Storytelling used to be simple. Not long ago, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) were the primary source of destination promotion, but as a Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) study (including more than 327 DMOs) has reported, the top-down, broadcasting approach to storytelling is shifting toward consumer engagement.
Today’s storytelling and content distribution is fragmented. DMOs face challenges from online travel agencies (OTAs), online review sites, Google Trips/Destinations, the billions of people using social media platforms – everyone that has a means of producing content online. Even Louis Vuitton produces city guides. The Internet has created diverse tribes of people who connect based on their passions.
“We have entered a period of unlimited choice online […] embracing niches is what wins.”
-Phocuswright CEO Philip Wolf
How can your DMO best spend its time and money to have the maximum impact on its potential visitors?
Now that consumers have unlimited choice, an effective destination content strategy will disseminate content across these fragmented niches. Destinations need to adjust their roles to become content stewards for their stakeholders, instead of content producers for the masses.
Integrate earned media into your content strategy
This new role requires a content strategy that includes a blend of paid, owned and earned media. Traditionally, destinations have focused on paid and owned media by producing brochures, billboards, TV commercials and websites. Earned media represents a move into this new era that includes online word of mouth and harnessing social proof, focusing on storytelling that is based on the quality and shareability of a visitor’s experience.
Earned media also creates an automatic emotional connection to the content. When your friend shares an experience with you, you’re more likely to be invested in that travel experience, because it comes from your friend. It’s difficult for marketers to manufacture that connection with paid and owned content, but earned content does that automatically.
Think about it from the visitor’s perspective. The last time you booked a trip, where did you go to research your destination? Did you visit TripAdvisor, take a friend’s recommendation, or did you go to the destination’s website? DMOs need to think about how earned media affects potential visitors at many touch points along the customer journey, as recent research has shown that “some consumers visit up to 38 sites before booking travel.”
Is your content strategy evolving with consumer behaviour?
Destinations are beginning to rise to the challenge. Two forward-thinking destinations, Tourism Australia and Destination British Columbia, are adapting to the shift in consumer behaviour with an approach that integrates earned media.
Since 2011, Tourism Australia has leapt forward with the power of earned media by turning its online fans into brand ambassadors, curating user-generated content (UGC) and making its visitors the heroes of the destination’s story. Crowdsourcing photography is just one element of a strategy that has helped increase visitation and awareness.
Destination British Columbia (DBC) also orchestrates a robust earned-media strategy using social media platforms, and has gone one step further by focusing on improving visitor experiences at the operator level. The better the experiences, the better the destination stories will be. In partnership with Destination Think, DBC has provided tourism operators education that helps them create remarkable, shareable experiences designed to increase word-of-mouth promotion in the destination.
Where will your investments have the biggest impact?
You need to critically think about your investment in content. The content that a DMO produces still has a role today, but destinations must include earned media, or word of mouth, in their content strategy.
Here’s a final thought experiment. What would be a greater loss for your destination: Suddenly losing all of your destination’s TripAdvisor reviews overnight, or seeing your own website disappear?
Are you developing your destination’s content strategy? Destination Think has helped many destinations as a unique partner in planning and execution. To learn how to turn your visitors into your best marketers, contact us today.
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