Pivot, Pivot, Pivot. Shifting to an Online World: April 2020

It’s been a crazy month and a half – so busy it may feel like you haven’t had a chance to sit down and take a breath. The world as we know it has evolved into a place where most of us are at home and adapting to an increasingly online world. For many business owners, this adaptation has become a matter of standing apart and continuing to meet the news of the consumer.

The transition to an online platform may be easy for some, but the truth is we can all amp up our digital game to better position ourselves in a virtual world. And if you are thinking to just hunker down and wait for the world to return to normal, don’t. First of all, no one knows how long this will continue, so it’s better to hedge your best. Second of all, digital sales are booming, so why not get your share?

In fact, there is a big incentive to consider making the pivot to online sales – according to this report, across all five sectors in Canada (furniture and home décor, food and restaurants, clothing, sporting goods, household appliances, electronics, building materials) there has been significant digital revenue growth between March 11-29 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

If you’re not sure how to make the transition to the online world, voices of the experts out there are plenty: Shopify’s list of Short Term Revenue Strategies for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers has tons of ideas for how to work around COVID19 restrictions. Even Facebook has gotten into the mix, with their plan for Helping Businesses Create an Online Presence During COVID-19.

The truth is, your customers are still out there, and they are looking for you, but the question is: Will they find you? Read on for five ways to make sure your business stays front of mind during COVID19.

  1. Update your Google profile

COVID19 or no, Google is still working to promote your business, but they can only do so much without your input. The folks at Google are like little elves, working away in the workshop while you’re sleeping. They want you to wake up to six pairs of brand new shoes, but they need your help. When was the last time you updated your Google profile? Added a photo? Take the time to make sure a Google search brings up your business   – if your customers don’t know you’re there, they can’t find you. Google also conveniently tracks how many people have viewed your profile, clicked on it, and found you online, so you can see direct gains from your efforts.

  1. Showcase Your Business, Virtually

Remember all those tools that Facebook and Instagram have been promoting for the past several years? Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, panoramic 360 degree views? This is when you need to experiment with these tools to support your business. There are so many ways you can use video and imagery to keep your business front of mind and keep your customers engaged. All that’s required is creativity and for you to check your inhibitions at the door. Some ideas are to try doing a Facebook Live video demonstration, or do a 360 degree panoramic shot of the interior of your business, giving your customers get a peek inside. No, there are no direct sales involved in this, but anything that keeps your business in someone’s mind can mean you’re that much closer to a future sale.

  1. Start Selling Online

This is probably one of the hardest hurdles to surmount for many businesses. Thankfully, this is Canada, so we’re all here to help each other out. In fact, the Canadian online shopping mogul, Shopify, has you covered. They’ve offered a three-month free trial  for you to get started with online sales. If you’re intimidated with the Shopify platform, don’t be. It’s easy to navigate and use, and the friendly folks over at Shopify are also happy to help you out.

  1. Keep Your Chin Up

This isn’t going to happen overnight. Pivoting is a hard word, and even harder to put into practice. The important thing is DON’T GIVE UP. Your customers, and your business, are depending on you to keep plugging away, even if you feel like you may not be making any progress.

Happy wandering!

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager


OHTO’s Next Steps for Marketing: April 2020

To say times are tough is an understatement, but we are confident the strength of our communities and our people will allow us to persevere together during these difficult times. Soon enough, we will be inviting visitors to once again Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands and discover the stories, people, and hidden gems that make this region great.

In the meantime, our marketing activities will shift towards developing content our audiences can look to for hope and inspiration while reminding them of the experiences they can look forward to once this crisis is over. Our messaging will be delivered through our social channels and website rather than advertising campaigns for the near term to give us an opportunity to experiment with our tone and timing.

With this, we intend to:

  1. Bring the destination experience into people’s homes, showcasing our beautiful natural environment and highlighting what people have to look forward to;
  2. Engage our audience in the experiences of Ontario’s Highlands through virtual tours and ‘how-to’ tutorials.
  3. Connect our audiences with the spirit our communities through stories of people helping people.

How can you Participate?

Think about ways you can highlight your business through a virtual experience, and share it with us! And what exactly is a ‘virtual experience’? Here is a list to help spark your ideas:

  • A short video or virtual tour of your business that ignites the viewer’s senses. For example, boiling maple syrup, taking a walk on a nature trail around your property, paddling down a river, or a behind-the-scenes video of your property, kitchen, etc.
  • There is a surge in interest for online learning and now is the time to share your knowledge through video. Think about the things your visitors were interested in when they interacted with you. Here are some popular examples:
      • Restaurant sector – How to put together the perfect charcuterie board, how to make popular desserts or meals
      • Accommodators – Interesting stories about your community
      • Artists – online art classes
      • Musicians – live performances in your home
  • Look out for those ‘People Helping People’ stories in your community and share them with us. We want to highlight the strength of our communities.

We will be distributing your content in a variety of ways:

  1. Share with the visitor on our social platforms
  2. Share with our tourism partners, such as Destination Ontario and county partners, to distribute through their marketing channels
  3. Populating on our website to build a broader story of the solidarity and strength of our region.

Examples of Virtual Experiences in Ontario’s Highlands

There are already some amazing example of Ontario’s Highlands entrepreneurs being creative when it comes to finding ways to bring their business into the homes of their customers. In Lanark County, Sivarulrasa Gallery has created an online gallery, while C’est Tout Bakery is sweetening their online ordering by hosting a live cupcake decorating session. Tune in to the Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve Facebook page on April 2 at 3:00 pm for a live wolf feeding. We’re so inspired by these stories of ingenuity at its best!

Virtual Wanderer Series

If you’re stepping up your virtual game, we’d like to help get the word out. Do you have an idea for a live video, or are you planning on posting something pre-recorded? Fill out the Monthly Guiding Question and let us know the details of what you’ve got planned in the next couple weeks and when you’re going to share it with your followers. We’ll consolidate a schedule of what we’re calling the ‘Virtual Wanderer’ series, create a graphic we can all share, and work together to promote everyone’s efforts. Let us know about it here.

If you plan to go the route of posting a pre-recorded video on Facebook, you can also publish it as a premiere, which gives you some of the functions that live videos have. Start by drumming up interest with a post ahead of time – which we will also help with – including the time and date you will premiere your video. When your video publishes on the premiere date, your audience will be able to watch and engage with it in real-time. If you’d like, you can be available to answer questions in the comments. After the premiere, your video will still be available for viewing as a regular video post.

Are you confident in your internet connection but need help navigating Facebook Live? Have a look here at this step-by-step guide, as well as this one that has some great tips on making it a success. Does your video need some editing to combine clips? Try out these tutorials for built-in video editors on Windows and Mac, or check out a list of apps you can use on your phone.

More Ways to Keep in Touch

Even if you aren’t able to do a video, there are other ways to stay in touch!

  1. Fill out the Monthly Guiding Question. You may notice that the theme of the questions have changed, but these remain a valuable tool for the OHTO team to gather information.
  2. Tag us in your social media posts with @onhighlands and #ComeWander. This allows us to see any stories that are happening around the region.
  3. Send us an email! Good ol’ email still remains a great way to get in touch with us! Here is a link to the team’s contact information.
  4. Give us a call at 1-855-629-6486 ext 202

A Message from Nicole Whiting

The pace of change we have experienced in our daily lives over the past two weeks and the impact those changes will have on our future is staggering. Our hearts especially go out to those who have been directly affected by COVID-19 and all of the amazing front line health care professionals who are risking their lives on a daily basis to care for those in need.

This crisis is unprecedented. The playbook is being written and revised in real-time against an elusive moving target. Our desire for predictability to chart a path forward is challenged as the time frame for our new reality seems to extend on a daily basis. The hardship facing so many cannot be underestimated and our tourism sector, along with the communities in our region who rely on the visitor economy, are going to face extremely difficult times ahead.

However, in these uncertain times, we can take great comfort in the certainty that together, we will rise to the occasion. All levels of government are taking swift and unified action to mitigate the impact of this crisis and technology is facilitating essential social connections allowing families, friends and co-workers to share experiences of both fear and hope. By now, everyone has a story of someone they know who has used creativity and compassion to help others in need in their community.

Collaboration has always been the ethos of our organization and we are humbled by the level of engagement from our six County partners who have made themselves available to contribute their insights and ideas. As one of the largest regions in the province, their connections to operators at the local level are important linkages to the realities on the ground.

Our immediate concern going forward is two-fold:

1. To ensure our tourism community is linked in with the resources and information that will support their ability to make informed immediate, mid- and long-term planning decisions.


  • We update the industry page of our website on a regular basis to capture all of the latest local, provincial, and federal support measures available to businesses.
  • We send out a weekly round up of news and resources through email.
  • We post time sensitive updates on our Twitter account @ohtoinsider
  • Our team is available to field questions and direct inquires to appropriate resources.

2. To work with our tourism community to shift storytelling with our audiences towards more useful and sensitive content during this time of crisis. We are a region that can provide messages of hope and anticipation for welcoming them back when the time comes.


Our audiences are hungry for good news and inspiring content. We will be developing opportunities for our operators to engage with them as well as exploring innovative and respectful ways to generate sales. Stay connected to our communication channels to learn more!

We are honoured to be working with our incredible tourism community to get through these difficult times together. The sheer grit and determination that underpins the character of our communities will no doubt position us well to overcome this incredible public health and financial crisis, and we can look forward to welcoming guests back to our unforgettable region in the future.

Stay healthy, stay determined and stay connected.

Yours in tourism,

Nicole Whiting
Executive Director
Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization