Destination Marketing & Brand Building: Let's Collaborate
As founder & editor of Best Cultural Destinations (BCD), I have had the privilege of reporting on the culture of more than 25 countries. BCD's tag line is "People Are Culture. Connecting is the Destination" and a human-centric perspective has been my guiding philosophy for more than three decades in the realms of journalism, brand marketing and corporate communications.
My progressive 25+ year career blends a passion for travel and cultural heritage with expertise in brand building, public relations, story-telling, writing, editing, interviewing and coaching. My credentials are diversified: a corporate career as the founding member of PR departments for four major financial services firms; an extensive collection of bylines as a published travel writer for mainstream mass-market media; and a portfolio of personal history projects, including serving as ghost-writer for three book-length memoirs.
BCD has a process that helps you define your locale's brand, and create a thoughtful, compelling and effective program to market that brand. Here are the concepts that guide our approach:
If you are too close to something or too removed, it's hard to clearly see the obvious. And, while you know your destination best, you may not be familiar enough with the tastes of the audience you are trying to reach to craft a marketing plan that will actually resonate with that constituency. BCD can give you an insightful, detached, & objective analysis as a professional, unbiased outsider.
If you seek to attract visitors from the U.S., I know what my fellow Americans are looking for in a travel experience and can advise you on how to create a strategy to market your unique culture in a way that will resonate with a U.S. audience.
It's important to have a complete picture of what travelers will experience at your destination, and a realistic understanding of both your destination's strengths and vulnerabilities--to be able to capitalize on both. Understood correctly and packaged properly, even undeveloped areas can represent potential tourism opportunities. Prioritizing what's most compelling and the best value proposition can be challenging amidst conflicting agendas and a lack of infrastructure. BCD can clarify and distill objectives that are realistic and achievable, and identify the optimum outcome for all concerned.
Since the days of Pythagoras, philosophical methods of arriving at the truth of a matter include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. BCD can guide destinations through a process that elicits and articulates the authentic nature, meaningful values and practical realities of their locale.
Your voice is one of the most unique and memorable aspects of your very essence. Yet we are often very unaware of how we manifest this singular trait. How do you discern the authentic voice of your destination? First, define what your destination is not. After stripping away the trendy, the clutter, and the superfluous, the real spirit of your destination is revealed. Then hold that up to the light. What is the personality, style, and point of view that defines your destination? What are the distinctive and unique characteristics that differentiate your locale? What are the flavors, scents, textures, mood, pace, atmosphere that best embody its aura? As a destination manager, to be its best advocate, you need to recognize its distinctive voice in order to let it sing.
BCD can offer guidance on creating a marketing plan that will not only build a business, but will do so in a way that is mindful of your bottom line and yields results that are actually meaningful. What are themes that are sustainable and yet offer growth? Is reaching 100k Twitter followers going to translate into actual visitors? Who do you need to build relationships with? What networks can you leverage? Where do you need to be original, and in what cases does it make more sense to adopt approaches that have proven successful elsewhere?
In this age of overtourism, it is more important than ever that destination marketers design promotional campaigns that are sustainable. Volume tourism is not good for the local communities hosting visitors, and it is a turn-off for travellers. Whether yours is an emerging or well-established destination, your strategy needs to be based on meaningful messaging and outreach.
Promotional partners and the content they create are a reflection of the values your destination represents. While it is certainly true that a picture is worth a thousand words, destinations that rely heavily on Instagram to tell their story are selling themselves short. All destinations have rich histories and cultures, with nuances and subtleties that deserve to be presented as part of your marketing mix.
If you want drive-by, short-term visitors who are unlikely to return, then IG is a good marketing strategy. If you want to build relationships with thoughtful discerning visitors who are seeking immersive experiences, and will spend their tourism dollars accordingly, then you need to create promotional content that speaks to that type of traveler.
Just as culture encompasses both science and art, so does strategy. BCD defines culture as how we individuate, identify, create, communicate and connect. These action verbs are also the drivers of a thoughtful, comprehensive and integrated blueprint, one that serves as the foundation for a solid and artful destination marketing campaign.
Once your big picture plan is in place, you need to address the practicalities. How do you involve the community in branding their destination? What policies need to be created and implemented? What groundwork needs to come first in terms of infrastructure, training, signage, communications? Who are your cultural standard-bearers? How are you going to inspire visitors to spend time not just in the best-known of your locales, but to also visit off-the-beaten path venues? BCD can offer a framework for constructing a tactical plan to market your destination, based on case studies of successes and failures, and an audit of your strengths and vulnerabilities.
There is nothing that reaches and draws people in like a good story--one with a plot, and a clear beginning, middle and end. That's true whether you are developing the over-arching story of your destination's brand, or the individual human stories that bring that brand to life. To connect with potential visitors, your destination needs to present its history, people, culture, and environment as characters in a best-selling epic--all inter-woven for maximum impact, to ensure that memories of a trip are destined to be a classic that is returned to time and again. Let us help you craft your marketing masterpiece!
With a background that includes a 25-year corporate career and more than a decade with Wall Street firms, I understand that a successful business enterprise is one that not only builds a brand and a loyal following--but is profitable. I have created award-winning campaigns that have earned PR Week's First Place Award for Small Corporate Communications Team of the Year, and was named one of five finalists for PR Professional of the Year; New England Publicity Club's First Place Bell Ringer Award for public affairs campaign, among many other awards. Management of companies for whom I have worked have directly credited my efforts to increased stock price and growth in assets. BCD is committed to getting meaningful and quantifiable results.
Every person and place has tremendous beauty, character, meaning, value and wisdom to offer the world. We all need champions who can see our highest potential, and help give it the light of day. The thread throughout my wide range of interests is an endless fascination with people’s stories. I have an abiding passion for helping others to “connect the dots,” engaging them in a process to discover what makes them unique and discern the value their experiences can offer others. I consider it a privilege to work with individuals and organizations to find their voice, as well as identify ways in which to let it sing.