By serving as a marketing bureau for tourism attractions and sites throughout Ohio, the Ohio Tourism Division (OTD) fosters consumer spending (and thus, economic vitality) by promoting travel and leisure activities in the state. To drive an increase in total travel expenditures, Ohio must differentiate itself from other states in the minds of key influencers (namely high-profile travel media) and thus earn additional exposure to extend budget and reach.
Several unique market conditions were addressed in this campaign. These included economic realities and the consumer’s quest for affordability/value; increased focus on drive-market/closer-to-home travel; increasing use of social media/technology in travel planning; the shrinking/changing media landscape; competitive disadvantages (Ohio’s marketing budget is virtually half that of key competitors [contiguous states]); and many others. In addition to addressing these challenges, OTD’s public relations budget was reduced by nearly 40 percent versus the previous year.
Through careful planning, aggressive implementation and a focus/emphasis on affordability and the central theme of “Discover Ohio Deals,” program results significantly exceeded those of past programs. The program consisted of many elements designed to build productive media relationships; gain media endorsements for Ohio destinations; and engage and inform fans and prospects.
? Consumer Audience Determination - Each year, OTD contracts with Longwoods International to conduct a comprehensive study of travel and tourism in Ohio. The study identifies demographics, behaviors, motivators and characteristics of Ohio’s primary travel audiences. The study also evaluates the state’s key sources of business (contiguous states) and even urban sources of business within those states (Pittsburgh, Detroit, etc.). This data is critical in building a strategic media relations program and identifying the audience we can most likely impact (see planning section in binder). Specific targets are women ages 35-44 (general market target) in key geographic markets. Niches include modern moms, empty nesters and young professionals.
? Industry Research - OTD also analyzes annual studies published by the U.S. Travel Association, TNS/Kantar, YPartnership and others, to help determine campaign audiences, strategies and key messages. In 2009, research indicated 43 percent of Ohio visitors drove 100 - 299 miles to Ohio while national studies showed only 32 percent of travelers driving that distance.
? Media Audience - The media audience includes a focused list of print, broadcast and online media contacts representing media outlets reaching the general and niche market targets and with a credible section dedicated to travel content. A-list publications include those that are national in scope with a heavy emphasis on Ohio feeder markets (contiguous states), while B-list outlets are regional/local in scope with content dedicated to travel.
? Social Media Research – Leading up to 2009, numerous industry studies indicated travelers were using online resources more and more often in travel planning. According to eMarketer, 72 percent of travelers considered the Internet their primary resource for travel planning information. Based on the growing importance of the internet, OTD conducted a comprehensive audit of various social media outlets and developed a proactive engagement strategy using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr as the most effective tools to reach potential travelers.
Each year, several tools are instituted and developed to ensure program efficiency and timely execution. These include an editorial roadmap/calendar, news release schedule (updated monthly) and weekly status reports used to track media activity and communicate progress among agency and client.
o Reach a relevant consumer audience of 200M potential travelers via earned media
o Extend marketing program budget by generating at least $5M in earned media value
o Secure a total of 15 A-list features and 25 B-list Ohio travel features
o Launch a phased social media engagement program to establish a minimum following of 1,600 “fans” by the end of 2009 (metric established via competitive audit)
o Ultimately, support a statewide increase in overnight leisure trips
Campaign Strategy and Execution
Media Relations Program: “Discover Ohio Deals” was the theme of the overall campaign/program, which meant that specific deals and packages were featured in nearly every news release, story idea or media pitch. These specific deals served as proof points of Ohio’s value/affordability message, which resonated with media in light of consumer trends. The theme was tested for effectiveness during an first quarter media audit among A-list targets.
Media relations elements include a comprehensive media database (includes approximately 2,000 media contacts carefully segmented and cross-tabbed by media type, subject matter and DMA); media kit and online pressroom (featuring searchable B-Roll library with thousands of downloadable, broadcast-quality clips); ongoing media outreach (a team of five spends approximately 80 hours engaged in research, outreach and tracking per month); news release program; National Tourism Week activities and May media blitzes in key feeder markets; media lead scanning via HARO, ProfNet/PRNewswire, MediaKitty and others; New York/key feeder market media tours with opportunities for industry participation; periodic desk-side briefings in feeder markets; and monthly e-newsletters.
Social Media Program: OTD moved quickly to claim ownership of specific “Discover Ohio” social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. OTD then developed a phased program to engage effectively with travelers. Phase one, Reach, included establishing profiles and increasing fans /content. In phase two, Interaction/ Information Exchange, OTD worked to develop engaging discussions and valuable content. Phase three, Action & Conversion (designed to drive click-through rates/offline actions), became a priority moving into 2010 with plans for online contests and travel deals available via social media. OTD also incorporates feedback from monthly social media scorecards that drive efforts around new opportunities and trends in popular content.
Summary of Results
Media placements must be traceable to a specific tactic to be counted toward circulation/earned-media value (no multipliers are used). Methods for monitoring program success include monthly/annual reports measuring audience and earned-media value for media relations results; a monthly social media scorecard with metrics (reach/passion/buzz) around key terms found in more than 100 social media properties; and annual economic impact, visitor and accountability studies.
? A total audience reach of 230M relevant consumers occurred (Objective: 200M). This reflects a 23 percent increase over the previous year.
? Estimated earned-media value based on advertising rates was $6.24M (Objective: $5M).
? More than 27 A-list features and 52 B-list features were secured. (Objective: 15 A-list; 25 B-list). Some of these include: Family Circle - Toledo Mud Hens Baseball; Family Circle - Westlake, OH family; Chicago Sun-Times - waterparks; Chicago Tribune - Lake Erie, Appalachia, Frank Lloyd Wright House; The New York Times - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; USA Today - Cleveland food, theme parks, fall foliage; Family Fun - Indoor waterparks; Associated Press - theme parks; USA Weekend - National Museum of the U.S. Air Force; Food & Wine - Cleveland; Midwest Living - Appalachia, Lake Erie Shores/Islands; Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel – theme park rides; others (see Media Relations Highlight Reel in binder).
? Social media profiles captured more than 3,748 fans/followers (goal: 1,600), and more than 41% of fans are females age 35-44.
? Overall in 2009, the state experienced a 6 percent increase in overnight leisure trips. OTD generated approximately $360 million in new visitor spending and achieved a 13:1 ROI in a year that saw consumers cutting back on nearly every leisure activity.