Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem Convention & Visitors Bureau Case Study
Destination Marketing Audit + Tourism Development
Following the departure of the Winston-Salem Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (CVB’s) communications director, leadership desired to assess the unstaffed two-person department. In the interim, the CVB looked to outsource their communication needs to a firm with expertise in tourism marketing.
The short-term contract, among other items, required Flying Compass to make recommendations regarding the department’s internal and external role, its function and to oversee the following:
- Departmental workflow
- Media inquiries
- Tourist Development Authority (TDA) reports
- Publication schedules and delivery
- The CVB’s website
The first order of business was to establish communication standards and baseline systems so a temp staffing the department would have a framework to operate within.
Flying Compass provided recommendations for content of a weekly industry communiqué and a news release template. As each was written, they were proofed and edited by Flying Compass, and then the temp submitted for internal approval and oversaw distribution.
The annual Visitor Guide, already in progress, had been outsourced for a fee to a third party handling ad sales, design, production and delivery. Because of challenges with the finished printed product (page crossovers did not line up properly), Flying Compass negotiated between the vendor and printer and the CVB to address the printer’s poor workmanship.
Flying Compass has a strong working knowledge of marketing and communications and all aspects of destination marketing organizations – leisure travelers, group sales – leisure and conventions, CVB/chamber commerce and visitor center operations, PR, the hospitality industry, volunteers, government, special events, etc. As such, we were able to quickly assess the situation and the CVB’s needs and make suggestions for improvement.
The Winston-Salem Convention & Visitors Bureau’s leadership desired to implement Flying Compass’ recommendations. Rather than soliciting resumes to fill the open director position, they posted a request for proposal for a firm with tourism marketing expertise. We responded.
As part of our proposal, we looked to:
- Organize the department’s infrastructure by expanding its role within the CVB and increasing the depth and quality of its resources;
- Work with the CVB in hiring a qualified media manager;
- Take proactive efforts to promote the destination versus responding only to in-bound inquiries;
- Establish and maintain production schedules while updating data and coordinating various collateral materials;
- Develop a positive working relationship among all departments including the newly established leisure tourism department;
- Improve interactions and relationships with the local, regional and state hospitality industry to better leverage opportunities and exposure;
- Play a key role in organizing regional advertising co-ops; and
- Present opportunities for further improvement.
Building upon our earlier work, additional resources were created.
Flying Compass created an annual production schedule for the visitor guide, restaurant guide and map. Each can require substantial lead-time to produce. Organizing the workflow allowed projects to be received prior to season and to also assure staff time demands were spread throughout the year.
Data collection was standardized to accommodate multiple agency needs eliminating repeated requests for information and minimizing touch time.
Systems were developed to monitor marketing materials inventory to avoid “We’re out.”
Visitor Guides - A Profit Center
Having observed the expense and challenges with the minimally designed 4” x 9” visitor guide, Flying Compass recommended: 1) the sales function as well as the design and production be separated and both be outsourced; 2) revenue be collected by the bureau and be used to pay for the guide’s sales commissions and production costs, creating a net profit; and 3) a larger format publication be used to allow for better design and impact.
Flying Compass’ team re-defined the contents and layout for editorial and ads, wrote copy, selected images and re-touched photos. Flying Compass designed the publication, presented to management for approval and coordinated the production and delivery.
Regional DMOs, including Mount Airy, began placing ads in “our” Visitor Guide and “ours” in theirs. In a later year, relocation-related businesses were solicited with the proviso they would receive relocation inquiries, if consumer agreed. We also recommended a less costly rack brochure be used at state welcome centers and consumer trade shows. Production costs could be covered by Visitor Guide revenue.
Media Kit and Image Library
When we began working with the CVB, the media kit lacked depth and breadth. News releases with substance were now written. New story angles targeted key visitor demographics.
Numerous themed story ideas were developed and filled with enticing copy. Rounding out the kit were a quick facts sheet, backgrounders, an accessible online image library with fewer but more dynamic photos and additional releases on special topics.
Flying Compass established policies and standards for the image library. The media manager researched and cataloged a vast collection of quality images after securing proper background and photo credits for each image.
Flying Compass educated CVB staff on copyright law. Our goal was to save the CVB from potentially embarrassing calls or emails for mislabeled images or unauthorized use. Ultimately we wanted to avoid a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
Media Missions and News Releases
Each quarter the media in key feeder markets were contacted and provided a list of upcoming events. Outreach efforts encouraged local events, meeting established criteria, to submit an application to be considered and honored as one of Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events.
Flying Compass took the lead in promoting ArtsIgnite, a multi-day Arts Council-sponsored festival, to the travel media. We also directed the media manager to organize media missions with area attractions in target markets each year. ArtsIgnite was the focal point of one of the media missions.
The local hospitality industry was regularly encouraged to provide content for news releases and the CVB’s online calendar. They were also invited to attend the media missions.
Advertising Co-op Programs
During our tenure, Flying Compass coordinated co-op advertising opportunities where the bureau paid a higher fair-share so as to encourage participation by members of the hospitality industry with small budgets. Similarly we also worked with regional DMOs to create a first-time affordable cost-sharing co-op program. This allowed DMOs with smaller budgets to participate in publications otherwise out of their reach. As an example, a regional spotlight section in a national inflight-airline magazine resulted in an ad shared by large and small DMOs.
Flying Compass developed an online sign-up website for a statewide co-operative email marketing campaign for the North Carolina Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus through the CVB’s leisure tourism department. The emails were sent to AAA travel counselors. The website allowed North Carolina DMOs to sign up for one or more of the quarterly emails, upload their image, copy and billing information. The program was managed within the website thus saving numerous emails.
Website – The Next Generation
When it was time to move the CVB’s website to the next generation, our Flying Compass team developed the site’s architecture, navigation and design. We also developed the website to include many automated features. Access was given to each department to update their respective content based on established standards.
- Using the latest technology, visitor and relocation inquiries were now readily accessible for processing.
- Lists were easily generated and sent to relocation businesses that had purchased an ad in the Visitor Guide.
- An itinerary planner tool was implemented.
- A popular community calendar of events was integrated into the website.
- Hotels could submit “Hot Deals” as well as add wedding or honeymoon packages.
- Meeting RFPs were standardized giving the industry the ability to submit their respective available space. CVB staff could then flow this data easily into their bid packet.
- A convention calendar now auto-filled into the meetings section of the website.
- Tourist Development Authority (TDA) board and committee minutes or the board list could be uploaded by the TDA clerk.
- The media center now featured news releases, an image library, and a request form.
- The nearby Yadkin Valley wine appellation is filled with wineries and vineyards attracting numerous visitors. Flying Compass assisted in writing a grants application for a wine marketing program.
- Our team developed collateral materials for family reunions, group tours and holiday shopping packages.
- We met with the local attractions association and encouraged they develop relationships with area hotels to educate their front line personnel and suggested the creation of packages to sell more tickets.
- We spearheaded an internship program to assist in many of the department’s labor-intensive projects.
Flying Compass brought a broad base understanding of the hospitality industry and how all the pieces fit together and interact. In addition, we took numerous print and online projects from concept to delivery, including a website with the following sections – experience (leisure), group tours, visitor center, meetings, sports, calendar of events, media and hotels.
As tourism marketing experts, Flying Compass was able to establish an effective, fully functioning communications department with the tools necessary to properly promote the destination. This included a how-to manual with standards and policies to empower the communications staff, while freeing up management’s time for other projects.
Additionally, we developed and automated a number of tools, creating efficiencies in other departments as well.