment on your post so like it. Is it the most eloquent endorsement? Can you use it in your marketing materials? Maybe not. But like it! It encourages more comments. And you want “Joe commented on Anywhereville’s post” to appear in his friends’ news feeds. Gold!

Fort Worth FB

Even more so, comment yourself – “Thanks for sharing Julie!” If it’s negative – “We didn’t particularly like the zoo. A lot of walking!” Comment with “Thanks for sharing. Did you know about the tram back to the elephants?” You acknowledged their comment and provided assistance. How can you go wrong with that? Plus you showed your DMO is knowledgeable about services at attractions. (It’s that whole relevancy thing…)

2. If someone asks a question, for crying out loud, respond! Again, they took the time to ask a question. I totally understand – no one can watch the page 24/7. Glance at it every now and then – first thing in the morning, before or after lunch and right before you leave for the day.

3. Do you have a friends page? Your Facebook page isn’t really a business page. “Anywheresville” is the first name and “State” is the last name? It’s common. And really it’s to your advantage! Birthdays! A client of mine had both a friends page and a business page. I kept them both and wished all of their friends ‘happy birthday’. Numerous times I’d get replies surprised they’d get a greeting from an attraction. It’s as personal as you can get with your customers!

facebook birthday

4. Pictures! When you scroll through your news feed, what grabs your eye? A text only post or a picture? So then why don’t you use pictures for your DMO or business’ posts? “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A picture might be worth a thousand likes.

Charlottesville Picture Post

5. Start conversations. Go ahead and prime the pump. Encourage dialogue. About once a week, a local Mexican restaurant posts a conversation starter. A recent one: Imagine you can only order one thing off our menu for the rest of your life: What is it? 28 comments. Try fill in the blanks. “In one word, our quacamole goes best with _____________” Combine this with pictures and have then provide the caption. (Possibly less successful as it really requires creativity more so than one adjective or commenting with your favorite burrito but worth a try.)

6. Feature customers. Get comment cards? Post the comments. “Thanks for the kind words Julie (followed by her quote)” or just a waitress in your restaurant was just asked to take a picture of guests at a table. Take a picture yourself and post it. Get their name and say “Peter and his friends celebrating his landing a big account.”

7. Ask for a like, a comment or a share. Word is Facebook is tweaking their algorithm to combat ‘spammy’ posts: How many likes can we get for the new dinosaur at the museum? Or What’s your favorite ride a the waterpark? Like for lazy river, comment for raft ride, share for death drop. I believe it you ask in a subtle tone, it’s still okay. “Let’s hear what you have to say” or “you gotta like this”.

Facebook-Like-Baiting

There’s other ways to engage – contests, exclusive promotions, apps – but let’s keep it with these seven tips this month. Social media isn’t easy! It’s not just posting, checking it off your to-do list and moving to the next task. Yes, it takes time and we’re all super busy – especially in the one man/woman offices. Perhaps it’s time to consider getting some help. Please let me know if we can help in any way. At the very least, the above can help you engage with visitors and potential visitors.

‘sō shəl (verb) people engaging with each other

We all know the social media statistics: 198 google billion posts on Facebook, 55 quaple million tweets, 127.4 hoople billion pics on Instagram, and more pins than all of Oklahoma and Iowa’s wrestling programs combined. Social media is today what websites were in the 90s meaning if you’re not on social media, well, you’re not in business. But social media is, well, social.

Social Media

Try this: ‘sō shəl (verb) to design activities in which people engage with each other for pleasure – or in your situation – commerce! You won’t find that in Websters but we should. I have noticed a few practices or in some cases, lack of practices, that really doesn’t help social media be social. Bottom line – we’re not engaging! Here’s some thoughts on engaging through Twitter. (Next month, Facebook.)

– If someone comes into your welcome center or business, you greet them right? You thank them for visiting and/or becoming a new customer, yes? When someone follows you on Twitter, thank them!

“@traveler123 – Thanks for following us @VisitAnywheresville.” Keep it simple!

Toss in the hash tag #loveourcustomers for added appeal. If you’re a destination, perhaps use #loveourvisitors.

– Someone mention you on Twitter? Favorite the tweet! If someone took the time to search for @VisitAnywheresville and mention you in their tweet, you have to, HAVE TO, HAVE TO acknowledge them and engage!

I am shocked at how many times I mention someone, some place or some entity and don’t get a favorite. I went to the OKC Energy (semi-pro soccer) game a week ago. Took a picture and mentioned @OKCEnergy. Nothing. Crickets. You think I want to do that again? You think I believe they care that I attended and want me back? Not so much.

I’ll pick on my friends in Branson. We visited Branson over spring break. Seven tweets about our activities. Mentioned @ExploreBranson each time. Only one was favorited.

The mentions should be easy to know about. Log into Twitter and check your notifications. If you’re mentioned, it’s there. Hash tags require a little more searching but if you’re promoting a hashtag and someone uses it, a favorite is required. I only run in Saucony shoes. Every ad of theirs includes #findyourstrong. As I come back from a hamstring injury and begin running again, when I tweet about a run and include #findyourstrong, I’m surprised, nay, shocked Saucony doesn’t favorite the tweet to encourage me to keep using the hashtag and their shoes.

– Don’t just favorite a tweet, reply.

“Really enjoyed the @AnyZoo in @VisitAnywheresville! The monkeys were especially lively.”

Reply:

“@traveler123 Glad you enjoyed your visit to @AnyZoo and @VisitAnywheresville. See you again soon!”

Heck, suggest another attraction to them.

“@traveler123 Glad you enjoyed your visit to @AnyZoo. If you like animals, you may like the @AnyPettingZoo.”

Or (dare I say) send them to your website

“Find out information about @AnyPettingZoo at http://www.VisitAnywheresville.com/AnyPettingZoo”

If I ever get the chance to hike I do. I hiked my fourth location in the state. Tweeted “Hiked Roman Nose, Beaver’s Bend, Wichita, Quartz Mtns & T-bird. What’s next @TravelOK.” They responded with a link to their webpage describing five beginner, five intermediate and five expert hikes in Oklahoma. Just added 15 more destinations to my list!

Hey social media isn’t easy! It’s not just posting or tweeting something, checking it off your to-do list and moving to the next task. Yes, it takes time and we’re all super busy – especially in the one man/woman offices. Perhaps it’s time to consider getting some help. Please let me know if we can help in any way. At the very least, the above can help you engage with visitors and potential visitors!

The Fifth P of Marketing

A colleague at a recent tourism function was sharing how her DMO was getting in a “turf war” between the City and the Chamber – both trying to take over the management of the organization. She concluded by sharing ‘I’m staying out of it. I’m not in politics.’ A few of the glancing looks from others at the table communicated that we were thinking the same thing, “Oh yes you are like it or not!”  (And you’d better engage now or you may find yourself in a place you aren’t going to like!)

 

I thought going from a DMO to an attraction I’d find less politics. Boy was I wrong. On the heels of her statement above, I thought I’d dust off this post from April, 2011. Still as timely today! 

 

Remember the Four Ps of Marketing?  Product – Price – Placement and Promotion.  It’s Marketing 101. It’s the core of what we do – destination development (Product), drive hotel rates (Price), advise on the location of the attractions (Placement), and of course advertising and media relations (Promotion.)  But the longer I spend in destination marketing, the more I realize there is indeed a fifth P of marketing.  That fifth P is Politics.

 

I once read that destination marketing professionals are “politicians with marketing skills”.  And while I don’t like to consider myself a politician, I recognize more and more frequently that we do a lot of politic-ing.  Consider that…

 

– The CVB was active in recent City Council elections.  We assisted with candidate profiles and submitted questions for the candidate forums.

 

– Recently we’ve monitored and spoke on City issues related to business lighting and storm water runoff.  Further back, we took a stance on a state education issue and supported both a parks master plan and funding for a business park. (Following this post, we monitored and spoke on high density housing near a popular shopping district and engaged in the passage of a bond issue to improve one of the main corridors into the destination.)

 

– I accompanied our Chamber of Commerce on a ‘fly-in’ to DC to meet with our five representatives and Senators. We also met with NOAA as weather is big business in Norman! (Delighted to see my successor continued the practice!)

 

– In the near future we’ll discuss raising the transient guest tax and the split of that tax to maximize it’s economic impact on the local economy. (It passed increasing the DMO budget by $250,000.)

 

US Travel Association has long recognized the fifth P of destination marketing.  DMAI is engaging more and more in advocacy.  A committee is developing a tool kit for a community to utilize.  Not soon enough as we spend less and less time on the Promotion side of our jobs and more time on the Politics of our job. Update: that tool kit has been developed. It and many other resources can be found here.

 

It’s not the customer interaction we crave. It’s not the full conference hall corridors we like to see. And it’s not the dynamic new advertising creative we like reviewing but politicking has become a vital part of our jobs. Again, like it or not.

 

I’d love to hear success stories or best practices.  Please share those below.

What’s the Plus Side? Using Google+ for Business

I do nothing with and know nothing about Google+.  I don’t even believe I can remember how to login to my account.  Not knowing anything about this social network is what made a former colleague’s blog on Google+ appealing.

Amy Garton, is the Director of Interactive Solutions for the Overland Park (KS) Convention and Visitors Bureau.  I share her blog as a guest column this month…

What is Google+ and what do we know about it?

Google+ is a social network that was created by Google. It is the social element to all of Google’s other services (search, Gmail, YouTube, Blogger) – bringing the social elements people love from other social networks to the Google Family.

  • Launched in 2011. Google had previously launched five other social networks, of which only 1.5 exist today. (The .5 is a feature of G+.)
  • More than 540 million users and more than 300 million active users (versus Facebook at 1.19 billion active users.)
  • Average time spent on G+ per month is 6 minutes and 47 seconds (versus Facebook at 15 hours and 33 minutes.)
  • The +1 button is clicked more than 5 million times per day.

What’s the Plus Side?

1. It is Google. This is not meant to say Google does everything right, but rather we know that Google is the number 1 website in the world so it matters by virtue of size.

2. It is not just another social network. While people like to compare G+ to other networks, and it offers similar features to a variety of the networks, it is unique in both implementation and value.

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search is now social and Google+ is Google’s answer to this.

Google+ versus Facebook

One of the biggest barriers to success is Google+ is the public’s opinion that G+ is Google’s answer to Facebook.  Some of the key factors to keep in mind include the following:

  • Facebook is designed to connect us to our existing friends. Your goal is to stay in touch. G+ is designed to connect us to new people via shared interests. Your goal is to connect your brand with Google’s platform to raise awareness for your message.
  • Facebook is designed to build relationships with customers and prospects. G+ is designed to build recognition with a niche.
  • For business, Facebook is designed to demonstrate accessibility to your customers, providing them with service and information they need where they are online. Google+ is designed to support search engine optimization, create brand identity and authority and share content including links.

You can think of Facebook as your short-game and Google+ as your long-game.

Facebook Fans already know and love your brand, but your message has a short shelf life. Google+ Circles are very niche, but your message is tied to search and actually gains momentum with longevity.

The Google+ Features

* Circles: While all networks allow some degree of targeting, especially with their ad platforms, Google really understands the importance of niche marketing and messaging. You might not want to share your child’s latest adventures with your business acquaintances, just like you might not want to share your every thought on the state of social media with your friends. For business, this is an extremely important tool and one of the most useful features of Google+.

* Communities: Google’s answer to groups. Give people a place to hangout around a specific topic

* Hangouts: This Skype like feature allows you to video chat with your connections – bringing once tedious conference calls into a new dimension. The plus side of this feature is you can invite people to Hangout or do an “On Air Hangout” which feeds live into YouTube.

* Events: Create events and invite attendees. Unique feature to this events option is that it will add the event to anyone that uses Gmail or Google Calendars if they are attending and automatically adds it to the calendars of those in your Circles.

* Local: A way for people to review your business and find places near them. These reviews will “help” Google determine what to recommend in the future.

* Hashtags: Google gets this right. They actually add tags to your post if you have not added tags that deem appropriate.

Search brings you information from across the web. Now, search recognizes those you think are important and brings you their information in a personalized results based on your connections, interests you’ve established, location, etc.

According to a study connected by MOZ, the number of G+’s a website has is the second most influential indicator for the Google Algorithm, only behind page authority.

You need to establish a personal and professional network on G+ to demonstrate authority in the industry. And then create a Business Page with a Network to establish authority directly connected to your company’s web presence.

To optimize your Google+ account for SEO, you should:

1. Give your Google+ Page a Name.

Visit Overland Park is the name we use because it is our social profile and our website address.

2. Customize your Google+ Page URL.

To set your custom Google+ page or profile URL:

  • Go to your page or profile and click About.
  • Scroll down to the Links box. You’ll see your existing Google+ page URL.
  • Click on the link and Google+ asks you if you want to convert to a new custom Google+ page URL.

3. Local Page

Merge your Local with Places for easier management. Here is an article on merging the two.

4. Establish Authorship.

Authorship is a form of HTML coding that tells Google that your Page is being managed by an authority related to your website. Your email address must include your website (example agarton@visitoverlandpark.com). You can go further and establish Publisher, which connects all your employees as authors, which is especially useful for blogging.

Seeing Success

* Posting

* Be sure that the information is keyword rich.

* Use links to your website and blogs.

* Use hashtags and review the hashtags Google creates for the post.

* Reshare your evergreen content to increase the number of +1s and increase your SEO.

* Ask for +1s and shares.

* Share your posts publically, unless best fit for a specific circle or needed on a targeted basis. This will reach those in your Circles, but will also go public so more people can find you.

Beyond the Post

* Grow your Circles to grow your Circles. You need to network here. This is one social network that does not punish you for following more people than follow you (and the best way to get new followers is to follow someone else). In fact, it rewards you for having a large network and degrees of connectivity (note that you can only circle 5000 people for your Page). This is a true content-contact marketing effort.

* Add Google +1 Button to website pages.

* Include +1 Button in emails.

* Measuring

* Review posts to see what is getting +1s, comments and shares to drive content curation.

* Establish unique URLS for links to follow in Google Analytics.

Some great tools are available to measure success in a variety of areas. For more

on these tools, go here.

Other Tools that are Available:

* Friends + Me is a website application that allows you to set up an auto share from your google+ page to your other networks. This app allows you to customize what people see by network.

* Chrome Do Share allows you to schedule posts in Google+, but the Chrome browser must be open at the time you want a post to share.

* SteadyDemand.com will give you an analysis of your Google+ page and how it can be better utilized to gain the full SEO benefits of your G+ account.

Thanks for reading.

How To Create An Exceptional Experience

While it appears as if the need for customer service is going away, eventually the consumer has to have human interaction. We in destination marketing know a traveler can make a hotel reservation and book a flight online. They can get tickets to a show or attraction online. They can check luggage with minimal personal interaction and the flights offer minimal personal interaction. Eventually though they get in a taxi, get to the front desk of a hotel or are greeted by the wait staff at a restaurant. There is where the visitor must encounter exceptional customer service.

 

Pete Winemiller is the Sr. VP for Guest Relations for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shared recently that 32% of customers leave a business due to death, moving away, friends’ influence, being lured away by the competition or dissatisfaction with the product. 68% though are turned away by an attitude of indifference on the part of a company employee. That visitor center volunteer’s customer service wasn’t necessarily poor, but it wasn’t so good either that the consumer felt that it truly mattered to that volunteer that they were visiting Anywhere-ville!

 

Pete puts it another way: “People will forget what you did. People will forget what you said. But they won’t forget how you made them feel.” The Certified Tourism Ambassador Program suggests we exceed customer expectations making for a memorable experience. I’ve been delighted to experience customer service at its best or at least to the point that it created a truly memorable experience!

 

customer service

 

Last summer, my family traveled with two other families to Wisconsin Dells. After a night at an amusement facility (think Chuck E Cheese on crack), on the way back to the resort we stopped at a convenience store to get something to drink. I went in with four kids under 10 years of age. You don’t typically think of convenience store clerks as the most customer friendly but this guy gathered the kids around the counter and did a magic trick! It was a simple thing with a quarter and a slight of the hand but to a 10, 9, 9 and 6 year old, it was cool! And after spending a week in the Waterpark Capital of the World, you know what they talk about just as much as the water slides? The magic trick! Clearly a memorable experience!

 

A conference took a colleague and me to Claremore, Oklahoma, in the end of January. We stayed in a Comfort Inn. I’ll admit, my expectations weren’t too high. I considered driving to and from neighboring Tulsa to stay in something a little higher on the hotel food chain than a Comfort Inn. But I conceded and stayed in Claremore. While we were there, overnight a thin layer of ice covered the town. As we left the property, the sidewalks had de-icer tossed on them. When we got to the vehicle, I was pleasantly surprised to find the hotel staff had tossed salt on the parking lot between the vehicles! The ice wasn’t completely melted as we got into the vehicle but it clearly exceeded my expectations of what a hotel staff would do to the sidewalks and parking lot after an ice storm! That exceeded this customer’s expectations!

 

Our family just visited Branson over spring break. We visited a small pizza place in West Branson. As a customer, I expect drinks to be refilled without even asking so I was initially bothered when the nice lady asked the table if we needed refills. When my 10-year-old son said yes, she turned to me and asked if it was okay. As I checked out, another little girl came to the counter and asked for a refill. The waitress told her ‘just a minute’. After she got my credit card slips to sign, she went to the table where the girl was sitting and asked her mom if the girl could have a refill. I realized she was getting parents’ permission before giving kids another serving of sugar water! Greatly appreciated! When she came back, I asked her if she was a mother herself. She said no. “I just assume all families have been at Silver Dollar City all day drinking pop and the last thing they need is more caffeine and sugar this close to bed!” I pulled out cash and doubled her tip! That’s customer service!

 

I am sure you can think of a time when your expectations were exceeded, when someone truly showed appreciation for your business, when they created a memorable experience! I challenge you to model their actions or those examples above. Together we can exceed customer expectations and create a memorable experience for our guest!

We work in the NOW world

I live in Norman, Oklahoma.  There’s a small university here and the University of Oklahoma is pretty good at football.  The Sooners played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two weeks ago.  (A Thursday evening.)  While friends were relishing the upset victory, a video starts popping up on social media.  An Alabama fan goes crazy on an OU student.  Friday afternoon a story is posted – Bama Sugar Bowl mom ‘sorry’ but would ‘do it again if I had to’.  Okay, sympathy for the mom?  Wait… have you seen this video – the Crazy Bama Mom BEFORE attacking OU student?  All of that played out through social media within 36 to 48 hours.  Anyone pay attention?  The first video has been viewed nearly 3 million times.  The Yellowhammer story has more than 2,000 comments.  Who knows how many views?  And the third video has been viewed 391,000 times.  (Warning: videos and comments contain offensive images and language.)

So what?  What if the headline is “attraction GM goes crazy on family” or “restaurant owner goes crazy on diners” or “salmonella outbreak after banquet at Yourville convention center”?  We never know what is going to set something off or when a mobile phone is recording.  What could it be that potentially embarrasses the destination?  Maybe it’s not even an embarrassing situation.  Perhaps it’s a hurricane that hits the Gulf or massive flooding in the east or ice storm just before the Super Bowl?  Welcome to your job in the NOW World!  What do you need to prepared to work in the NOW World?

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1. You need to be ready… ready now… ready now for anything!  You need to have an emergency public relations plan.  The next chance you get, lock yourself away with your staff and imagine the 20 worst scenarios.  Just scan the headlines: water poison, bed bugs, salmonella, tornado, hurricane, scandal… Then think of the 20 you’d never think of – Crazy Bama Mom.  Doubt the Alabama Alumni office wasn’t prepared for that one!  Talk through what your response should/would be for each situation.  Type them up and store them away.

2. You need to realize we’re not in an 8am to 5pm job any longer.  Tornadoes don’t strike during business hours.  Videos of drunk fans go viral at any time!  If you’re the PR / Communications person for your office, you need to understand that you may be called back in even though it’s after 5pm or it’s during the weekend.  And if it needs reminding, comments on Facebook don’t end at 5pm, people don’t clock out and quit posting and watching videos on YouTube, and tweets are tweeted 24/7.

3. You need to understand that you can’t be passive any longer.  We are not in control of the message any more!  They are and they can post, tweet, pin, comment anything they want – and they do.  It’s as Dan Patrick said numerous times on Sportscenter: You can’t stop him.  You can only hope to contain him.

4. For the messages you are trying to control, you need to understand social media is not posting something once a day and never going back to view the comments or looking at it the next day when you sign in to post another message.  Social media is not loading up Hootsuite on Monday and never participating in the conversation.  (And if Hootsuite is your only portal to social media, I’d suggest shutting it down now.)  Social media is monitoring 24/7 or if you’re a small office, 16 to 18/7.

5. You need to understand you don’t have a private life any longer.  Can you cringe with me just imagining if that Crazy Bama Fan was your employee?  No, this isn’t a case of bad press is good press!  The press would love to run “Executive Director of CVB is Crazy Bama Fan”.  And your personal social media accounts aren’t personal either.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask Justine Sacco.  We have a cool job that allows us to experience a lot of cool things but the bad news is we don’t have a private life any longer.

Those are my initial thoughts of our working now in a NOW World.  Did I miss one or two?  Leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

Reminder: Tourism IS Economic Development

Another community leadership group has asked me to speak about tourism and it’s impact to the businesses and entities the classmates represent.  No problem.  Do it all the time and am happy to do so!  What shocked me was the coordinator’s request for me to share how tourism works WITH economic development.  In response I replied I would be more than happy to share how tourism *IS* economic development.  She seemed startled at the response and concept.

While CVBs / DMOs are fighting for our relevancy and possible existence, here we are still with some at square one: what we do impacts the community economically and thus, we – tourism – IS economic development.  I know I am preaching to the choir but for the sake of reminding us, here’s in part what I plan to share with them…

1. Even Economic Development defines tourism as economic development!  In the definitions on EconomicDevelopment.net, Economic Development isabout increasing the flow of capital through the community.  They define tourism’s focus as providing services to pleasure travelers and increasing the flow of capital, especially in the form of money, into the places (the communities) they visit. By definition, tourism IS economic development.

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2. DMAI’s CDME courses puts it this way… the temporary movement of people (TOURISTS) to destinations outside of their normal place of work and residence, the activities undertaken en route to an during their stay at these destinations and the facilities / services created to cater to their needs (TOURISM), which leads to economic impacts generated by these activities (TOURISM INDUSTRY).

3. It ain’t just hotels, restaurants and attractions… plumbers fix the toilets at hotels… restaurants deposit money in banks, dry cleaners clean uniforms worn by attraction associates, the gal that cuts my hair has to make someone in the tourism industry look good, printers print promotional material, real estate agents sell houses to hotel employees, car dealerships sell cars to amusement park employees… need I go on?  Those are just the easy ones!  Those amusement park employees put gas in their cars – gas comes from oil – all you oil drillers and refinery workers, we welcome you as members of the tourism industry!

4. Just look at the numbers…  Domestic travelers spent $7.2B in Oklahoma in 2012 making tourism the 3rd largest industry.  Kansas boasts $8.3B in expenditures in 2011.  Your state probably has similar reports to Oklahoma and Kansas.  The US Travel Association has numerous research reports outlining travel’s impact on the economy.

5. But sometimes a simple statement can summarize points better than all the above…Chris Thompson, President and CEO of Brand USA put it this way at the DMAI Convention this past July: There is nothing about economic development that doesn’t begin with a visit.

Take pride!  What you do is important to the community!  You / we ARE economic development!

Thanks for reading!

Kansas Tourism Conference Summary

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The Kansas Tourism Conference theme was Capitalizing on Tourism.  (The conference was held in the Kansas capital Topeka.)  The sub-theme might as well have been Getting Back to Basics.  Roger Brooks opened the conference with a two-part full morning general session sharing Deadly Sins and the New Age of Tourism, Jerry Henry provided guidance on doing research on a shoestring budget, representatives from the state revenue office gave a transient guest (hotel/motel/bed) tax 101, and the state tourism office shared their research and strategy the next fiscal year.

No fireworks.  No glamour.  “Just” a back to basic conference packed with information.  The top nuggets are offered in this month’s 5 in Five:

1. Arguably Roger Brooks’ key takeaway was the command to “jettison the generic”.   All too often we want to present our destinations as attractive to every audience – young, old, rich, poor, family, single, etc.  What we wind up with is a very generic ad that doesn’t attract anyone.  While he didn’t present them, I reflected on Roger’s 40 Overused Words and Phrases to Avoid in Destination Marketing.  Review the list here and then count how many of them are in your ads and publications.

2. Roger suggested 80% of people use the internet before they buy.  While I have seen that number as low as 60% and as high as 95%, regardless it’s a reminder that consumers are using the internet more and more.  Based on that, Roger suggests 45% of a destination marketing budget should be spent on the web/digital/social.  (In case you’re wondering about the other 55% – 20, PR/media; 20, traditional advertising; 10 collateral; and 5 outdoor or trade shows.)

3. Did you know 70% of all spending takes place after 6pm?  I’ve never heard this but Roger sharing it opened a lot of eyes and changed a lot of paradigms as we were challenged to thing about how we should create – or reschedule – events to after 5pm.  Sure it means retail outlets and workers of the events don’t get home to 9pm or later, but want to attract the most spenders?  Start after 5pm.  Our communities’ farmer’s markets are Wednesday mornings.  Yep, a lot of people working at that time.

4. Clearly a testament to the quality of Roger Brook’s presentations when four of the five aha’s are from him, but I appreciated when he stated cities and towns should not hang their hat on a festival or event.  What about the other 364 days (or 51 weekends) of the year?  I reflected on a time I was driving to a meeting in beautiful southwest Oklahoma.  Outside Idabel was a billboard welcoming travelers to the Home of the Dogwood Festival.  The festival is the first Saturday of April.  I was passing through weeks after.  I instantly thought “there isn’t any other reason to visit for the next 50 weeks!?”  (When in fact there is a lot to do in Idabel and McCurtain County.)

5. The last takeaway isn’t going to help your marketing plan or provide any ROI.  It’s merely professional development.  Developer Jack DeBoer welcomed the attendees at the Statehouse and provided sage advise from his book Risk Only Money.  The best was he shared if he had it to do all over again, he would listen more.

Thanks for reading.