Case Studies

Alleghany Highlands of Virginia

The Challenge

The Alleghany Highlands is a scenic region of Virginia along the border with West Virginia. It is comprised of Alleghany County and the independent town of Clifton Forge and City of Covington. Because of its somewhat remote location, the Alleghany Highlands has limited name recognition outside of the immediate area. It does, however, offer some of the best outdoor recreation in the commonwealth. In the fall of 2010, they chose Mikula-Harris to formulate their first ever tourism brand strategy and implement it through a website, visitors guide, ad campaign and more.

The Strategy

What it lacks in name recognition, the Alleghany Highlands more than makes up in scenic beauty, outdoor adventure and small town charm. The full scope of their tourism assets was discovered in the research phase of Mikula-Harris’ Brand Development Process. We conducted surveys of local stakeholders, online research and several in-person visits to the region. Potential tourism draws include:

  • Charming downtown districts in Covington and Clifton Forge
  • Extensive railroad heritage anchored by the impressive C&O Heritage Center
  • A vibrant arts scene that includes an arts school, a historic and newly renovated performing arts theatre, and an arts & crafts center where dozens of artisans display their work
  • A historic covered bridge that is now part of a five-acre wayside park

Looming large above all else is the stunning mountain scenery and the extensive outdoor opportunities they create. Nearly 50% of the land in the Alleghany Highlands is owned by the national forest, which means it will remain pristine and available for recreation, including:

  • Paddling and fishing on the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers, as well as smaller streams with outfitters and guides available to assist visitors

  • Camping, swimming, boating and more at campgrounds, including Lake Moomaw and Douthat State Park
  • Miles and miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, including 40 miles at Douthat State Park, which is referred to as “Disneyland of mountain biking”
. Throw in the relaxing pace of small town living and warm, friendly people and it adds up to an extraordinary quality of life for the residents of the Alleghany Highlands.

Our research showed that the same attributes that make life exceptional in the Alleghany Highlands are also sought after by travelers. Things like: a relaxing atmosphere, scenic beauty, safety, outdoor recreation, lots to see and do, and affordability. There are no “tourist trap” attractions in the region built solely to lure visitors. The brand strategy and accompanying ad campaign focus on the genuine experiences, opportunities and even emotions that are “uniquely Alleghany.”


The Results

The comprehensive brand strategy and its visual identity were finalized in early Spring 2011. The website launched in April to coincide with the beginning of the advertising campaign. The visitors guide, which serves as the main fulfillment piece for inquiries, was then made available in print as well as an online version. A social media presence was established with a creative Facebook page that uses custom tabs, including one that allows viewers to request a free visitors guide and sign up for the e-newsletter. A fun, energetic video was developed to promote outdoor recreation, which is the cornerstone of the Alleghany Highlands brand strategy. A balanced advertising approach that includes print, out-of-home and online outlets has delivered increased web traffic each year since the brand launched.

All of our marketing materials including the website, visitors guide and ad campaign do an excellent job of portraying all that is great about the Alleghany Highlands. That’s because the team at Mikula-Harris took the time to get to know our community. Their expertise in tourism has proven to be invaluable to the Alleghany Highlands. We’re happy to have Mikula-Harris on our team.

Teresa Hammond, Executive Director for the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce & Tourism

Let’s talk.

How can your brand benefit from the talent and experience of the Mikula-Harris team? Let’s start a conversation. Make the call today.



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