Four tips to conquer your frustration when social apps get an overhaul.

July 28, 2022

When a social media app does a major overhaul of its format and features, frustration ensues.  Most marketers go through six stages of emotional grief:  anger, resentment, resistance, resignation, petulance, and… eventually… acceptance.  This is ESPECIALLY true of DIY or “one man band” marketers, who are drowning in general marketing tasks and have little time to learn the new rules of the game in one particular specialty.

Instagram is on a path to emulate TikTok, and even though it’s been a rocky start, they are committed to getting there. Twitter is rolling out a “notes” feature, which lets you tweet long-form content.  YouTube Shorts was launched in 2021 and yet many brands have been slow to tap its potential (even though the platform gets an average of 15 billion daily views).

A blond woman in a blue dress holds her head in frustration over the latest social media app overhauls.

For marketers, changes like that can be utterly exhausting.  Sure, if you’re an Instagram marketer (for example), and that’s ALL you do… you’ll dive in immediately and figure out how to harness all the new opportunities.  But if managing a brand’s Instagram account is only one of your 100 diverse responsibilities, a dramatic overhaul of the app is a roadblock that can tank your productivity and wring you out emotionally.

Resentment and resistance can only be indulged for so long before results start to suffer.  So give yourself a brief period to pout and then figure out how to embrace the changes in a way that works best for you.

And if you’re NOT a social media specialist whose entire job is to immerse yourself in these apps, here are four tips to help you get past your frustration when social media apps do an (annoying) overhaul:

  1. Divide & Conquer: There are two things contributing to your exhaustion.  One is figuring out what the new features are and if they’ll benefit you, and two is learning how to use them.  Both things take time, which is likely in short supply for you.  So, don’t do it all at once…research first, worry about learning the skills later.  The world won’t end if you don’t adopt the new features quickly.  In fact, if social media is only a fraction of what you do, your presence isn’t likely to be that robust and so your audiences won’t be expecting cutting-edge marketing here from you anyway.  Take your time.  It’s ok.
  2. Do Research:  The best thing about the internet is that someone, somewhere will have written a helpful article within a day of the overhaul.  You can find summaries of what’s changed, how to use the new features, and why they’re useful (or not).  A Google search for things like “Instagram update” or “Twitter Notes feature” (or whatever) should bring you to the latest articles the day overhauls are announced.  Wait a few days and “how to” articles are bound to follow.  You can also check sites like Social Media Today and Search Engine Journal.
  3. Create and Use a Test Account:  Part of the emotional frustration you feel comes from worrying you’ll screw up and not use the new features correctly…and your audience will see it.  This is where having a secret “test account” comes in handy.  Setting up a second account on a channel that’s private, with only you and a few friends/colleagues as the audience, is an easy way to play with all the new features until you get comfy with them.
  4. Watch and Learn:  You may not have the bandwidth to do EVERYTHING a social media app allows you to do, but you can certainly cherry pick features that make sense for you.  So, watch what other accounts do and try to recreate them in your test account.  This means you may need to follow more than just your local or regional competitors, because if they’re in the same time-poverty boat as you, then you won’t learn much by watching their accounts.  Follow BIG brands, that are bound to have expert social media teams using the latest cool stuff.

And above all, relax.  I know it’s frustrating when overhauls like this disrupt your routine.  Suddenly things you finally learned how to do efficiently are no longer efficient to do.  It’s annoying as hell.  But social media apps will continue to evolve constantly…it’s just the nature of that marketing medium.  So if you’re going to have a presence on those channels, this is a necessary evil.

Just remember:  It’s perfectly OK if your social media marketing isn’t robust because you’re spread too thin.  As a marketer, you have to make choices…and as long as you’re choosing to be robust in OTHER areas that bring you a strong ROI, it’s fine for social media to get less attention.  In fact, we flagged that as #17 in our list of Top 20 Tips for Tourism PR & Marketing Agency Clients.  It’s worth a look.

Because really, at the end of the day, success in marketing is about how much time you can spend on it.

What’s a “newsworthy” animal experience in tourism?

June 20, 2022

In our role as PR counselors, we’re often asked how to make things newsworthy, and tourism animal experiences are no exception.  It’s a valid question because the answer requires more than just adding discounted zoo tickets to a hotel stay to create a package.  To be newsworthy, there must be something extraordinary, unique, unexpected, or timely about it.

Before I review some examples to illustrate the point, let’s just be clear on this:  being “newsworthy” in ANY subject is not easy, nor is it often achieved passively.  You have to pursue it deliberately, and in most cases jump through some hoops to make it happen.  Proactive investments are usually required, whether financial, creative, or both.  Risk – often high risk – is usually involved.  And a thoughtful runway of time and planning is key.

This means that, as a tourism marketer or owner/operator, you must have both vision and patience if you want to create concepts that are newsworthy.

And these folks did.

Here are four illustrative examples from around the world of newsworthy animal experiences in tourism:

Jamala Wildlife Lodge

This hotel is set within the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra, Australia. And by “set within,” I mean the accommodations are organically nestled into the entire experience, not a stand-alone hotel that happens to be located on the grounds.  Rooms and suites offer exclusive viewing perches, or share glass walls with animal habitats, allowing guests unrestricted viewing from the privacy of their own space, like so:

A woman taking a bubble bath while watching tigers prowling on the other side of a glass wall is a highly newsworthy tourism animal experience at Jamala Wildlife Lodge.

 

From jungle bungalows to giraffe treehouses and rooms that put guests up close and personal with sharks, meerkats, capuchin monkeys and more… it’s no wonder the website prominently features a “join the waitlist” option.

What elements make this a newsworthy tourism animal experience?

  • The financial and architectural investment to create unique accommodations that offer rare 24/7 access to animals.
  • Only a small handful of hotels like this in the world provide such an atypical experience.
  • Dramatic, unexpected photos/video to promote the experience.

 

The Biosphere at Treehotel, Sweden

The entire concept at Treehotel is extraordinary and newsworthy… a collection of dramatic, high-design treehouses distinctively different from each other.  But one – The Biosphere – takes your breath away both visually and experientially:

A photo of a hotel room suspended in the air from a tree, adorned with 340 birdhouses on the outside is a newsworthy tourism animal experience available at The Biosphere at Treehotel in Sweden.

 

Adorned with 340 birdhouses attached to its exterior, guests enjoy a front row seat to some of the most spectacular birdwatching possible.  The Biosphere’s design is meant to protect and foster the local bird population.  But lordy, it manages to be a showstopper in the process.

What elements make this a newsworthy tourism animal experience?

  • Well, 340 birdhouses to start (duh). Pretty sure it’s the only accommodation in the world with THAT distinction.
  • It’s visually arresting, and photos of it stop people in their tracks, even when mindlessly scrolling on social media.
  • The bold, complex design earns news attention for both its financial and creative investments.

 

Caiman, A Brazilian Ecotourism Retreat in the Pantanal

The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland, and its 42 million acres spans across Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay.  Caiman Ecological Refuge, with 18 lodge rooms and two private villas, is within the Pantanal in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul.  The 150 miles to get there from the airport are fraught with dirt roads that have no internet or GPS access, but it’s worth the drive because this:

A photo of a jaguar with mouth wide open, showing sharp teeth, is part of the newsworthy tourism animal experience guests can have at Oncafari and the Caiman Ecological Refuge in Brazil.

 

One of Caiman’s conservation partners, Onçafari, is dedicated to the conservation of once-endangered and now near-threatened jaguars with research, protection, education, and repopulation.  Guests can go out with guides to learn more about these elusive animals through up-close interaction.  Nocturnal guided exploration is also an option for those feeling brave.

What elements make this a newsworthy tourism animal experience?

  • The confluence of the Pantanal, jaguars, and deeply meaningful conservation efforts.
  • The Caiman Ecological Refuge itself, which offers guests education and interaction with many other options for sustainability education…from livestock ranching to conservation projects for endangered and illegally trafficked birds.
  • The remote location. There’s no convenient airport shuttle and no public transportation.  You need a special kind of car that can take the dirt roads or a turbo-prop aircraft to get there.  Basically… you have to really WANT to get there.

 

Natural Habitat Alaska Bear Camp

It’s true there’s no shortage of “bear viewing” experiences in the tourism industry, especially in British Columbia and Alaska.  So it takes an unusual one to stand out.  Once again, we lean into the “hard to get to” element here.  With Natural Habitat, you fly in a private bush plan over volcanoes, glaciers, and icefields to get to this remote Bear Camp:

An aerial view of the Natural Habitat Adventures Bear Camp, which is a highly newsworthy tourism animal experience.

 

The weatherproof tent cabins are surprisingly designed for comfort, with climate control, lighting, hard floors and a solid door.  It’s not glamping…but it certainly ain’t “roughing it.”  The three days you spend at the camp gives you extraordinary up-close access to Alaskan brown bears with experienced Expedition Leaders who both educate and safeguard you.  This is no “quick tour to a viewing platform” so you can take a selfie and prove you were there.  This is a full-on bear immersion.

What elements make this a newsworthy tourism animal experience?

  • The remote location. Any place “only accessible by plane or boat” already piques media interest.  The harder one must work to get there, the more interesting it becomes.
  • The layout and design of the Bear Camp. Just one spectacular aerial photo (as shown above) is enough to capture a traveler’s imagination and interest.
  • The collaboration with World Wildlife Fund (WWF). There’s no denying that such respected brand recognition adds credibility to the experience.

These four experiences aren’t all newsworthy for exactly the same reasons, but two things are certain with all of them:

  1. They’re not “news-washing,” which is when a business tries to put a slick bow on something to make it seem newsworthy, without making the under-the-hood investment needed to give the angle true, credible substance. When a program, package, or experience focuses more on “looking good” than “being good”… a credible journalist can sniff that out in a heartbeat, and it’s a turnoff.
  2. They all have extraordinary photo/video opportunities to help tell their story…and the business has invested in capturing the BEST photography/footage at likely a hefty cost to them.

Investing in “hero shot” photography is essential to developing a newsworthy story, as you can see with these tourism animal experiences shared here.  Journalists NEED photography, and it’s only natural that they’d want to use ones that tell the story visually, in just one glance…and that cut through the clutter to get people’s attention.

For more tips on this crucial news element, see these tips on the secret to a great tourism photo.

Save time with the proper use of the email cc.

June 20, 2022

A meme poking fun at excessive "reply all" responses, as a lesson in how to save time with the proper use of the email cc.

Proper use of the email cc can save you tons of time and aggravation.  It’s a useful tool, but its power has been diluted by misuse in the workplace.  Here’s how to redefine your relationship with the email cc and give your productivity a boost.  The tips below will help.

First of all, why should you care about this?  An email cc seems like such an insignificant thing in the wide landscape of productivity and time management techniques.  And yet, proper use can:

  • Reduce unnecessary inbox clutter.
  • Reduce concentration distractions.
  • Free up mental bandwidth for other things.

It may seem like taming cc habits will only save you a few minutes a day, but in reality it’s more than that.  If you cc or get cc’d a lot – and I’m affectionately looking at you, tourism organizations, with your 74+ “necessary” stakeholders who regularly share information – you could face unnecessary distractions of 30-60 minutes a day.  You need to get that time back.  Just think about how many times someone has “replied all” just to say “OK!” or “Thanks!”…and you stopped what you were doing to read it.

Most of us have lost our way on the original intent of the cc:  it’s simply an efficient, passive way to inform people who are tangentially involved in the subject, without having to take an extra step.  (Note for all you young folk:  “cc” stands for “carbon copy,” which originates from the pre-computer days.  We had to type things on a typewriter and could put a piece of carbon between two sheets of paper to make a second copy simultaneously as we typed. Ah, the Dark Ages.)

However, the email cc isn’t always used solely for its simple, original intent.  Today, it can be a ridiculously complex concept fraught with psychological nuances, like being weaponized to prove a point, annoy, intimidate, or – yikes – tattle on others.

Tame the aggravation tail whip caused by email cc’s with these five practical tips:

  1. If you require a response from someone, they go in the “to” field. This is super important. Don’t put these folks in the cc field because it creates ambiguity and dilutes the accountability of who should respond.
  2. Anyone you don’t require a response from, they go in the “cc” field.
  3. If you’re cc’ing a bunch of people and you want to prevent unnecessary responses from them (because perhaps THEY don’t realize that when you cc someone, they’re not required to respond), lead with some version of “Those cc’d here, this is just an FYI. No need to respond.”
  4. If you’re often cc’d on emails that are unnecessary, respond only to the sender and say some version of “thanks for keeping me in the loop but I don’t need to be cc’d because (this).” “This” being the reason why… like you don’t need the play-by-play as it unfolds, you just need the punchline.  Or that topic isn’t really a focus on your radar.
  5. Sometimes, a more effective way to share your information with those tangentially involved is to send the original email without a cc, and then forward it with a message to the tangential folks. Psychologically, it can take the burden off them of feeling like they need to respond “because everyone’s watching.”

These tips will definitely help you save time and regain the proper use of the email cc.  But you can’t control how others tend to approach being a cc sender or recipient in their own lives.  So giving clear direction on whether or not they should respond to you – and when you personally should/shouldn’t be cc’d – will significantly streamline communications and cut down on YOUR email waste.

Yes, these seem like small things, but they actually add up to have an impact on your time.

It’s funny… we rarely think about how or why we use such long-standing digital communication tools like the email cc.  We often just use them out of habit, without deliberate purpose.  And so things become unwieldy and messy and we just keep allowing it to happen.  For other tips on digital communication bloopers that may be sabotaging your effectiveness, productivity, or success, check out this excellent book Digital Etiquette:  The Future of Good Manners.

And – cc’ing aside – to improve the quality of your emails overall, check out these five opening lines that sabotage your email’s success. Number one?  “I hope you are well.”

How an understaffed tourism operation can avoid disappointing guests.

May 23, 2022
A picture that shows the legs of people waiting in a long line, which is something understaffed tourism operations need to avoid to prevent disappointing guests.

Is this going to be the line at your check-in desk this summer?

How can an understaffed tourism operation avoid disappointing its guests?  This is the challenge facing the tourism industry right now, especially with the busy summer season approaching.  Hotels, airlines, attractions, tour companies, destinations, restaurants and more… all are bracing for a hot mess of substandard guest service this summer.

This timing is unfortunate, though.  It’s a cruel joke by the travel gods to plague the industry with unprecedented staffing issues just when travelers are coming back in droves.  They’re eager to shed the restrictive chains that have bound them for the past two years.  They want MORE – freedom, choices, amenities, pampering – while you’re trying to figure out how to even deliver your bare minimum experience with LESS.

Sadly, this is a recipe for disappointment.  And negative reviews.  And social media complaints that need to be managed.

There’s no magic bullet to solve this.  Sure you can offer pay that’s double (or more) what everyone else is paying.  But that will obliterate your bottom line (and set a risky precedent), so it’s not a reasonable solution.

But you can’t just pull the covers over your head and let chaos take its course.  Be proactive with these three tips that will help an understaffed tourism operation avoid disappointing its guests:

Training & Communication

I was in line at the pharmacy recently and the line behind me was growing at an alarming rate while the sole staff person worked with a customer on a tangled issue.  She never looked at the line and never said a word to us.  I could feel the fuming and resentment building behind me and hear the muttered complaints and huffy breaths.  After 20 minutes, it felt like there was going to be a mutiny.

All she had to do was look up and smile every once in a while and say “Folks, I’m so sorry for the wait but I’m the only one here today and I need to give each one of you the attention you deserve when it’s your turn.  Thanks for your patience.”  That would have diffused 90% of the frustration.

The moral here is… train your people to diffuse frustration.  Don’t leave them unprepared to handle difficult guests or situations.  Your team should be fully aware of how challenging this summer is likely to be, and you can’t send them into this battle unarmed.  They need clear and practical training for handling complaints, lack of service/amenity availability, slow service, supply chain issues, and more.  Help them to not fear it and not ignore it.  Give them the communication tools they need to address these situations before they become irreversible nightmares for you.  And reward them when they deliver.

Sweeten Pain Points

Ski resorts plagued with unavoidably long lift times on peak days often provide entertainment, hot cocoa, and other fun distractions to make the wait more bearable for skiers.  This is precisely the concept you need to deploy this summer.

Based on your staffing shortages, you’re likely able to predict where the trouble spots will be and when they’ll occur.  Have a plan ready.  True, in some cases (like the ski resort example) you might need to devote a staffer (from the already depleted team) to implement the plan, but focusing that precious resource to the challenge is a smart strategy. Stunting frustration before it can build will enable guests to be forgiving in other areas where you have less control.  Otherwise frustrations just keep mounting until diffusing them is impossible.

So whether it’s surprising guests with a refreshment cart during long lines, giving a discount or complimentary item for slow room or table service, or providing entertainment where none was expected, be proactive. Have solutions and plans ready to go.  And empower your staff – with training and guidelines – to address such problems on the spot.

Choose Where to Make an Impression

I vividly remember the time (pre-COVID) when I was at the Wequassett Resort & Golf Club on Cape Cod two weeks after Labor Day.  Knowing that such resorts often employ high school and college kids during the summer – and now they were back at school – I was prepared for moderate service levels.  Imagine my surprise when a staffer made the rounds at the pool to polish guests’ sunglasses!  That was completely unexpected and impressed the hell out of me.

This season, hospitality operations need to apply a critical lens to the services and amenities they usually offer and say, “What guest touchpoints make the biggest impression and how can we protect them at all costs?  Or at the very least, modify them so they STILL make an impression without fumbling?”  If you can’t do everything, don’t bother trying or you’ll just do everything poorly.  Better to choose some things that get your full attention and do them flawlessly.

This means your entire staff needs to understand where the priorities are, so everyone knows where corners can’t be cut.  So once again, clear and direct communication with your staff is essential.

The bottom line is that there’s no simple way to solve this problem.  It’s not easy for understaffed tourism operations to avoid disappointing guests.  But proactively addressing the situation with a plan and training your staff to be prepared will help mitigate the damage.  It might even win you some loyal guest ambassadors.

And by the way, the solutions don’t always have to cost money or require a full staff.  These 10 Unexpected (and Fabulous) Tourism Guest Service Stories will give you some inspiration.

What’s the best way to reengage email subscribers?

April 4, 2022

If a segment of your subscribers isn’t EVER opening your emails, it’s time to get them to reengage or…what?  You’ll kick them off the list?  A strong ultimatum (see below) can indeed be one of the best ways to inspire reengagement among email subscribers.

But lordy, that sounds harsh.  And on the surface, it also seems like it would hurt YOU more than it would hurt them.  They clearly won’t miss you, but your list size decreases.  Shouldn’t your goal always be to make your list as big as possible?

No, actually.  It shouldn’t.  Your goal should be to have a healthy list with as many engaged subscribers as possible.  Subscribers who never open your email – for whatever reason – are hurting your overall email program’s success.

That’s not just my opinion…it’s a fact.  If you’re skeptical of that fact, then before proceeding down to the real purpose of this article, pop over and read this article from HubSpot. They do a brilliant job of explaining why you should prune your email list regularly and the steps to make that happen.

But that’s not why we’re here.  We already KNOW that you should prune your list.  The question is…what’s the best way to reengage email subscribers before you take the drastic step of booting them from your list?

When faced with that challenge, you have one laser-focused goal at hand:  getting folks who always ignore your emails to open just ONE of them.  This will determine their fate.  If they open it (or them, if you’re doing a reengagement series), they stay.  If they don’t, they go.

If your emails are not being opened because they’re going to spam and subscribers just never see them, ultimately those subscribers should be removed from your list.  Any reengagement email you send will also go to their spam, so no matter how provocative or seductive your bait, they won’t bite.  Cut them loose.

But the rest of the never-openers?  THAT’S the high-potential pond where your bait matters.  These folks signed up for your email at some point, but they’ve become apathetic toward you:  not disenchanted enough to unsubscribe, but not interested enough to open anything you send.  They’re in “engagement limbo.”  And if you can jolt them into opening just one email, you instantly increase your list’s health AND inspire them to care about you again.

So here’s the million dollar question:  how can you successfully deliver that jolt?

Grabbing the attention of these apathetic recipients relies exclusively on the email’s subject line.  It’s the only tool you have to influence their behavior in these circumstances.  If the subject line doesn’t grab them enough to open it, the email’s content doesn’t matter.

Reengagement subject lines (and their corresponding body content) generally fall into one of three categories:  gentle nudge, rewarding lure, or strong ultimatum.  Which one/s you should use (or whether you should combine them as a series) depends on your brand’s personality, the transactional nature of your business relationships, and how determined you are to stringently prune your list.

Gentle Nudge

This is some version of “we miss you, where have you been?”  It’s a subtle tactic with no hard bite, but it could work with subscribers who are only mildly apathetic.  You could give this tactic a better chance by personalizing the subject line: “Joan, we miss you…where have you been?”  The content in the email body may or may not contain additional lures/rewards to inspire clicks (a special discount, time-sensitive offer, etc.).  But the overall vibe of this approach is soft and subtle, gently reminding them that they once pursued an email relationship with you and why they should stay in that relationship.  It’s often used as the first volley in series of reengagement tactics.  If they respond to this, there’s no need to pursue them with further measures.

Rewarding Lure

This is some version of “bribing” subscribers to reengage.  That sounds severe (and desperate, if we’re being honest), but engaged email subscribers are precious marketing assets.  It’s perfectly reasonable for you to trade something in exchange for wooing them back to caring.  Plus, if you give them a special offer (discount, value-add, etc.) that inspires a purchase, that’s revenue you wouldn’t have had anyway because they were previously ignoring you.

This lure has to be meaningful enough to matter, or the subject line won’t grab them.  So if you send 20% off specials to your general list all the time, this one-time offer to spark their reengagement must be significantly more appealing than that.  Again, personalization matters here to help cut through their desensitization.  “Victor, here’s 50% off just for you until (deadline).”  Don’t get hung up on the use of 50% in that example. The point is to make the offer exclusive and ultra-special, beyond the types of offers you usually share.  Free stuff, exclusive access to something, special perks and more…all can inspire that holy grail behavior you’re seeking here:  open that email.

Strong Ultimatum

This one’s not for the faint-hearted marketer, but it can be incredibly effective.  Here, you essentially threaten to remove them from the list by giving them one last chance to show you they want to stay.  You want to deliver a shocking jolt?  Human nature compels people to want what they can’t have.  So telling them they’re being removed from the list unless they deliberately request to stay is bound to grab their attention.  This tactic is the most direct and yields the most definitive action.

But be prepared, because this tactic comes with risk.  If not done with situationally-appropriate grace, you risk sparking a negative reaction/perception of your brand…whether or not they choose to stay on your list.  No one loves being threatened, so while you may get the initial result you want (they stay), you may have some branding repair work to do there.  Their affection for you may have taken a hit.

Ironically, a helpful “real life” example of this comes from HubSpot, the same folks referenced above for their brilliant explanation of how/when/why to prune email lists.  The irony is that the tactic worked, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ve been on HubSpot’s daily email list for ages and hadn’t opened one in a while.  One day, I got an email from them with this subject line:

“We’re signing off.  Here’s why…”

Of course I opened that immediately because I thought they were closing up shop (as I’m sure they intended).  Turns out, when I opened it… they were threatening to break up with ME because I haven’t been opening their emails:

 

a copy of an email that shows the best way to reengage email subscribers

 

Now, I’m a marketer and this was a marketing newsletter from a marketing company.  So I get why they did this and don’t begrudge them the tactic.  They got their “open” from me, and that was the primary goal.

But I have to admit…despite that allowance for marketing kumbaya, the email’s execution just rubbed me the wrong way.  Telling me that “my subscription habits are bigger than my capacity for reading everything” is rather obnoxious.  It seems to be accusing me of poor time management skills. Like it’s my fault for not being able to keep up with reading their emails…not their fault for sending emails whose subject lines don’t pique my interest enough to open them.

The rest of the approach in the email body is on point.  There are plenty of lures in there to catch my attention, and a nice big button that says “Re-Subscribe,” which is another emotional tactic designed to move me to action.  It’s as if I’ve already been booted from the list, and now I need to proactively do something to get back on it.  (Hilariously, this wasn’t true because I didn’t click on anything and still kept getting their emails.  Yet another thing that annoyed me – the empty threat.)

The point is…be careful how you approach the strong ultimatum tactic.  This is especially true if you’re in the hospitality business.  Threatening to kick someone off an email list because they haven’t engaged with you in a while can come across as VERY inhospitable, no matter how gracefully you word it.

Overall bottom line:  quality over quantity is always the best pursuit with email subscribers…and indeed with most marketing efforts.  For another highly illustrative example of this, check out the time we had to break up with Google because it was sending TOO MUCH traffic to our website.

20 Tips for Tourism PR and Marketing Agency Clients

March 22, 2022

a red colored lightbulb with illumination marks signifying 20 tips to help tourism PR and marketing clients get the most out of their agency.

We’ve been serving PR and marketing clients in the tourism industry for 20 years.  Big global brands.  Tiny obscure companies.  Obscenely huge budgets.  Shoestring budgets.  Individuals with personalities that range from Type A to Zen.  Doers.  Procrastinators.  Screamers.  Huggers.  Savvy marketers.  Marketing agnostics.  Marketing skeptics.  No two clients are the same…and there have been thousands of them in our history.

So, we’ve learned a LOT about what it takes for a client to get the most out of both marketing and its agency.  Here, drawn from our extensive experience, are 20 tips to help tourism clients succeed in public relations and marketing:

  1. Changing marketing goals too frequently, or lacking them completely, can only achieve short term results for your efforts. Either be ok with that or make a solid plan and stick to it.
  2. If you water down a BIG BOLD idea, adjust your expectations down from BIG BOLD results. All too often, circumstances cause a client to dilute an idea’s execution…but then expect the same powerful results associated with the original concept.  That just ain’t how it works.
  3. If you feel you have to micromanage your agency, they’re not the right match for you. Let ‘em go, even if it’s us.
  4. Positivity works magic in PR. If you have faith it will produce…it will.  If you don’t…it won’t.
  5. It helps results tremendously if your entire organization is aware of your marketing plans. Devote resources to educating and engaging them, and you’ll see a greater ROI in marketing.
  6. Make the time to collaborate with your agency. If you skip meetings, miss deadlines, and sit indefinitely on things awaiting approval, you’re only tapping around 50% of their potential.
  7. If your boss doesn’t understand marketing, won’t leave, and remains skeptical about every campaign… dude, find a new job. We’ve seen it.  It never ends well.
  8. Tourists want visuals. Invest continually in photos and videos…every itinerary, every package, every story angle.  Without them, you’re losing marketing opportunities…which means you’re losing money.
  9. If you have “marketing envy” and always wish your organization could do things as cool as your competitors (or your agency’s other clients), learn what it takes operationally to execute such things. Then decide if your organization can make it happen.  You may not be nimble enough, your pockets may not be deep enough, or the concepts may be the complete wrong match for your brand.  If your organization is not equipped for it, stop being wistful.  Invest your energy in what will work best for YOU.
  10. It’s totally OK to put some marketing initiatives on a steady low flame temporarily (or even permanently) while you focus your resources elsewhere. Just make peace with it and don’t expect them to yield big results.
  11. It is totally NOT OK to turn PR on and off completely. It’s the one marketing medium that doesn’t respond well to fits and starts.  Either do it consistently (at any flame level) or just don’t do it.
  12. Use tailored landing pages for your digital campaigns. Without them, you’re losing a ton of business.  For some organizations, this is a no brainer. For others, it’s like pulling teeth.  Every. Single. Time.
  13. If your guest service and/or guest experience is inconsistent or subpar in any way, marketing will not help change that. In fact, the more guests we drive to your door, the more money you’re going to waste.  The damage those guests will do through social media, review sites, and lack of referrals/return quietly sabotages the positive benefits that marketing brings.  And a business can’t survive on new guests alone, who are more costly to acquire than referrals/repeats.  Fix the foundation, and you’ll see marketing pay off in spades.
  14. You can’t find love on a spreadsheet.
  15. A website should be both beautiful and functional, but if you had to choose where to put more resources…choose functionality every time.
  16. Forget what we said in #15 entirely.  Stop thinking of “beauty” and “functionality” as two different things.  Together they comprise “user experience,” and if your website doesn’t deliver equally in both areas, you’re losing money.  Period.
  17. Social media is more demanding than any other marketing medium. If you want to deeply succeed here, be prepared to staff it fully and keep up with the breakneck pace of ever-evolving rules, features, and channels.  Doing set-and-forget style marketing only taps around 20% of social media’s potential.  It’s fine if you choose to do it that way in the context of your overall marketing plan.  Just expect your notable results to come from other sources.
  18. If your risk tolerance is low, then PR is not for you. Often in PR, the greatest risks yield the highest rewards, but there are no guarantees.  That’s what makes it so exciting!
  19. There’s a reason creative, clever tourism packages and programs get a ton of press and social media love. Boring things just don’t command attention.
  20. Consistent indecision will tank your marketing ROI more than making a definitive poor choice ever will. That sounds dramatic, but history generally proves it to be true.

And here’s a bonus item, since we kinda negated #15.  Be candid with your agency at all times. Issues and concerns can be overcome easily with open communication. A good partner – as all agencies should be – will welcome the candor.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the client experiences we’ve had, and every relationship has helped us grow. And it’s enabled us to help brands of all sizes achieve their marketing and business objectives.  Big shout-out to all our clients for putting their trust in us, and here’s to the next 20 years!

PR is essential in tourism marketing.

February 28, 2022

PR is an essential part of the marketing mix for tourism.  So says Redpoint, and you may think we’re biased because public relations is one of the marketing services we offer to the tourism industry.  But the facts bear out our claim, and it’s largely due to two critical benefits of PR:  reach and search.

Having been involved with tourism PR for 30 years – before the internet was even really “a thing” – I can attest that, like anything, it has always had its supporters and detractors.  Supporters tout its ability to shape and even change a brand’s image, and its success at building awareness, sparking bookings, and mitigating crisis.

Detractors, however, are most often hungry for a more tangible and immediate ROI.  Editorial coverage is never guaranteed, and even when it happens, the direct impact on sales isn’t always traceable.  Someone could read a story about your destination or hotel in The New York Times this week, but not act on it until next year.  So yeah, that story made an impression on them…but you may not be able to PROVE that story was the origin or even a contributing factor.

But while it’s true that investing in PR does require having a little faith in intangible results, social amplification and online promotion by news media reward that faith with some deeply tangible bite.  And you can see the results in your own website stats.

This is all due to the glorious PR benefits of reach and search.  Let’s take a look.

REACH

Let’s say you launch something and promote it on your own channels (email, socials, website, etc.).  Your channels only reach so wide (for example’s sake, let’s say that’s an initial audience of 300,000), and your budget only goes so far to help amplify that story.

Then a high-profile media outlet writes about your story.  And since that media outlet’s entire mission is to get visitors to its website (to attract/maintain advertising budgets with impressive web stats), it shares that story on all its social channels and in email newsletters to its subscribers.  Their initial combined audience may be in the multiple millions, but at the very least is far likely to exceed yours and certainly extends beyond it.  And if that story is picked up by dozens of media?  The amplification grows exponentially.

One Specific Example:  Last February, we helped the New England Inns & Resorts Association score a huge feature story in The Boston Globe.  It promoted “Winter Beyond Skiing” and directed readers to a landing page with packages.  The Boston Globe ran the story online, in print, through email, and on Facebook during the weekend of Feb 5-7.  Here’s what the association’s website saw as a result.

Comparing 10 days before and after Feb 5:

  • Page views to the landing page were up 226%.
  • Direct traffic to the landing page had a 488% increase in users.
  • The hotel with the lead offer in the story saw a 1,000% increase in users visiting its offer on the association’s website.
  • Overall traffic to the site saw new users up 14% and sessions up 13%.

That landing page had already existed for a month prior to that weekend.  The Boston Globe story just turned a powerful spotlight on it, helping extend its reach to both a broader and relevant audience.

Hot Tip Takeaway:  If you want to better track the impact PR is having on your overall marketing success, make use of landing pages for story angles where possible and always check your web stats for spikes after key stories run.  Not only does it underscore some of PR’s immediate and tangible results, it also could reveal useful potential media candidates for spending ad dollars wisely.  If it’s clear a media outlet’s audience finds you relevant, then consider dropping your paid ad line in that pond, where the fish like your bait.

SEARCH

In many cases, media outlets and relevant blogs are likely to have far greater success with search results than your individual business will.  This is due the way search engines like Google rank a site’s authority, which is born of everything from how frequently searches find satisfaction in their site’s search result to volume of overall users.

Search engines are notoriously secretive on their ranking cocktail ingredients.  But suffice it to say, for many types of searches, it’s far more likely that – say – a story that includes you in Travel + Leisure will appear higher in search results than your own website’s blog post.  And even if your own website ranks highly in search results for that subject, wouldn’t it be awesome if you were also mentioned in most of the items on the first three pages of search results?  In that way, a slew of different search results on the same topic will lead to YOU.

And with consistent, widespread PR outreach…they can.  Case in point:  There are plenty of hotels and regional destinations in Canada that offer cool vacations for families.  Yet, with a search done for “cool vacations for families in Canada,” none of them turn up on the first three pages of organic search results.  But look at what DOES turn up:

A page of google search results for cool family vacations in Canada.

A search results page from google showing cool family vacations in Canada.

A page of search results from google showing cool family vacations in Canada.

Parenting travel blogs, media outlets, the blogs of booking sites…they’re ranking higher in search than specific hotels or destinations, even if those places have a blog post on their websites about how awesome they are for families.

Hot Tip Takeaway:  It’s only natural to crave the BIG feature stories in PR, but don’t look down your nose at small mentions, especially in round-up articles like the ones featured in the above search results pages. Editorial stories in media outlets that highlight “the best of this” or “the coolest that” do exceedingly well in search results and could lead a ton of highly relevant visitors to your website.

The bottom line is that, with online and social amplification lending its power to the equation, PR is more essential than ever in tourism marketing.  If you’re not doing it, or doing it inconsistently, you should definitely consider exploring how it can help grow your business.  Because even if you’re not…your competitors are.

A meme showing Leonardo DiCaprio raising a cocktail glass with the text Oh you think PR is just fluff? How nice for your competitors.

Not sure where to start?  Check out our experience and give us a shout.  No strings…we’ll just talk you through it.

Four writing tips to make tourism marketing more persuasive.

January 25, 2022

If you do any form of tourism marketing – destination, hotel, cruise line, attraction, tour company, whatever – you know that your number one job is to inspire the itch to travel.  Further, you want to persuade people to travel to/with YOU.  This job is made infinitely harder by humans’ short attention spans.  You’ve only got a moment (or less) to catch their interest.  Here are four tips for persuasive tourism marketing writing, so you can leverage that precious moment.

Choose meaningful, rich descriptors that tell a story without you having to explain.

I’ll never forget this ad I saw years ago for the (former) corporate travel booking app Lola:

Ad for travel software Lola that says they help make business travel buttery smooth.

Buttery smooth?  That is the most delightful way of saying “no hassles, no mistakes, no friction, no inefficiency, and no logistical nightmares” I’ve ever seen.  It evokes a silky, luxurious feeling.  As a frequent business traveler, you can be damn sure I want all my trips to be buttery smooth.  Who wouldn’t?

If you choose words that – by their very connotation – help articulate the story you’re trying to tell, you’ll have to use far fewer of them to get your point across.  How do you find these descriptive gems?  It just takes patience and a thesaurus.  It’s worth investing the extra time to select the words that will hook your audience with a powerful image.

 

Skip the details and capture imagination first with a punchline that resonates.

The best example of this has GOT to be the marketing campaign Las Vegas, NV first introduced in 2002:

Billboard in Las Vegas that says what happens here stays here.

That single sentence says: “when you’re here, you can step outside your normal life and go wild, have fun, behave differently, be a little naughty, take a few risks, make outrageous memories, do things your friends and family would never in a million years think you would do.  And then when it’s over, you can go back to your uneventful life and we’ll keep your delicious secret.”  What happens here, stays here. says ALL THAT in just five words.

That “aspirational punchline” writing style works well in tourism marketing.  Many people use travel as a way to reset their lives, shed frustrations, experience new things, and escape tedious daily routines.  Marketing slogans used in campaigns are naturally one way to tap this style…slogans lend themselves well to punchlines.  You’ll never want to leave.  Find yourself here.  Come back new.  Paired with imagery that nods to the underlying story, this type of punchline crisply delivers the benefit you’ll experience with that journey.

But slogans aren’t the only way to leverage the aspirational punchline writing style.  Social media captions are a perfect channel for it.  I remember seeing an Instagram post a few months ago for a quintessential New England inn.  It featured a carousel of charming inn-and-surrounding-area photos…the covered bridge blanketed with fresh snow, the magical twinkling lights at night on Main Street, the horse-drawn sleigh rides, etc.  And the caption simply said:  Vacation in a snow globe.  I hate being cold, and yet suddenly I wanted to buy a pair of cute furry boots and catch snowflakes on my tongue while drinking hot cocoa wrapped in a plaid blanket during a sleigh ride.  But I read that sentence after seeing those photos and I literally pictured myself inside a snow globe.

 

Use FOMO wisely.

Fear Of Missing Out can be a huge motivator in any purchase decision, but it’s especially useful to writers in hospitality and tourism marketing.  One obvious place for inserting copy that pokes someone’s FOMO nerve is in the booking process.  Seeing that there are “only 5 rooms left” or that “47 people looked at this deal in the past hour” or that “only 2 dates remain at that price” really creates a sense of urgency.  If the person is wrestling with indecision, FOMO can nudge them over the edge.

But the booking process isn’t the only place in the travel decision-making journey where evoking FOMO is a useful writing tool. People will often play out in their minds how they’ll share an experience on social media with friends…BEFORE they’ve even booked the trip.  They picture themselves taking THAT selfie, or THAT food photo, or proving they were on THAT adventure.  Lean into that sometimes.  “Make your friends jealous.”  “We only have 10 cabanas.  Is one of them reserved for you?”  “Instagram was made for this view.”

In a more dramatic example, a restaurant in Freedom, ME puts FOMO at the very core of their entire marketing strategy.  The Lost Kitchen is an intimate seasonal restaurant that seats only 48 people per night.  And to snag one of those coveted reservations, you have to enter their annual lottery by sending in a postcard.

 

Dozens of colorful postcards sent to the Lost Kitchen restaurant requesting reservations.

The restaurant receives more than 20,000 postcards each year for those precious few seats.  Oh, and to know when it’s time to send it, you need to follow their socials and sign up for their newsletter.  FOMO marketing at its finest.  <chef’s kiss>

 

Pair words with imagery that tells most of the story.

If you look at these images of the Faroe Islands, what comes to mind?

Three dramatic images of the Faroe Islands that show rocky coastline, high cliffs, and rich greenery.

 

Using such images, they never EVER have to say things like this in their copy:  remote, peaceful, breathtaking, natural landscape, small villages, wide open spaces, the opposite of big city life, undiscovered, fresh air, enviable and memorable vacation photos, not a tourist trap, crashing surf, unspoiled, vast, and dramatic views.  I hate to say it, but they could even simply write “come visit” as the caption for these photos and it would still work.  Words can be powerful and persuasive, yes.  But in tourism, often the visuals do the heavy lifting on persuasion.  That isn’t even the official tourism account of Visit Faroe Islands and I still want to go.

While it’s true that the Faroe Islands has a built-in advantage on the dramatic imagery game, other types of visuals can lift the persuasive burden off words.  In a much less dramatic example, take a peek at Charleston, SC’s Instagram feed.  Every Wednesday brings a photo of a flower-filled window box that can be found hanging outside buildings throughout the city, using essentially the same exact caption: “Happy #WindowBoxWednesday from Charleston!”

 

Three images of Charleston South Carolina showing colorful, flower-filled window boxes outside homes.

That consistent pairing of photo-and-caption does several things.  It positions Charleston as a charming neighborhood where pleasant strolls can be taken.  It gives the impression that Charleston is awash with flowers at every turn.  It evokes the image of a welcoming and neighborly small town.

There’s something about window boxes that make a place seem more friendly and filled with personality.  A single window box does that for a single house.  So, collectively, hundreds of window boxes achieve that same goal for a destination.  And the copywriting team barely has to write a word about it.

Does it work?  You bet it does.  I’ve been dreaming about planning a trip to Charleston and – after following their Instagram for so long – it actually crossed my mind to try to go when the window boxes are at their most colorful.  And I’m not even a gardening enthusiast!

If you want to up your photography game to give your copy a better assist, see here to learn secrets of a great tourism photo.

And if you’re looking for more inspiration beyond these four writing tips to help make your tourism marketing more persuasive, here’s a handy resource:  Copywriting Examples.  Bless the gent who pulled all those examples together on one website and made all those teachable moments sortable.

The secret to a great tourism photo.

October 26, 2021

Tourism is a highly visual industry.  Photos are a key tool used to tell tourism stories, but there’s a secret behind the great ones that make the biggest impact.  Someone took the time (and often, money) to get it right.

More dramatically put:  someone resisted the temptation to use photos that were easy to get but kind of “meh” in terms of quality.  “Meh” photos serve the functional purpose of photography, but they are completely uninspiring and make no impactful impression on the viewer.  So, yeah…you have photos to put on your website.  Check that box.  But are they seducing site visitors into considering a trip?  That box stays unchecked.

Fear not, there are a whole bunch of “great” and “meh” photo examples down below.  But first…

Sucky (and Silent) Consequences of Using “Meh” Photography

When tourism businesses choose to settle for “meh” photography, it causes much heartbreak.  Throughout my career as a tourism publicist and marketer, I’ve seen:

  • A hotel client who lost a highly-desired Architectural Digest story about their opening launch because their photography wasn’t good enough. (AD wasn’t being snooty…their photography was NOT good enough.)
  • Another hotel client whose online booking conversion rate absolutely sucked…and a website audit revealed that people were leaving the site after looking at the photo gallery. (Tragic, as a photo gallery should inspire people to hit the “book now” button.)
  • A destination client who was included in a syndicated news editorial round-up…and the only one of the eight destinations included without a photo accompanying their blurb because their photo wasn’t “quite right.” (Seven destinations with glorious vibrant photos and only one with just text… which one do you think got overlooked by readers?)

But those are examples where the consequences were traceable and known.  Far more dangerous are the silent consequences of “meh” photography.  No one ever leaves your website unimpressed and without booking…and then calls you up to say, “hey, I was considering a stay at your hotel, but just wanted to let you know that the photos didn’t really sell me on the place so I just left the website without booking.”

So, the bottom line is…you don’t even know how many sales you’re NOT making because your photos are just “meh.”

But trust me.  If they’re “meh,” it’s happening.

Why Is This So Hard?

Why do so many tourism businesses settle for less-than-great photos to use in marketing?  Three common reasons.

  1. They feel it takes too much time and they don’t have the bandwidth to organize/oversee it.
  2. They don’t want to spend the money for a photographer and/or stylist.
  3. They don’t understand the difference in impact between a “good enough” photo and a “great” photo.

It’s a real head-scratcher to me, but I’ve seen clients spend $20-$30 million building a gorgeous hotel, and then fight with me about spending $20,000 on photography for the website, brochures, and socials.

In other scenarios, I get the… “My sister-in-law takes great photos as a hobby – you should see her Instagram.  So I’m just going to have her do all our photography.”

Or the… “I don’t have photos of THAT specific program even though that’s what we’re promoting, so can we just use a general photo instead?”

Or the… “These brochures are really old and our hotel rooms don’t look like that anymore, but that’s all we have so just use those at the trade show.”

To spend all that money building your business and brand, and then NOT spend the money on a professional photographer to produce photos that help you sell it?  That’s fumbling at the goal line.  And it’s sabotaging the ROI of all the money you spent on building the business itself.

What Should a Great Photo Do?

A great photo is like an assist in sports:  it should assist you to close a sale.  That assist might come in the form of (for example)…

  • An Instagram photo that stops thumbs while someone is scrolling and makes them want to explore your entire Instagram profile…and ultimately your website.
  • Photos on your website that evoke emotion, inspire a desire to visit, make them want to check pricing and logistics for a trip.
  • Photos in a magazine that arrest people’s attention as they’re flipping through the pages and make them want to read the accompanying editorial story…which hopefully makes them want to visit your website.

Here’s a great case-in-point.  Years ago, I was in Armenia with a photographer getting shots of a collection of new boutique hotels launching that year.  We had no staff with us (literally no staff – the hotels weren’t even open yet) and no stylist.  It was just her and me trudging around the countryside with tons of photography equipment.  And FYI – while I’m eager and helpful, I know zip all about being a photographer’s assistant.

Here’s what one of the hotels looked like, with a simple “point and shoot” approach.

 

A castle-like building sits beside a rushing river and in front of green mountains.

 

It DOES look like a historic castle, and you DO see it’s right next to a rushing river and nestled in the mountains.  So, it definitely gives a sense of place and is “ok.”

Here’s what it looked like when the photographer got done with it.

A nighttime view of a castle-like building with dramatic lighting, which sits beside a rushing river and in front of a backdrop of mountains. This is the secret to a great tourism photo.

 

Listen, folks.  This was NOT a simple point and shoot.  We had no cell service and no radios to communicate with each from opposite sides of the river, and crossing that river was no picnic either.  Her trying to signal to me which lights to turn on or off, which umbrellas to move slightly left or right, and could I tilt that ONE light on the side to angle more toward the patio?  No, not THAT one.  THAT one.

Getting this shot took HOURS.  Actually days, because we had weather issues intervene.

But look at those two photos.  Which one stops your thumbs while scrolling and which one makes you say “OMG that place looks breathtaking and I want to go there?”

Great photographers do more than just click a button on a camera.  They harness the power of lighting, tone, context, perspective, props, spatial relations, and emotion.  In this case, the photographer studied the situation and said, “what photo…what angle…what perspective…what styling is going to show this building in the best, most seductive, most appealing way?”  And after taking a lot of test shots from various positions at various times of day, this nighttime photo won the honor.  (Should I mention how many design and travel magazines made this photo their centerfold?)

I mean…if your sister-in-law can do all that, then by all means lets hire her.

What’s My Point?

Getting great photography isn’t easy.  It takes time, planning, and commitment.  You may need to invest in props and other items to achieve the objective… flowers, food, drinks, people, and more.  You may need to reschedule (and spend money on a wasted day) because of weather.  If you’re already open, you may need to clear entire public spaces for several hours or a day – losing revenue from paying guests who don’t have access during that time.  You may need to take a shot over and over and over and over again to get it just right.  And damn it, you definitely need a professional photographer and/or stylist to do it justice.

Yes, all that costs time and money.  But the difference between “meh” photos and “great” photos is entirely about MAKING MONEY.  Skimp elsewhere if you must.  But do not skimp on great photography.

To further illustrate the difference, here are a few examples of photos I’ve come across in my tourism work.  Some of these businesses know the secret to a great tourism photo, and some clearly don’t understand what makes an impact.

By the way, there are deliberately no business names here.  This isn’t a commentary on who’s doing it right and who’s doing it wrong.  It’s an objective look at how photos do or don’t make a worthy impact.

Everything about this charcuterie board screams “dig in.”  Lighting, color, texture, positioning.  This delicious photo was no happy accident.

A charcuterie board of food including apples, cheeses, veggies, crackers, nuts and more. This colorful, vibrant, well-light view is the secret to a great tourism photo.

 

This cocktail gets completely lost in this photo.  It’s a gorgeous color, but sitting on that similar colored surface, the vibrancy doesn’t pop as it should.  Plus the background is super distracting.  If you’re a DIY Instagrammer for your business, and just taking quick snaps like this “on the fly” for posting, at least do this:  take that glass and snap pics of it in in a few different settings, and from several angles – high, low, above, side, etc.  If you take a dozen photos of this cocktail – which can be done in just a few moments – you’ll immediately be able to spot the one that shows the cocktail off to its best advantage.

An orange colored cocktail sits on an orange colored surface.

 

Let’s talk about dramatic architectural features, such as floating pools.  We once had a client that was debuting a floating pool and they fought us like the very devil about getting overhead drone shots of it.  They didn’t have easy access to a drone and didn’t want to pay for it.  But honestly, a straight-ahead shot of a floating pool just sucks all the drama out of that super-cool architectural feature.

To illustrate, here’s a picture at another hotel of their floating pool taken from different angles.  You can see how one showcases the floating pool and in the other, it gets lost.

Left side shows photo of a large, many-windowed hotel, with a floating pool sitting in front of it. Right side shows that same floating pool at night, from an elevated perspective so the light blue of the pool glows brightly sitting inside the dark blue lake.

 

And these folks REALLY did their floating pool villas justice, ensuring their website gallery shows them from multiple angles and various times of day:

This captures the secret of a great tourism photo. A floating pool sitting on the edge of the ocean, with an attached deck that shows two lounge charis.

 

From the perspective standing on a deck looking out at the edge of a floating pool and the Indian Ocean just after sunset.

Standing on the edge of a floating pool at sunset, showing the perspective of multiple villas with their own floating pools stretching out before you. Sunset of bright orange, yellow, and purple.

From the perspective of laying in bed, looking out terrace doors to a deck with table and chairs, aqua colored floating pool, and the deep blue ocean.

 

Food shots need special attention because visuals aren’t necessarily the main sensory trigger for humans when it comes to food.  Taste, sound (sizzling, pouring, sauteing, etc.), scent, and texture all play a role in our emotional connection to food.  And that’s hard to communicate in a flat photo.

Here, capturing sugar in mid-shake on this cannoli gives more energy, life, and interest to the photo than just a static pic of a cannoli.

A person shaking powdered sugar onto a cannoli that's covered with chocolate chips.

 

But these pancakes are nearly unidentifiable in this photo.  In the quest for a close-up to show the dripping, oozing goodness, perspective gets lost here.  If you’re scrolling quickly, you can’t even tell what it is, and that super-crisp piece of bacon on the side doesn’t help… it almost looks like the pancakes are sitting on a wood shelf.  Perhaps backing up the camera to show the whole plate, and catching the moment when the chocolate syrup is being poured onto the pancakes might achieve the objective better.  But – you know what I’m going to say – try it a dozen different ways before deciding which one makes the right impact.

A close up photo of pancakes with bananas and chocolate syrup on them and a crispy piece of bacon on the side.

 

Oh, you’re taking pictures of animals?  NEVER just snap one-and-done.  You take tons of photos from multiple angles in order to get one that will stop people in their tracks.  Like this:

Picture of a baby lamb facing front and smiling.

 

And finally, these folks are rebuilding a really important and historic wall.  But this photo will stop no thumbs.  I’m sure the dude on the right won’t be pleased that his behind is on Instagram, and everyone milling around looking down at rocks doesn’t do the story justice.  A close-up of a volunteer holding up a piece of rock with a huge smile on his/her face… or better yet, faux-kissing it?… could better tell the story of the passionate volunteers involved.  Or have him/her sitting on the wall and get enough context in the shot to see “kissing the rock” and the wall itself.  Or… hey, I’ve got an idea… take a dozen different shots and see what works best.  😊

Five people standing around piles of rocks, some of which are half-formed into a stone fence.

 

So, in conclusion, please do what it takes to get great tourism photos.  There’s really no secret to capturing ones that make an impact… just spend the time and/or money to do it right.

And let me just clarify:  by “great,” I mean photos that achieve your objective of inspiring people to emotion and action.  “Great” is one of those vague words that always need clarification and shame on me for using it so liberally in this post.  See why you should be careful using that word here.

 

How to Develop Creative Tourism Marketing & PR Ideas

October 25, 2021

The tourism industry is a hotbed of juicy, creative marketing and PR ideas.  Who develops them?  Opportunists.

Opportunists are a breed of “idea people” that draws inspiration from anything and everything around them.  And, of the four breeds of idea people we cover here, these are the folks you need in your orbit for creative marketing and PR.  You don’t need to have ALL opportunists on your team, but if you don’t have at least one in your mix, you’re going to struggle in marketing.

Can folks who are NOT opportunists develop creative tourism marketing and PR ideas?  Sure.  But likely not in a steady way that makes ongoing marketing reliable and brand image consistent.

FOUR BREEDS OF IDEA PEOPLE

In my long experience in tourism marketing – working with clients from all walks of life, at organizations large and small – here are the four breeds of idea people I’ve come across:

Opportunists:  Show them anything and they’ll springboard it right into a relevant idea for your business.  They’re the people who say “what could we do with this?” a dozen times a day.  If obstacles arise as the idea takes shape in their mind, they work around them.  If the obstacles become insurmountable, they just take the idea in a different direction.  Creative idea generation is like breathing to them.  These folks are the lifeblood of creativity in marketing.

Stiflers:  They’re not opposed to ideas, but they just can’t give them room for success.  They layer on that one more thing.  Try to get each idea to achieve too many disparate goals.  Add unnecessary complexity. They won’t let ideas get off the ground until they’ve been so overthought and wrung dry that ideas ultimately fall flat when launched.  If you’ve got stiflers on your team, checks and balances are needed to be sure they don’t smother every good idea to its slow death.

Slammers:  These folks basically shoot down all ideas.  This could be driven by fear of risk or change, love of veto power, or just a tendency toward negativity that only sees the downside.  And really?  Some people just like being contrary for contrary’s sake.  Extreme Slammers can’t be reasoned with; every rationale you offer will face an objection.  If you’ve got slammers in a position of power over marketing, be prepared.  Your marketing ROI will always be super low.  Best to move them where they can’t prevent good ideas from seeing daylight.

Obliviouists:  Yeah, I made this term up, but hey…I’m a marketer.  Obliviouists (oh-bliv-ee-ists) are actually the most dangerous of the idea person breeds.  They don’t deliberately generate ideas, but nor do they actively hinder them.  They just don’t see opportunities at all.  They read stuff, watch TV, surf socials, interact with folks…and none of it ever inspires ideas.  These people may have plenty of other talents so it’s not dangerous to keep them around.  But it IS dangerous to rely on them for creative marketing and PR ideas.  They’re just not wired that way.

So, the best way to ensure your marketing is fresh, creative, and interesting is to ensure there are opportunists on your team.  Whether in-house or at an agency, these folks don’t need to be assigned ideation.  Just stand back and let them create.

How do they do it?  Listen, I’m no neuroscientist.  All I can say is:  they just do.  They watch, listen, read…and poof.  An idea is born.  Ask any opportunist how they came up with an idea and I guarantee they’ll say something like “I saw this and thought of that.”  There’s no way to explain it.  If you could, then I suppose anyone could be an opportunist.  “Just follow these 10 handy steps and you too could have big creative ideas.”  It just doesn’t work like that.

To illustrate that point, here are a bunch of marketing ideas seen out in the wild lately that definitely originated with opportunists:

 

Blue ice cream carton with pink band, showing Geico's new Scoop, There It Is ice cream with hip hop duo Tag Team and Mikey Likes It Ice Cream.

Geico made a hilarious TV commercial featuring the hip hop duo Tag Team, which transformed their 1993 hit song “Whoomp! (There It Is!)” into a song about an ice cream sundae (Scoop!  There It Is!).  The commercial was so insanely popular that some clever opportunist said: hey, why don’t we actually make and sell that ice cream flavor?  And thus, the partnership between Geico, Tag Team, and Mikey Likes It Ice Cream was born.

 

Partial painting of woman showing head and bare shoulder, an example of a creative tourism marketing and PR idea from the Vienna Tourist Board.

The Vienna Tourist Board recently launched an OnlyFans channel… you know, that social media platform that allows posts with sexually explicit content to be shown to subscribers for a fee.  Why does Vienna need such a channel?  Because the destination has tons of beautiful art that depicts nudity in its museums.  Photos of such pieces get struck from mainstream social media platforms due to censored content regulations, so some clever opportunist said:  hey, how about we make world news by being the first tourist board to launch an OnlyFans channel as a way to showcase our city’s art?

 

Pic of front and back of business card from Relief, the debt app, who uses the premise of Squid Games to promote their service.

Relief, the debt relief app, absolutely CRUSHED it with this idea, inspired by the blockbuster Netflix series Squid Games.  If you don’t know the show’s plot, people in significant debt are brought together to play children’s games in the hopes of winning a huge prize…but losers die violent, graphic deaths.  Their invitation to the games comes in the form of a business card with three simple geometric shapes on it, and a number on the back to call that lures them in. Relief put their own message on the back of its card, and the opportunist who thought of it should be given a standing ovation.

 

Four golden retriever puppies playing at the Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort in the Puppy Patch, as an example of a creative tourism marketing and PR idea.

Plenty of hotels have a dog “on staff” that guests can walk.  Many hotels also have partnerships with rescue organizations to have an adoptable dog onsite for guests to walk, and maybe take home.  Some clever opportunist affiliated with the Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort said:  hey, why do this with just one dog when we can make a newsworthy amenity/program out of it?  Behold, the Puppy Patch.  Thank you, whoever you are.  I will be petting those puppies at some point in the future.

So, the bottom line is…get some opportunists in your life if you aren’t one and don’t have access to any.  Your creative tourism marketing and PR ideas will improve greatly because of it!

Shameless plug:  Redpoint is full of ‘em.  Mount Rushmore carved into a six-foot block of cheddar cheese to celebrate President’s Day for Ripley’s Believe It or Not Times Square?  It generated the highest-ever holiday weekend sales and visitor count for the attraction. That’s some delicious opportunism right there, y’all.