Do you struggle to create meaningful collaborations in your home town/area?
I was recently asked for advice from someone who said they want to work with other businesses in their area but struggle to get people involved, and to really make a difference. They were frustrated by the negativity of some people .
I've created a lot of collaborations and marketing consortia over the last three decades. Here are a few of the lessons I've learnt.
Ignore the negative
There will always be some people who are negative, who just use your meetings as a talking shop, who put obstacles in your way or who say they'll do things and then don't. You could spend a lot of time battling them. Don't.
Just ignore them completely. Adopt a laser-like focus on things you can actually achieve yourself.
This doesn't mean that you can't all work together - you can, but not immediately. I'll come back to this later.
When you start, don't go for a big number of participants - focus on a small group of very positive people even that's only you and one other person.
You might be raring to go, full of ideas and want to achieve the maximum possible but it's much better to focus on one small activity initially. Keep it simple and relatively short.
Ideally make it something that you can measure, an activity with a beginning and end. The more tangible, the better. This makes it easier to explain to everyone to get started, easier to stay focused, easier to promote and easier to talk about afterwards.
If you're trying to galvanise interest in a place where people either haven't worked together before or where they've disagreed, it's much better to choose a small simple activity because your chances of success are higher. Once you've actually done something you have established a track record and can build on that. Focus on telling people about your activity after you've done it, rather than in advance.
Sometimes it's worth doing an activity that's not really part of your overall vision, just to get started and show some positive action. For example, you might want to focus on marketing activities but perhaps there's an ugly corner in your village that people comment on or that looks unloved? Simply tidying that up, and planting a few flowers can make people take notice and see you mean action. Often actually doing something is quicker than the endless discussions and moans of a meeting>
Start to tell people
Once you've done something successful, even if it's only small, tell everyone. Post on social media, tell your local paper, ask people to share what you've done. You don't need to keep saying, "look what I did" and make it all about you - the purpose of doing this is just to show that positive change is happening.
You can then choose something a little bigger but this time, start in a different way. Don't do anything overly ambitious that needs involvement of lots of people. Keep it relatively small but this time tell people in advance. Share your plans on social media and tell the local paper. You'll probably notice that because they've seen you achieve something before, some more people will now come forward to get involved.
Remember to ignore all the nay-sayers and keep focused on what you want to do. Once you have another achievement under your belt, remember to spread the word and tell people about your success. By telling people in advance what you're going to do, and then doing it, you'll start to build trust. Now things will really start moving.
Meet, talk, plan
At that point you can either create a more ambitious activity or have a meeting and ask for other people's suggestions and ideas, ready to develop more substantial plans. If you've already achieved something, this gives you more authority.
I sometimes start such meetings by saying I want it to be overwhelmingly positive, and that I'll close down any repetitive discussions about dog poo, public toilets and litter (or whatever your local issues are...) so we can focus on positive actions that make a difference.
However, you may want/need to give everyone the chance to say what's wrong and generally have a moan. One way to keep discussion of each point short but make everyone feel listened to is to quickly note each point on a flip chart. Once noted, move on & have a no-repetition rule. An alternative is to ask everyone to jot comments on post-its and put them on a wall.
When you've done this, cross through or take down the ones over which you have no control or which are too big for you to handle. Ask people to suggest solutions or ideas for each of the other ideas and to take responsibility for them.
There's nothing wrong with you saying this isn't something you can handle, and instead turning to others, so you can stay focused on your activity.
Make sure you end the meeting with a positive call to action, clearly laying out what you plan to do and when.
Ask for help
If you do decide to develop a new, more ambitious activity, make sure someone takes notes. Have a clear, timetabled action plan and ask people to volunteer to take on jobs. It's a good idea to circulate this so everyone knows who is responsible for each element of each plan.
You may need help at the beginning but you'll get more meaningful support if you can do something yourself and lead by example, and then ask for more specific help later.
What makes collaborations more successful?
1. A clearly defined activity
2. One person leading. I used to spend a lot of time consensus building to create new collaborations, particularly in areas where there had been quite a lot of discord. Over time I've realised that clear leadership actually works better. People are more ready to join in when they see success. Clear leadership doesn't mean you've taken over - you're just focusing on doing one thing well, and others can take on and lead their own projects.
3. It's much more effective to have a definite activity and build a team around that, than to spend time thinking about how you'll structure a committee or organisation. Don't get tied up with deciding on a name, coming up with a logo etc. Focus initially on tangible actions to get started then think about organisation, names etc.
4. Funding may be an issue. Again, it's easier to attract funding once you've done some grass roots activity really well.
5. Use technology to make you more efficient e.g. email, social media, website etc but don't make it the focus of your activity e.g. an app, unless it's something you are really skilled in. The market is flooded with unused apps.
6. Try to find a way to evaluate your activity, to make it easier to tell people what you've achieved and what you plan to do next.
7. Tell people, put up posters, use social media and your local paper or radio station, and then tell them all again. Don't assume everyone knows about everything you do - they're busy and so you'll probably have to tell them more than once.
8. Ask people to help. Specific, individual requests often work best.
9. Have an overall vision and plan what you want to achieve, but make sure you focus on step by step activity to get you to your vision.
10. Don't overload people with too many ideas and angles.
Amanda Brown and I were talking about all the ways people irritate journalists when trying to secure media coverage. I've worked with Amanda for several years and she's excellent at PR. The fact that so many of her releases and feature suggestions get used and that so many journalists come back to her for more, shows she does a good job. Perhaps part of her success is thanks to her previous career as a journalist so she sees the job from their perspective too.
Amanda wrote this article, looking at the things you should avoid when contacting journalists
If you ever look at the hashtag #PRfail on twitter, you’ll see a never-ending outpouring from journalists who have become irritated with the tactics used by people trying to get attention for their ‘news’ or feature idea.
As I’ve spent more years than I care to mention liaising with journalists I thought I’d share my top 10 list of no-no’s. Judging by #PRfail many of these are still being used and are guaranteed to get the hack’s hackles up!
1. The scattergun approach
Instead of taking a scattergun approach do your homework and find out which journalists are more likely to write on your subject. Build a list of contacts (it’s easier nowadays as many email addresses are online) and send them an individual email rather than a round-robin, or worse, an email addressed to the wrong name.
2. Phoning journalists
Journalists are inundated and so it’s easy to see why they get irritated with phone calls from people ringing to check whether they’ve looked at a press release that was sent a mere 10 minutes ago. The irritation triples when a press deadline is nearing!
Emails will be looked at and journalists will decide whether
a.) they’re interested and need more information in which case they’ll get in contact
b.) they have all the information they need or
c.) it gets spiked.
If it’s an exclusive or news so hot that it makes a Vindaloo curry seem mild, then there might be a case for phoning!
3. Using the word unique
Over the years I’ve had to counsel numerous clients about using the word ‘unique’ when conversing with journalists. If there’s one word that will consign a press release to the bin - it's unique – overused, misused, you name it. The pyramids are unique, a cottage with a beautiful view is not.
4. Ringing to find out when a piece is going to appear
Same as number 2. Some journalists kindly give the heads-up on a piece appearing but it shouldn’t be expected, again because they simply don’t have the time. Freelance journalists will file a feature but they will rarely know the publishing date. Ditto asking for a copy of the published piece which is likely to illicit a curt response: “Buy a copy if you want to see it.”
5. Leaving out essential information
If you send out press information that piques a journalist’s curiosity, it can be really annoying when vital information is left out.
For instance, if it’s about a new hotel or experience, essential information includes the lead-in price and web link. Simple enough and yet if you leave it out, there’s more chance your news will be ditched in favour of others who have included the essentials.
6. Waffling emails
Given that journalists receive hundreds of emails a day don’t send one that simply waffles.
Subject line - keep it short and relevant.
If you’re pitching a feature idea, again keep it short, relevant and easy for a journalist to understand what you’re getting at in one or two paragraphs. If they’re interested they will get in touch and ask for more information but they simply don’t have the time to read through long winded diatribes.
7. Disrespecting geography
Information that doesn’t relate to a newspaper’s geographical patch will invariably be pushed to the bottom of the pile unless it’s of national importance, or meets the quirk-factor (witness the recent regional pick-up of news about a Harry Potter-themed holiday cottage!).
8. Not doing your homework
Ok, so all of the above are about doing your homework but sometimes it pays to get to know what journalists like and dislike. How about this from the travel editor for the Express/Mirror/Star who tweeted this in relation to the infinite number of stories he receives on instagrammable spots:
@TravelEdNigel – Spare us from this press release drivel ‘Toilet Selfies: The Most Instagrammed Bathrooms
9. Not asking yourself if your ‘news’ really is newsworthy
In the opening of this blog, I referred to ‘news’ rather than news. This is because many people are quite rightly proud of their attraction/accommodation/visitor experience because it’s lovely and has rave reviews. However, that doesn’t mean journalists are going to rush to write about it unless it’s new, has been significantly redeveloped, has a relevant news hook, or happens to fit with a feature they’re writing about.
10. Forgetting that journalists are only human
We all get a bit chippy when we’re strapped for time and we’re struggling to wade our way through emails and the ‘to-do’ list so why not think about how we can help journalists make their job easier rather than adding to the burden?
How many pictures have you taken this week?
Yes, I know you're busy but have you looked outside? Everything's looking lush, green, fresh and the light's wonderful.
Why am I suggesting you spend some time every day snapping a few pictures? If you want to develop your business, creating a bigger, better bank of images is one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective things you can do. Yet most people fail to do.
Selling a promise
Tourism marketing is all about selling a promise. We're trying to convince people to visit us, and yet most people don't know about us and can't picture what our areas or businesses are like. Put an idea into their head that includes visual images and they're more likely to imagine themselves as part of that picture. If we want to convince them to visit, we need them to be able to imagine being here and enjoying what we have to offer.
It's never been easier to take and upload images to websites and social media. Of course many pictures are terrible, but with practice everything improves. In Spring and Summer most places look better than in the darker Winter months so it makes sense to take plenty of photos now, so you can use them all year round.
What about those days when the weather isn't so good and the phone doesn't ring? That's a good time to use images to show how good your area can look, to show potential visitors there are better times to come. When it's raining, it's hard to imagine the sun ever shining again but a picture can convince, or you could show a cosy indoor image to entice visitors.
Your website before review sites
Why do you think review sites have become so popular? One key reason is because visitors want more information, to feel more certain before they make a booking or commit to doing something. If you've only got a few small images on your website, people will look elsewhere. Review sites offer more images and more information but there's always the risk that a visitor will go somewhere else. Add as many images as you can to your website. Help potential visitors imagine what it's like, and help them see how it might feel to visit.
FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out is a big motivator for many people making decisions to do something or visit somewhere. A really good image on social media can trigger FOMO and encourage visits.
You probably spend a fair amount of time answering the same questions again and again? You could cut down on some of that time by adding more images to convey some of the information.
Good images are one of the easiest ways to grab attention and interest people when they see them on social media, on websites and in other media. The eye is automatically drawn to images before words.
What kind of images to use?
What kind of photos work well? Images that show beauty or that surprise, pictures of something about to happen, happening or just happened.
Try to use a combination of images - those that show the big picture, those that show smaller details.
Whatever you do, take and use as many pictures as you can. It's one of the easiest ways to show people how good you are, to interest them, and encourage more visits. If you can somehow tell a story through one of your pictures, so much the better.
Does any other county evoke such passion and pride in its attractions, landscape, food, and arts as Yorkshire?
If we harness our Yorkshire pride, work together to talk about what makes Yorkshire special, the promotional power will be huge.
We don't need a big budget. Thanks to the internet and mobile phones, anyone can now have their own publishing empire (websites, social media) be film makers, podcasters, broadcasters…
The challenge is to choose the right approach and right messages.
How do you sum up a place as big and full of attractions as Yorkshire?
Is there a way to promote more of Yorkshire, to focus on niche activities, hidden gems as well as well-known places?
How can we use our passion and pride as our own Yorkshire marketing super-power?
The answer lies in treasures, triggers and tribes: an effective and practical approach to tourism marketing.
Visitors don’t want ‘something for everyone’. They want carefully chosen, special places. They don't want the official view. They want recommendations from local experts.
They want to uncover the unknown, find the forgotten, celebrate the hidden gems alongside the big names. They want an easy way to find the treasures. It's up to local people and loyal repeat visitors to suggest and showcase them.
The Instagram generation do still like to see famous places for themselves, but they're just as attracted, excited and intrigued by lesser known aspects of Yorkshire. They like their followers to ask, ‘where’s that?’, ‘how did you find that?’
Visitors, journalists, bloggers and other destination influencers need the information we can provide as local experts.
We don't always value our local knowledge as much as we should. We need to showcase our 'doorstep delights'. In short, we know where the treasure's hidden and need to bring it to the fore!
Ask a direct question such as ‘where’s the best place to...?’ and recommendations will follow. Tell someone you share one of their interests, and they’ll talk to you. Show an intriguing or beautiful image, and you’ll capture attention.
These are all talk 'triggers' and a great way to start conversations about our treasures. Good marketing promotion is about finding the right messages.
The big change brought about by the internet is that we don't need to do all our own marketing. We can harness the power of 'tribes' to help us.
We all have interests, places, values, activities that we feel quite passionately about. We go through stages of life with other people in similar situations. Whatever our ‘tribe’, we identify with each other, and when there’s somewhere we love, people like us like to hear our recommendations. Tell a member of a tribe and they’ll keep spreading the word.
There are many, many different 'tribes', which makes it easier to promote to a broader range of markets. Here's just one example. Think of a local café where parents of primary school children gather. You’ll rarely see an advert saying ‘just dropped children off at school? Come to x’ They don't need to advertise because once a member of a tribe has found that place, the rest follow.
Word of mouth and social media become the key marketing methods. There’s nothing official, nothing scripted, word just spreads.
Use Yorkshire pride as a marketing super-power in your business
If you work for a Yorkshire based tourism (accommodation, attractions, activity providers), food and drink, or arts and craft business, I'd love you to join me - free - in a new collaborative marketing activity.
We'll harness our collective local pride and knowledge, using a themed approach building on the idea of treasures, triggers and tribes. It'll help you promote your business and local area.
Every week we'll use a different topic in social media, blogs, on websites. This won't be a big time commitment. It will help you think differently about your marketing.
Join the priority list now to receive full details soon. The activity will run from mid June to the end of September. There's no cost!
What is a blog?
‘Blog’ was originally short for ‘web log’, a kind of online diary. Now the line between a blog and website is blurred. Blogs can stand alone or can be a page within a website.
The key difference is that a blog is usually more informal, and more personal than a traditional website. It’s more likely to include views and opinions, likes and dislikes, but doesn't have to. Blogs tend to be updated more frequently than websites, but again that varies.
Here’s an example: I run a ‘hobby’ website called Dales Discoveries and have a blog within that on this page. Most people would just see the blog as another web page. Other people write stand-alone blogs, without other web pages.
Why write a blog?
People look for a lot of information before they make a booking or purchase. They need to feel informed, reassured, excited. Most websites offer quite basic information and usually give a business-like impression.
Visitors increasingly look for authenticity. They like insider tips and stories. They want to know what something is really like before they make a decision to book or come to you. This is one reason sites like TripAdvisor have become so popular: they give extra, informal information, and reassurance.
A blog can be similar, but there’s an important difference. You don’t have to just rely on others to write reviews, the content of which you can’t control. You can write a blog, convey your own opinions and say anything you like. That can be really liberating!
Blogs are easy to update, so you’re more likely to write them. People expect them to be informal, so they don’t have to be in perfect English or have professionally taken images.
Good reasons to write a blog
1. Search engines look for several things when deciding how to rank your website including:
2. Blogs can really help build trust and convey a stronger feeling for what you actually do. They make you seem more real to potential visitors. They add colour and perspective.
3. When big corporations use blogs, they do work so well because they still sound corporate. You have the advantage of being able to write from a more individual perspective.
4. You need to have meaningful things to say on social media – blog content helps to build social media engagement. I had a fairly dormant Dales Discoveries account on facebook which I’d barely used as Dales Discoveries is more of a hobby than client work. When I started the Dales Discoveries blog I started posting on the facebook account as I completed each blog. This takes a couple of minutes each day and traffic has steadily built. I have just 3,500 page likes but each week my facebook posts reach 20,000 – 80,000 people with a very high level of engagement.
5. A blog is your own publishing empire – available for free! You can control a whole channel of communication on a topic. You might have strong feelings about something or a strong interest in something. You can use a blog to add to a conversation or debate, and may find it also attracts media attention which enables you to do even more.
When I wrote this blog about Gary Verity and Welcome to Yorkshire, it was to get some issues off my chest and reduce my stress levels. Various newspaper journalists, radio stations and two TV channels then got in touch to ask me to write for them or do interviews. My original blog was read several thousand times. It wasn’t intended to raise my profile but that was one side effect. I also realised that it enabled me to say things publicly that others wanted me to say but didn’t dare to voice. There were times when I’m sure members of the WTY Board wanted to tell me to shut up, but they couldn’t control my blog. I’m passionate about freedom of speech and realised during that experience that a blog can be very powerful.
You don’t have to use a blog in that way. You might just want to keep a nature diary, or tell people about walks in your area, or local events. Whatever you write about, a blog can be very powerful.
How to create a blog
One of the reasons blogs are popular is because they're easy to create. You can add a blog within an existing website (my website software lets me decide if I want to create a new ‘normal’ page or a blog page so it’s really simple), or create a stand-alone blog using blogger.com or wordpress. You can also use sites like wix.com, squarespace.com and weebly.com to create a blog – they’re all cheap and simple to use.
All the blogging software is designed for some-one without technical knowhow to set up a blog instantly. If you do create a stand-alone blog, ask your developer to link to it from your website too.
Remember, your blog doesn’t have to be very polished. Just be yourself. Write from your heart rather than trying to cultivate an unnatural style. If you struggle to write naturally, just imagine speaking to someone and write down what you’d say.
It’s now really easy to use voice recognition software that converts what you say into text. I quite often ‘write’ the draft version of a blog on my phone as I wander around, using the little microphone icon. On a laptop in Microsoft Word under the ‘Edit’ button is an option to ‘Start dictation’ which works in a similar way. You’ll still have to edit it, but it’s a good way to get started if you think you can’t write or don’t like writing.
“But I don’t have time!”
You do. You might not want to spare the time, but anyone has time to write a blog. It doesn’t have to be long or a masterpiece. It might just be a paragraph with a couple of paragraphs. Or you could create a series of vlogs – video blogs which are just quick recordings you do on your phone and then upload. Vlogs aren’t quite so good for search engine optimisation but can be useful on social media if you set the right tone.
If you want to build your business, a blog can help you to do that. There’s almost certainly something you’re doing that you could stop doing or do differently to make time.
When you write a blog, you are building your website. You are creating content you can use in social media. You are creating content you can use in newsletters. You do one thing (blog), but it can be used in lots of different ways so it’s really time-effective.
How to cultivate a blogging mind-set and keep going
Once you start blogging, you’ll find you get better at it and write more quickly. Practise really does make a difference.
Many people find that regular blogging helps them get into a certain mind-set, to get into the habit of coming up with ideas, writing down notes ready for the next blog and perhaps dictating a few words on their phone. They find they start to notice things, are ready to learn more. The mind just thinks differently. I’ve certainly found this – my mind feels much more effective and less foggy since I’ve started blogging more regularly.
How often do you need to blog?
It’s entirely up to you. You might decide to do it occasionally or on a really ad hoc basis. You might decide to set yourself a challenge of doing it monthly, weekly or even daily. Regularly is best as it helps to build trust and increase website traffic and social media engagement.
On 1st January I challenged myself to blog more frequently so I wrote a blog for one of my websites. I had some time so wrote a second one on the 2nd January, and did the same on the 3rd since I was full of enthusiasm for the new year. Then I decided it needed a name so called it 365 Ways to Discover the Dales. I'm not sure why. It was only the next day when I sat down to scribble some notes, that it occurred to me that the title implied I’d write every day! I decided to try writing a daily blog, with the idea that if I got really fed up I could just re-name it 30 Ways… So while everyone else ticked off the days and commented on Dry January I wrote a blog. The fact that other people were counting down the days to the end of January helped me keep writing.
I quickly brainstormed with myself and wrote down a list of possible topics for blogs. I had 96 ideas on my list so thought I’d keep going in February. As February progressed I realised that I’d not looked at my list of ideas because I’d had extra ones. My mind seemed to have developed a mind of its own. I found (as apparently do many) that I got faster at writing, enjoyed it more and more, and new ideas just seem to pop into my mind. I feel like I’m more productive than before, not just where my blog is concerned.
I haven’t stopped doing anything else. I still work full-time in my normal business. I still have a family, house, dogs to care for, but I’ve mysteriously managed to squeeze in extra time each day. Today I wrote my 100th blog and so maybe the idea of 365 blogs isn’t so impossible after all. I’ll left you know. They’re not perfect – some will still have typos. My images (ones I take) are often rubbish, and I’ve still not got round to tagging and classifying them. But this doesn't matter too much – blogs are meant to be informal. I’ve also found I’ve been put in touch with some really wonderful people, learnt a lot and made some great connections so there have been other benefits too.
One thing I would say is really worth doing – decide how often to post and on what day and then tell people.
One reason I’ve managed to stick to my blog writing is because I feel accountable (because of the title) and because I’ve made it into a habit. The daily Dales Discoveries blog is now a habit as engrained as brushing my hair. Actually I write the blog more often than I brush my hair…
New or old content?
Perhaps you wrote something a while ago but it’s never been on a blog? Maybe you have information you’ve gathered and not fully used? It doesn't matter whether your blog content was written yesterday or a while ago – there are few rules for blogging so just add it where you think it belongs.
Final words & proof
I’m going to leave the last words for Sandra Spashett who commented in my Tourism Knowhow facebook group on a blog written by Glenda Calvert. Sandra sums up the benefits of a blog beautifully:
“Hi Glenda, Read your blog and I love it. It and you seem so honest and real-not trying to be splashy and too commercial, but in being so genuine, comes across as a great place to come to stay and be around you and your life. Your blog gives me such a sense of you, that I feel you are a friend, and even though I don't know you, I think your place would be a great place to come stay.”
Want to know more about Blogging for Tourism Businesses?
Would you like to know even more about writing a blog, get more ideas about structure, inspiration for content, learn to plan more effectively and look at how you could even make money from a blog? I’m writing a very practical e-book on Blogging for Tourism Businesses, which will be available in mid-May for £19. Email to go on the list to buy a launch copy for £17.
Is it worth using social media in tourism marketing?
"Susan, why do you keep going on about social media? I just want to get more direct bookings from my website." I've heard that more than once.
Er... OK. Let's step back from social media for a moment and focus on the idea of direct bookings and websites.
To get direct bookings from your website you need:
a) a very good website
b) a website with an online booking facility and/or contact details prominently displayed
c) plenty of visitors to your website - only a percentage will actually book so you need to target them carefully and build traffic.
Your website is one of millions. It's only of use if people go to it. They might go to it and think it's marvellous. But then they'll forget. You have to keep reminding potential visitors.
So how can you get those visitors to your website?
One way is to have an incredible direct mailing list. You don't have one of those? Oh.
Or you could spend a fortune advertising to get people to your website? But you don't want to spend much money? Oh.
I know - you could encourage journalists to write about you and generate free publicity for your site. To do that though you'll need to raise your profile and help journalists see your stories. A lot of them use social media to find stories. But you don't want to spend any time on social media? Oh.
Another way is to be brilliant at search engine optimisation and make sure your website is prominent in the search engine rankings, which of course can be tricky if you're in a competitive market.
It helps if you can encourage others to drive visitors to your site, through external links. They'll need to know and trust you, so you'll need to raise awareness of what you do, and be consistent, for example by posting good content regularly on social media that other people want to share...
On many of the sites I'm involved in, either directly or through clients, social media accounts for at least 30% of new visitors to websites.
That's why I keep going on about social media.
It can help you raise your profile.
It can help journalists find out about you.
It can help drive new visitors to your website.
It can help remind people to go back to your website.
It can help encourage others to link to your website.
It can help build trust in your business.
It can help you develop your mailing list.
It can help build collaborations with other local businesses.
It can help save you money - other marketing methods may cost much more.
It can help you increase direct bookings from your website.
That's quite a list of benefits. So what's the catch? You have to actually use social media.
I don't mean, go online, read a few posts, tinker about a bit, write the odd post, put on a picture of your cute dog. Take a picture of the snow and add #beautiful. That won't work so well.
I mean properly USE social media. Use it to say what you need it to say. Use it with intent and purpose. Use it for your own benefit. Use it as an important promotional tool. Control it, instead of letting it control you.
I sigh when I hear about another social media channel. I groan when there's yet more updates, technology issues, new things to grapple with. But I don't say I can't cope with the technology. Not because I'm a whizz kid but because it's made for anyone to simply pick up and use. If my 78 year old mother can use facebook, whats app, twitter and instagram to stalk her grand daughters, you can definitely use social media to build your business. Let's get rid of the "I'm rubbish with technology excuse". When people say that, and I question them, it almost always means they just haven't tried to use it yet, or don't want to.
So we know social media can be useful. We know it's easier to use than many think. But how do you control it, how do you use it for your own ends?
There are some straight-forward ways to make your social media more successful:
Does that sound too easy? You'll probably agree that having a plan would be a good idea. Knowing exactly what to say would help. You know you need to "sort out social media".
It sounds onerous to have to sit down and write out a plan and come up with ideas for posts, but if you spend a few hours doing that, it massively saves time in the future. If I'm working on social media for a client without a plan, it's easy to go online and blithely look around for ideas and things to share, and end up wasting hours. If you post ad hoc or just when you see something of interest, the effect is very limited.
Most people don't have two or three clear messages that they're trying to convey - in different ways so people don't get bored. They post but don't drive traffic to their website, or over link so they fail to build social media presence.
Consistency is a key issue - but easier to get right if you've pre-planned. It's interesting how when you sit down to brainstorm ideas and angles, once you've got a few they start to flow. Then you have a stack of ideas to use, and to write in such a way that they fulfil your main purpose and contribute to getting more traffic to your website and direct bookings.
Social media costs so very little (even if you pay to boost posts) and can be incredibly effective. So it's odd that so few people spare a few hours to plan it and make it count. There's never a good time, is there?
There are masses of courses both in person and online about how to use social media. I think in a way they're counter-productive. The best way to learn how to use social media is to use it. It's designed to be a teach-yourself-tool. Going on too many courses can be great procrastination but doesn't get you far unless you implement the knowledge.
Which brings me to the real problem - I find that the tricky bit for most people is knowing what to say to get results, knowing when to say it, knowing how to say it. Few courses will teach that because the messages need to be targeted to your individual business. Most people need a bit of guidance along the way too.
And all of this will help to drive more traffic to your website, increase direct bookings, raise your profile, help journalists find out about you, remind people to go back to your website, encourage others to link to your website, build trust in your business, develop your mailing list, help build collaborations with other local businesses...
That's why I keep going on about social media for tourism marketing!
I've been asked this question several times lately, so let's take a more in-depth look at what advertising is and what it can achieve.
Just to be clear: 'advertising' is sometimes used interchangeably with the term 'marketing'. This isn't correct. Advertising is the specific activity of paying to promote a specific message in a specific way.
Before we look at advertising in detail, I advise clients to consider advertising as one of several available promotional tools.
Advertising can be very powerful but needs thinking through carefully. Maybe you need to consider other options first? How good is your website? Your social media? Your PR? Do you blog regularly? Use direct mail consistently?
If you're dubious about any of these it pays to get them right before you start to advertise. When some one sees your ad they may well come to your website and if that's rubbish... And you'd ideally want to capture their details for follow up, and continue to raise awareness via social media.
Read on to find out more about advertising and for some tips to avoid wasting money
Advertising is good for creating and building 'awareness' but this is not necessarily the same as building sales. Back in 1925, Daniel Starch said ”to be successful, it must be seen, must be read, must be believed, must be remembered and must be acted upon”. The same is still true today.
Before you spend, think...
Why are your advertising? What are you main reasons? For example:
Advertising has either tactical or strategic objectives. Strategic advertising is concerned with creating an awareness of products, of developing an organisation's identity and image. Strategic advertising takes a longer term view, having a wider impact than tactical advertising – but it will cost more.
Tactical advertising is aimed at specific market segments and persuading them to go to a particular place or buy a certain service, sometimes at a particular time. Tactical advertising takes a more short to medium term view.
Target markets must be clearly defined. Don't be reactive and simply advertise where a sales person asks you. Think about your markets and what they read/see.
One strong, clear message
Most advertising works best with just one key message. This is especially important if you can only afford to buy a few lines or small space. Faced with a small budget and only a couple of centimetres to fill, it can be tempting to get the greatest value for money. Don't cram a small space with loads of detail. It won't have any impact. It's more likely to confuse.
Choosing one main message will help give even the smallest company a stronger identity. This comes back once again to selling benefits rather than features, and stressing what makes you better or different.
Selection of media
However much you plan your advertising in advance, there will always be occasions when an advertising sales person telephones you with a 'special offer'. Some of these might be genuine. Most are not. They are usually offered due to cancellation or because it is simply difficult to sell the space (i.e not a good opportunity). Resist! There will always be another opportunity and your advertising will be much more effective if it is pro-active and planned rather than reliant on those last minute special offers, especially if they are for new publications which no-one has heard of and which disappear almost instantly.
Choose media depending on cost, target markets, reputation, recommendation, longevity.
Make sure the readership profile matches your markets
Before taking an advertisement in a publication, look online at their media pack and rates. You should be able to easily get hold of the profile of readers and circulation details.
Do the readers correspond to your target markets? The readership profile should detail readers in terms of age and socio-economic profile, as well as giving further details about hobbies and interests, and any research about holiday-taking habits. Tourism products are a major source of revenue for many publications so they will usually have more detailed information available if you ask for it.
Circulation or readership figures?
Most publications will give their circulation and readership figures. The readership figures show the actual number of people who will see and read the publication, not just buy it. For some publications there will be a big difference between the circulation and readership figures. Some of the more upmarket monthly magazines have relatively low circulation figures but a long shelf life and high readership figures - particularly when they are the types of publication you see in doctors' and dentists' surgeries!
When considering readership figures, look also at the distribution method for the publication. Is it one which people really demand, by buying it at a newsagents or subscribing to it? Or one which arrives un-requested through the letterbox? Most tourist boards offer advertising opportunities in their publications. Ask probing questions about their distribution. I've seen far too many boxes of publications lingering in distribution warehouses and then thrown out at the end of the season, or in backs of tourist board employees' cars as they drive around with boxes of undistributed publications.
You will need to plan ahead and choose publications whose copy dates you can meet. Even more important are publication dates. If most people plan and book their holiday with you in November, there is little point advertising in a publication which appears in May, unless it is tactical advertising and you are looking for top-up business.
The media pack will probably include details of forthcoming features which might be relevant to you. Sometimes it is a good idea to advertise within a relevant feature but remember that competitors will probably be doing the same. It can be useful to stand alone and make a bigger impact at another time, if the timing is right for you.
Advertising rates - how to negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!
The deciding factor will inevitably be whether or not you can afford to advertise in your chosen publications and if it is cost-effective.
Set your budget in advance and stick to it. Always try to negotiate a discount.
Make sure you're clear exactly where the ad will appear and that you'll be happy with that position. This is something you should be able to negotiate on as well.
When placing advertisements always ask if there's any chance of editorial coverage and the name of the person you should contact.
If you're advertising in a print publication, find out what the associated online benefits are.
Be pro-active, not responsive, especially when called out of the blue
If someone calls you out of the blue with a special offer to advertise in a particular publication, ask yourself:
You need to make an impact
Where will your ad appear? If it's going to be crammed in with many others, the impact will be diminished.
If you spend money on booking ad space what are you going to do about the ad design? It's worth spending on decent design to make an impact otherwise the cost of the space will be wasted.
You need a call to action
What do you want people to do when they see your ad? Vaguely think, "that sounds nice" or pick up the phone? Make sure you include a strong call to action - get people to do something.
Evaluating advertising campaigns
You will never find out which half of your advertising budget was a good investment unless you monitor it. Keep a record of the media in which you advertised, when and the cost. Make sure that all staff are aware of the need to monitor advertising expenditure and ask them to make a point of asking people who book with you where they heard about you, and to make a note of this.
You can monitor which publications work for you by using different types of advertisement, such as specific packages or codes.
However, bear in mind that it's notoriously difficult to monitor the effectiveness of ads. Many people will see an ad and then be prompted to do more research. I might see an ad, look at their website, follow them on social media before I actually make a booking - so you'll never be 100% clear how effective your ads are. If the result of your ad is that someone looks at your website and social media, and see a mess - you've wasted your money!
Eight important points to remember
The advertising world uses quite a lot of jargon which it is useful to understand. The majority of publications and programmes will provide a rate card so you can gauge the value for money which they offer. These are some of the terms you are likely to come across:
Audited Circulation: The number of copies of a newspaper or magazine sold for an average issue over a stated period.
Readership: The number of people who read or look at an average issue of a newspaper or magazine. Publishers will usually give a 'claim' figure for this such as two or three times as many as the audited circulation. Bear in mind this is a guestimate. Glossy magazines that get left in doctors' surgeries usually linger for longer. Newspapers may be passed around an office fleetingly but then don't even become fish and chip paper.
Readers per copy: The average number of people who read an issue of a newspaper or magazine.
O.T.S.: The Opportunity to See is the frequency of peoples' reading or looking at an average issue of a newspaper or magazine, ie. if you read three out of six issues of a daily paper and there is an advertisement on six consecutive issues, then you have had three OTS.
Radio and television companies also provide information about their viewers and listeners, using different terms:
Audience: The number of people who had an OTS of watching a programme or advertisement.
Ratings: The percentage of homes switched to a commercial TV station at a particular time. These ratings are measured in Television Rating Points - TVRs and it is possible to state how many TVRs any advert gets.
Coverage: The proportion of the target population having the OTS at least one advertisement.
Frequency: The frequency of the OTS for any campaign.
Copyright Susan Briggs 2019
Do you think you might need to make your social media more effective?
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How was 2018 for you? As we go into a new year, I like to take a quick look over my shoulder, assessing the year that's gone in search of lessons to be learnt. I worked on many really enjoyable projects but one was so frustrating it actually made me ill. I had a bout of shingles that I feel certain was caused by one particular project which turned out to be unnecessarily bureaucratic, managed by a small group of inexperienced people who weren't ready to take advice and who were unwilling to understand the real needs of tourism businesses.
It was a useful lesson. It reminded me that I feel happiest and healthiest when I'm doing something that feels worthwhile, that uses my skills to benefit tourism businesses in a practical way. I really don't like having to stay silent when experience tells me something won't work very well. I prefer to be honest, upfront, realistic and keep moving forward, finding new ways to do things better.
So I'm going into 2019 with a very clear vision: to try to work on the most practical, worthwhile projects I can find, ones that really use my experience in tourism marketing. You're probably wondering what this has to do with you?
In 2019 I'll be using all the knowledge I've gained through over 30 years working in tourism marketing by launching a series of articles, e-books, online workshops and live events which help tourism businesses be bigger, bolder, braver. For me to have time to do all this, I'll need to say "no" to the potential Shingles Projects. It's going to be a financial risk for me so I'll also have to be brave.
So what does bigger, bolder, braver actually mean for tourism businesses?
It's not just about growing a bigger business. It's more about thinking bigger and growing, whether you want to make more money, be more efficient so you can work less, offer better service, give more to others.
I'd like to help more businesses be bolder. Most of the people I work with have relatively small businesses. They often feel they're in the shade of larger businesses, anonymous chains and booking systems. Many feel hidden or ignored, or that they're working in isolation. I love helping smaller businesses gain confidence to shout about their business, to stand out and be noticed so they can grow.
Could we all become a little braver? This could be in many different ways: by speaking up when something isn't right, by daring to stand out and be a little different, by doing the opposite to the crowd, by daring to set more audacious goals and really aim to achieve them?
Over the last year I've noticed just how many tourism business owners and managers say they're ambitious and want to grow but few of them have tangible goals or targets. Many seem to want to be better or bigger but don't really have a concrete plan. They don't always feel brave enough to voice a target or ambition. I think we all have times when we need to drift a bit, because we lack the energy or expertise to really move forward. But if you're in the mood to build and feel more in control of your business, I hope you'll join me to be Bigger, Bolder and Braver. It's free - just go to this page to sign up before 5 pm on 8th January
They're some of the most profitable carriers - can smaller tourism businesses learn anything from low cost airlines?
They have a reputation for offering cheap prices, and yet they're not necessarily the cheapest. Here are some lessons I think we can all learn from low cost airlines.
Lesson 1. Don't cut prices. DO price carefully
The low cost airlines didn't set out to be simply cheap. Their starting point wasn’t to cut prices. It was to look at their costs, considering each one in detail, and finding ways of doing things differently. Sometimes this meant removing elements of service (some Ryanair planes don’t have seat pockets or trays, cutting down on the cost of planes and the weight of the aircraft which affects fuel consumption), or charging for services such as priority boarding, catering and excess luggage. The lead-in price and starting point for promotional fares is low but not the final price.
In a downturn, many accommodation providers and restaurant owners cut their prices to attract more business. The net result is pressure on service quality. This may lead to losing customers or the demand for lower and lower prices because of poorer quality service. Taking the low cost airline approach of looking at costs and how to improve profitability might be more effective.
For example, a self-catering accommodation cottage owner may offer a lower starting price but charge extra for providing bed linen and towels. This means the holiday maker has a choice – a lower price but they have to make their own beds and wash their sheets or a higher price. I tried this for a season with my holiday let. None of the holiday makers ever takes the lower priced option, but they do feel they’re getting a choice. Interestingly when I offered this option, they were always grateful to be offered the choice, but also almost grateful to be able to pay and have the beds made ready for them! It's important to present such a choice in the right way.
Lesson 2. Do things differently. Turn established practices upside down
Pioneers like Easyjet's Stelios set out to do things differently. The established practice was to charge much more for single flights and for flights that didn’t include a Saturday night stay. Low cost airlines sell single tickets, and don’t care how long you are away. When they first started, Easyjet's main marketing method was simply being different enough to generate free media coverage.
How could this idea be used elsewhere? Guests traditionally pay for overnight accommodation, with evening arrival and morning departure. Bedrooms remain empty during the day time when they are cleaned, although cleaning typically takes less than an hour a room. A handful of city hotels have started offering a reduced rate for very short day stays for people wanting a city centre afternoon-nap or brief rest between flights at airports.
Lesson 3. Be an expert up-seller
The “lead in” price for easyJet or Ryanair flights is cheap. However, the final price that flyers pay can be comparable to other established carriers. Cheap prices don’t mean low profitability because the low cost airlines are experts at up-selling. Every element of the flight experience has been costed, from initial booking to final landing.
Up-selling happens at every stage from booking to landing - encouraging fliers to pay for priority boarding, choosing a specific seat, additional luggage, food on board, entertainment, onward travel tickets, and even scratch cards. Some of this can be tiresome but we can still learn lessons from it.
How often do we make a real effort to up-sell in the remainder of the tourism industry?
Lesson 4. Offer straight forward prices
Their pricing structure is very simple compared to traditional carriers. Fares don’t vary according to flexibility criteria or length of stay. Everyone pays the same price depending on what is available at the time of booking.
Making the price clear and easy to understand is part of making it easy to buy.
Lesson 5. Have a strong, simple promotional message and strong brand
Low cost airlines’ promotional messages are very simple. They are usually restricted to a single message e.g. new destination being served or lead in price for a particular destination.
Brand image is very strong. EasyJet’s marketing budget was stretched much further by their outstanding use of an orange colour so vibrant and “loud” that few other organisations have ever used it! This simple idea meant that in branding terms at least, easyJet now “owns” the colour orange.
Design costs are kept low, using a standard and very simple design for all livery, websites and advertisements. The price and destinations are the focus for promotions. Nothing else is used, letting the message stand alone, proud and strong.
Lesson 6. Be totally committed to your product and generate media coverage
When they started out, the owner of easyJet became a brand in his own right. “Stelios” was a key figurehead, acting as personable spokesman for a variety of aviation and business-related topics, keeping the airline in the media through creative PR, in a similar vein to Richard Branson.
I once flew on a London to Nice flight when Stelios was on board. As soon as the seatbelt signs were off, he jumped up and moved through the cabin asking every single person what they thought of easyJet and why they were on that flight. When asked about this, he said he did this frequently as a way of remaining close to the passengers who pay the fares. He joked that he never paid for market research – he did it all himself. So he saved money on research and generated a lot of word of mouth publicity by being on his own flights.
How many businesses have managers who show such commitment to their own product? When was the last time the owner of a prominent attraction was seen being terrified on their rides or directors eating in their own restaurant?
Lesson 7. Don't skimp on quality
It would be a mistake to think that low cost airlines skimp on quality. They don’t. Take an easyJet flight and it soon becomes apparent that staff are just as keen on safety standards as BA.
The aircraft are just as new (deliberately so - new aircraft being more dependable, more fuel efficient and cheaper to run). Efficiency and safety are seen as still being key to their success.
"Buy one, get one free!". Sound familiar? Of course it does: price led promotions are everywhere.
Show the world you're desperate
Years ago marketing tactics like this were less usual. They had more impact. Now they're the norm. There's a place for them, but more often than not, price promotions are lazy marketing, a not very imaginative way to show the world that your business isn't doing so well and you're desperate for trade.
Some people think they raise awareness of particular products but how can they do that when the market is saturated with them? When the 2-1 offer says nothing about the product itself. Price led promotions don't really help build a longer term market. Much of the time, they just focus the mind on the price instead of the benefits of the product or service.
Leaving money on the table...
What also happens is that visitors use the vouchers and offers when they were going to come to you anyway. Last weekend 3 friends and I had planned a visit to an art gallery, for which we were all perfectly willing to pay. Then someone noticed that if we took along our train tickets, we could get a 2-1 voucher for the entrance fee to the gallery. So we paid half the price we were willing to pay. Of course some people may be enticed into places for the first time because the price is lower than usual. It might help them decide to go. But will they go there again at the higher price? Or will they value it at the lower offer price?
Are 2-1 promotions ever good?
Sometimes. When they're properly thought through and not simply a knee-jerk reaction. When you want to open up new markets e.g. bring a friend who's never been before (doesn't always work though!) and when you've worked out how you'll follow through and build that new market. Attractions where there are opportunities to generate secondary spend through catering and retail may also benefit from getting more people in through the door with a discounted promotion. But don't let that be your first thought.
What are the alternatives?
2-1 offers may work some of the time, but they are unimaginative and it's hard to make an impact now there are so many.
Far better, to do something quirky, unusual, fun, interesting that helps demonstrate the emotional appeal of what you offer, that shows what you can do and why it's good.
If you rely on price promotions, it focuses visitors' minds on the price not the strength of the product. It encourages them to shop around instead of valuing what you do. And once you've reduced your price once, what happens next time? How low can you go?
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Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs