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How can Destination Marketing Organisations best influence perceptions online?

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Changing business models and rapidly accelerating technology are making it increasingly difficult for Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) to reach their target audiences through traditional marketing tactics and positively influence perception of an area among prospective holidaymakers.

Simon Quance is head of strategy at Digital Visitor.

There’s no doubt that destination marketers have a big challenge ahead, with more funding than ever moving away from local authorities towards commercial models reliant on partnerships and stakeholder investment. With commercially minded investors, comes the need to show measurable value from every line of a DMO’s activity, with web traffic, awareness, data capture, conversion and bookings all required objectives of their work.

For some destination marketers, the challenge can feel overwhelming. And yet, the digital age brings many real opportunities to reach new audiences.

Digital Visitor recently published a whitepaper outlining seven interconnected steps that DMOs can take if they want to capitalise on the opportunities the emerging digital landscape offers and future-proof their marketing activity.

Here’s a quick overview...

1. Sell in the development of a meaningful ‘place brand’ change

Place branding is not just about a new logo or marketing slogan. A place identity needs to be founded on a place’s reputation and grown around a mission statement that captures key aspects of its culture and the values embodied in its communities.

For instance, what 5 words do you want people to associate with your destination? These should become the foundation of your destiantion marketing. Then, supported by place branding professionals, work to achieve a deeper insight and build your strategy from this base.

2. Identify and engage communities to build your brand around

Follow thorough best practice to construct a new place brand, insights for which should focus on the communities that give the place its identity. Once a brand essence has been distilled and a communicable mission statement created, key individuals and organisations identified as important to the growth of the new place brand should be supported. They will be a key source of the content around which the reputation of the new place brand can be built.

3. Plan a strategic approach to social media, including actionable strategy

Social media is an essential part of delivering your place brand and driving reputation change. It’s a cost effective channel and more measurable than most other forms of media.

If it’s been methodically constructed and effectively deployed, your strategy will future-proof your destination marketing efforts and enable your online reputation to be effectively managed.

Wherever possible, your place brand web presence should be socially enabled. Your website is the key space for presenting your new place brand and will deliver a commercially connected end point to key social media content and campaigns.

4. Develop ‘content with substance’ plan to engage prospective visitors

Use best practice content planning and management, and set up an inbound flow of quality image content that enables you to showcase your destination in a natural and emotive way. Aim to weave stories through your content themes, depicting the uniqueness of local communities.

Build campaigns around content that amplifies your place brand themes, using promotions to build databases for genuine prospects. Engage influencers from your area and beyond and always seek to find a context for distributing your content.

5. Build visitor engagement through symbolic actions and engage locals.

Build engagement around themed events and activities that symbolically amplify the communities identified in your place brand strategy. Engage locals who live and breathe your place brand as a potentially powerful distribution platform. Consistently respond to inbound comments and mentions of your content and place. Always manage your social channels to best practice, escalating issues and extending the potential of contact with a contextualised response.

6. Support the commercial interests of local stakeholders to build support

Regardless of your DMO model, stakeholder buy in and support will ultimately be driven by commercial interest. Set out to drive value from a programme of themed promotions that target harder to fill booking periods and activate campaigns through targeted social media advertising and personalised email campaigns.

Consider educating stakeholders in social media marketing to extend the reach of your place brand messaging, while embedding decision makers in the social media centric approach.

7. Future-proof your DMO as a key part of a local sharing economy

This bigger picture vision requires an ambitious shift in perspectives and mind-set of all parties, where local businesses are actively allied through mutually beneficial campaigns, organisations proactively share knowledge around how to best maintain and enhance your destination’s reputation and DMOs manage and maintain the distribution of a continually evolving flow of high value content that tells your destination’s distinct story.

This is the vision of a future-proofed destination brand, where perceptions have shifted and your best audiences will visit more regularly to sample what you uniquely have to offer. The Ideal scenario is eminently possible and this blueprint will help formulate a realistic, deliverable approach.

Simon Quance is head of strategy at Digital Visitor.

The full whitepaper ‘Futureproof: A Blueprint for Destination Perception Change’ is available to download for free.

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