This terrific article appeared in the May issue of Virginia
Business Magazine. I was pleased for several reasons that they chose to write
about our client.
1. I'm always happy when tourism and travel are
recognized for the economic development engine that they are.
2. The two outdoor recreation initiatives mentioned in
the article are the result of months of hard work by many people, including our
team here at Mikula-Harris. The creative work is excellent and I believe they
are going to be hugely successful. Any boost by some good press coverage is
3. Much has been done to promote tourism in the Alleghany
Highlands since its first tourism brand launched two years ago. It should be
regarded as an example for other communities around Virginia to see.
From the perspective of one who makes his living in
tourism branding and marketing, there is a deeper lesson to be learned here.
The Alleghany Highlands is a great example of a DMO that got its brand strategy
right from the beginning and then followed the plan. Their brand promise — which is not something the visitor would see but it certainly steers the
actions of the DMO, its staff, the community and the tourism advertising — states, "A visit to the Alleghany Highlands is a relaxing retreat to a scenic
mountain destination with abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, charming
small towns and friendly people who welcome visitors like friends." That was
drafted 2-1/2 years ago, but sounds like it nailed it! Also, did you notice in
the Virginia Business article that the writer consistently referred to the
region as the Alleghany Highlands. She only mentions Alleghany County to put
into context that the county and two independent communities make up the
region known as the Alleghany Highlands. Another sign that this branding is
getting great traction.
The Alleghany Highlands experience is validation of two
deeply held beliefs.
a. A smart and comprehensive brand image and strategy provides direction and
purpose for all marketing and communications. Operating without one means
undisciplined messaging to the consumer. It’s like a ship adrift at sea.
b. Small to medium-sized destinations need branding as
much as, if not more than, big cities and states.