One day last week while sitting at my desk in Virginia, I enjoyed a virtual tour of some tourist hot spots in New Hampshire. The production value was barely adequate — looked like much of it was filmed on a phone. The tour guide’s authenticity and love for the state was abundantly clear. The guide happened to be the Governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu. The entire, action-packed day was chronicled on Twitter under the hashtag #Super603day. If you’re wondering, 603 is the area code that covers the entire state.

Full disclosure, I was raised in New Hampshire and have spent time in many of the places featured during #Super603day. I actually grew up in the same town as the governor. I’ve never met him, but I did vote for his father who was the governor more than 30 years earlier.

Obviously, I love to see all governors support tourism. During my career in tourism marketing in Virginia, our governors have all supported tourism, though with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Sununu, though, takes it to new heights — almost 6,000 feet above sea level to be exact. One of the coolest parts of his trip was hiking into and then skiing Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington. I have hiked the trail several times, but never skied it. The journey continued south to Lake Winnipesaukee for boating and fishing. The Roanoke region of Virginia shares a special connection to Lake Winnipesaukee. The movie “What About Bob” with Bill Murray is set on the NH lake, but was filmed at Smith Mountain Lake. I can say from personal experience, that they are quite different but both very beautiful lakes. The governor’s day ended with a swim in the frigid ocean water at Hampton Beach. Many people don’t even realize that New Hampshire has beaches. The NH seacoast is only 18 miles, but it’s beautiful from Seabrook to Portsmouth.

As a tourism marketer, I enjoyed following the governor’s journey. No social media “influencer” could have brought as much sincerity. As a transplanted Yankee, it was a walk down memory lane. 

Follow Mikula-Harris on Twitter.

A debate has been raging for years in the tourism community about how DMOs can remain relevant in a very complex marketplace. Are local DMOs still the trusted resource for travel information that they used to be? Just look around and see how many outlets are offering travel advice, reviews and even bookings. In addition to the local DMOs, there are state tourism offices, regional partnerships, social media, TripAdvisor, online aggregators like Travelocity and even private entrepreneurial efforts like guidebook publishers.

So, DMOs have to kick it in high gear to prove their relevance in order to keep their funding. Advice on how to do it ranges from:

• Educate local leaders and stakeholders about what your organization accomplishes for them.

• Build good personal relationships with local leaders so you have a seat at the table during discussions about funding, long-term product development and economic development.

Good advice, indeed.

Here's the bottom line — because I'm a bottom line kind of guy. Focus on what the "M" in DMO stands for and be great at it. I mean be unbelievably awesome. Don't settle for mediocrity when it comes to leisure travel marketing and don't let anyone out hustle your sales team on meetings, conventions and groups. If you're going to be in the social media arena (and you darn well better be), work it hard. Post interesting content, tweet about your strengths and write a blog. And — you probably suspected this would show up eventually — hire the best talent you can afford. Marketing (which is what the "M" stands for if you did'?t know) works and creative marketing works wonders. Innovative and creative marketing moves the needle and gets results. That will give a DMO more relevance than any amount of rhetoric.


I had high expectations for social media to spread the word about a unique event. And Facebook did not let me down. It provides an interesting lesson in how Facebook can be used for event promotion

Each year, the graduating class of Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College raises money for scholarships. None of the money raised will directly benefit this year’s class. It will all go towards defraying the cost of attendance for students in future years. That’s what makes it such a wonderful tradition, so my classmates and I are trying to raise a record amount this year.

As the class coordinator for online fundraising, I set up a simple donation page through FirstGiving. It’s easy, safe and secure. We planned to promote the site with a few email blasts to current Marketing College students and alumni. Then, my classmate Tubby Kubik had the brainstorm of creating an event that we could all invite people to. So, I set up a “virtual” event on Facebook and LinkedIn. We have declared June 20th to be Support STS Marketing College Day. We’re asking people to show their support for this great continuing education program by making a contribution of any amount on that day.

Momentum for the event began when I invited members of the Facebook group STS Class of 2011 to the event and asked them to invite their tourism colleagues. Then I asked friends in the graduating class one year ahead and one year behind me to do the same. Within a couple of days over 600 people had been invited. So far, a small percentage has indicated that they will “attend” even though it’s a virtual event. The important thing, however, is that within a couple of days more than 600 people knew about the event. Unless they choose to remove it from their events, they will see reminders whenever they log in to Facebook. That’s extraordinary reach for a message that began in a relatively small group with 71 members.

Note: If anyone reading this is involved in the tourism industry or works for a business that benefits heavily from tourism, feel free to share this blog on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and help us make Support STS Marketing College Day on January 20th a huge success. There is no need to be invited or reply to the Facebook event. Anyone can log on to the online giving page and make a secure donation.

Successful advertising has always resulted from the smart combination of several ingredients.
a. A strategy-driven big idea
b. Turning the idea into an artfully designed, photographed or recorded product
c. Placing the commercial, ad, brochure, poster, etc. in the exact right media outlet to reach the desired target audience.

A and B traditionally originated from the creative department, ie: copywriters, designers, art directors. The media planners were responsible for C, although personally I think it takes a mix of analytical and creative thinking to make a great media plan. That's a subject for another blog post.

In social media, the emphasis is more focused on the message than on the visuals. The major social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter don't allow much freedom for great design and highly-polished production values. While there are many professionally produced videos on YouTube, the overwhelming volume of shaky, amateur vids have certainly lowered the bar for what is acceptable. With B and C out of the equation, brands wishing to successfully connect with consumers on social media had better pay close attention to the ideas they are communicating.

I have a theory that marketing on social media platforms is going through a phase similar to the do-it-yourself desktop publishing phase of a decade ago. Anyone with a computer could call themselves a freelance designer regardless of their experience or talent. Some advertising and marketing materials grew very bland. They lacked good writing, design, typography and photography. After all, they were developed by amateurs. Consumers started to overlook the crappy marketing materials and the pendulum began to swing back as clients realized the need to captured the public's attention with creativity and quality. Today, marketers are just putting out any old drivel on social media just because it's easy and cheap. I, for one, am becoming desensitized to boring posts and tweets. It's why I believe that substance is becoming more important to successful social media marketing. Not every social media post or YouTube video needs to be amazingly witty, but they should be thoughtful and consistent with the overall brand strategy. It's true that social media communications tend to be more conversational that advertising, but even in conversation it’s possible to say too much and say it inarticulately.

While the tone and tactics may be different between traditional advertising and social media marketing, there is still one important common denominator: strategy-driven ideas.


6 Walnut Avenue • Vinton, Virginia 24179

facebook-icontwitter iconyoutube icon
© Mikula-Harris