Maximizing Destination Ontario: March 2020

If you feel like you’re a long lifeboat bobbing along on the ocean of the tourism world, trying to keep afloat in a turbulent sea, you should know you don’t need to go it alone. There are tourism organizations floating nearby, ready to help support you and your business, and those organizations include Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) and (drum roll, please…) Destination Ontario.

You may think that Destination Ontario is too BIG for your business, too focused on the big experiences in Ontario, like the CN Tower or Niagara Falls, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These days, it’s the authentic hard-to-find spots that the average visitor is looking for, like the cozy café tucked away in a cute small town, the out of the way hiking trail with the epic view, or the rural retreat that offers that special something you just can’t find in an urban environment.

Yes, Destination Ontario works with the big guys, but when it comes right down to it, they are here for you. In fact, according to their website, Destination Ontario was created specifically to partner with Ontario tourism operators to showcase the province as a four-season must-see travel destination.

The key part of that sentence is “created to partner with Ontario tourism operators” – that’s you!

Working with operators is the biggest part of the Destination Ontario mandate, without you they don’t have anything to promote. The question is – are you doing everything you can to maximize their support?

When you work in collaboration with Destination Ontario you can achieve greater return on your investment by accessing their assets, expertise, and partnership opportunities to help you extend your marketing and sales reach, and stretch your marketing dollars. Each year OHTO works closely with Destination Ontario to promote the region; please let us know how we can assist with ensuring you are maximizing their support.

Whether it’s through free business listings or paid marketing campaigns, Destination Ontario is invested in helping you make your tourism business a success. Read on to find out how you can leverage their support.

Tell Them What You’ve Got

Each year, Destination Ontario coordinates extensive marketing campaigns that include digital, print, social media, and more. With such robust marketing, they are constantly looking for content, events, and tourism assets to capitalize through their campaigns.

How do you take advantage of this? Easy: When we at OHTO reach out to you looking for information about your tourism offerings and activities, spend a few minutes to answer our questions and send us what you’ve got. We then pass on that info to Destination Ontario to include in their own content development.

If you are looking to partner on a paid advertising campaign, there are opportunities for that, too. Together, your marketing dollars can go even further! Reach out to the friendly folks at Destination Ontario and start the conversation to explore your options.

Promote Your Business and Experiences

Destination Ontario’s consumer website, ontariotravel.net, is a go-to resource for visitors looking for experiences and destinations in your region. On this site, visitors can browse festivals and events, business listings, and packaged experiences, all right here in Ontario. But did you know that you can take advantage of any of these listings for FREE?

Do you have an experience a visitor might like to know about? Think about creating an experiential package, a one-page advertisement for an experience that has a start and end date. Your package can be featured on the Ontario Travel website, which will drive leads straight to your business. If you need photos to use for your own campaigns, you can access them through their online image database – again, for FREE.

Leverage the Ontario Tourism Brand

Did you know the Ontario Travel Facebook page has more than 320,000 followers, and their Instagram page has 298,000 followers (wow!)? Instead of going it along, partner with an established brand with Destination Ontario.  Use the hashtag #discoveron on your social channels and you never know if one of your posts or photos will get reposted to (much) wider audience. While you’re at it, use the hashtag #ComeWander so we can help you out, too! We’re all in this together, after all.

Get Marketing Advice

Consult with Destination Ontario’s experienced staff to make sure you’re on the right path to success. Ask them how you can leverage their support and how you can work together.

Happy Wandering,

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

 

Shifting Perspective: Getting Ready for the 2020 Tourism Season: February 2020

It may not feel like it, but tourism season 2020 is right around the corner, and headed this way fast. As a tourism business or operator, are you and your staff ready for the fun, excitement (and yes, sometimes chaos) that is coming your way?

Getting ready for the season is about more than just making sure your business is clean and tidy (although that’s important, too). It’s also about making sure you and your staff are prepared to deliver excellent customer service, a goal that becomes more challenging the busier you get. Often, we aren’t aware of the ways in which we may be falling short in reaching this goal.

Why Do We Need Good Customer Service?

It goes without saying that the best referral is one that comes from another customer. The grass roots review site, Tripadvisor, is a good example of exactly how big an impact referrals can have. A negative review can be challenging, while a positive review tells your potential customers that your business is one worth visiting.

But that brings to mind the question: What is good customer service? The answer will differ from business to business, but in essence it means going above and beyond the basics in order to keep the customer happy, and that customer satisfaction remains a top priority for you and your staff. In return, this will create happy and loyal customers who will return again and again, and gladly refer you to their friends and family.

Here are a few ways to make sure you’re ready for tourism season 2020.

A is for Attitude

You may treat your customers like gold, and feel good about the standard of service you provide. You are friendly, fast, efficient, and welcoming to your customer base and they appreciate that. If so, keep up the good work! Often, a friendly attitude and atmosphere comes from the top, and staff pick up on a business owner’s attitude, and perpetuate it.

On the other hand, you can’t always be aware of how staff are treating your customers in your absence. Are your staff knowledgeable about your business? Are they knowledgeable about the region? Are they in the know about initiatives and promotions relating to your business?

If you’re not sure about the answer to any of these questions some staff training may be a good idea before your customers start beating down your door. During the busy season, weekly or bi-weekly staff meetings can go far in making sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations for customer service and delivery, as well as business knowledge.

Take a Closer Look

Take a good look around and try and view your business from an outsider’s perspective. How clean are the facilities? When was the last time you did a deep cleaning that got into all the nooks and crannies?

The slower off season is a good time to do this type of cleaning. This is the time to check those things that may not be obvious to you, but will be to customers, like behind doors, along floorboards, the tops of ceilings fans, windows etc.

Also check to make sure your business is accessible for those with physical challenges. How is the traffic flow through your business? Could someone with a walker easily navigate?

Also take the time to review the signage to your business – will your customers be able to find you easily? Does your signage need a refresh? If they can’t find you, they can’t visit.

The Great Circle of Tourism Life

We’re a community of tourism operators, and when we support one another our region as a whole benefits. When a customer stays at an accommodation they will inevitably need to eat, shop, or take part in other tourism activities. It’s a symbiotic relationship – the great circle of tourism life.

Take the time to engage with your customers, and encourage your staff to do the same. No one knows your region better than you, so why not invite your customers to enjoy your region more fully by pointing out other experiences they may enjoy? Keep brochures from other businesses available to hand out to customers. Remember, a major tourism goal is to encourage our customers to stay longer – that’s a win for everyone.

Happy Wandering!

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Managing Social Feedback: January 2020

Tips to handling negative and the positive feedback on social media and TripAdvisor.

Remember the days when customers would come to you directly with any concerns or complaints? It was a chance to air their grievances and for you to respond face to face to defuse the situation, and find a solution that works.

While this may still happen, the digital world we now live in has Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and Yelp (among others), giving consumers ample opportunities to leave reviews, whether they are good or bad, about their experience at a place of business.  And sometimes, these are much more difficult to navigate than a customer standing right in front of you.

When handled properly, feedback left on social channels can be one of the most positive marketing tools in your back pocket.  A positive review and star rating will show future visitors what they can expect.  And when they happen, negative feedback and how it is properly handled, can show current and future visitors how much you value their concerns and the steps you are able to take to mitigate the issue and make all parties involved satisfied with the outcome.

So what do you do when someone posts a negative review or comment about your business, products, or staff? How do you respond in a way that puts your business and how you handle concerns in a positive light, and won’t deter future customers?

Whether you’re dealing with TripAdvisor or social media, managing negative feedback can be tricky, and how you approach the situation could have an impact on your future business. But honestly – this is an opportunity to allow your business to shine!  How you respond to feedback is an opportunity to turn consumers into raving fans.

Here are some key things you can do to effectively manage feedback in the world of social media.

  1. Always respond

Whether the review is positive or negative – always respond. No exceptions. Don’t just expect negative comments to drift away in the wind and go unnoticed. These days people are more apt to read a TripAdvisor, Google or social media reviews than a website, and often closely review comments when researching destinations to visit. When a business doesn’t respond to negative comments, the impression is given that they are not invested in maintaining good customer service.

  1. Be courteous and professional

No matter how bad the review, don’t take this personally. You are a professional providing a product or service and should respond as such. Always maintain that professional demeanor. This alone can often go far in defusing a situation, and plus, anyone reading the interchange later will see that you responded appropriately. If you aren’t sure if you are being appropriately professional, ask a colleague to read your response first.

  1. Be concerned

Don’t dismiss negative comments, but instead look at whether there is any validity to the comment, and express your concern in your response. This is your chance to get information about what you and/or your staff can do better to meet the expectations of your customers. If you tell your customer that you will be taking an action, DO IT. This is not the place for lip service.

  1. Take the conversation offline

On social media, a lengthy conversation can turn on you quickly. You can easily shut down a potentially ugly situation by asking them to message you privately so you can address their concerns. This approach makes sense from the customer’s and your perspectives – your customer may not realize that airing their negativity on social media is the same as standing in your business and yelling at you. Sometimes it makes them look bad more than it impacts you.

  1. Recognize positive feedback

This is one that’s often forgotten about! So often business owners only respond to the negative reviews, and miss the positive and good news stories that mean a lot to other potential customers who read them. Thank your positive reviewers and respond just as professionally and promptly as you would with a negative review. These people are taking it upon themselves to spread the word about how fantastic you are and should be recognized. Word of mouth marketing is one of the powerful tools you can have!

 

Try incorporating some of these sample responses into your repertoire:

Thank you for your feedback…

You are telling your customer that you take all reviews seriously and genuinely appreciate the information gleaned from them.

I’m sorry to hear…

Empathizing with someone who genuinely feels wronged validates their feelings and helps to defuse anger.

I understand that this is what took place…

You have already recognized that you are sorry they are upset, and now you are going to clear up any misunderstandings. Briefly, in as few words as possible, reiterate events and how you understand them, but DON’T make excuses. If there is room for improvement on your end, acknowledge it.

I want to assure you this isn’t…

This is where you stress your business and professional ethics for the customer and any others reading the review.

I will be looking into…

You are telling your customer that you will be taking ACTION. This is critical and often lacking in responses. It’s good for customers to know that you appreciate their feedback, and empathize with them, but they also want to know what you are actually doing to correct the situation.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any other issues or concerns or to discuss further…

You are telling your customer that your response doesn’t end with the public review, you’re there for them to communicate with (yes, they should have done that in person from the beginning, but it is what it is).

Sincerely, [insert name and title]

Make sure you put a name to the response. That indicates you are taking ownership of the issue and gives someone a name to refer to.

Hope this helps!

 

Happy wandering!

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

Getting Started with Google Analytics: December 2019

Remember when print media was king and businesses were relegated to the level of serfdom, throwing money at marketing with no clear indication of who was seeing their ads and what those dollars were actually achieving?

Thankfully those days are a thing of the past and it’s a brave new world in the world of marketing. Today, we can easily track exactly what is happening with our most important marketing tool, our website.

If you’re not using Google Analytics, you need to be. Analytics’ easy to use format gives it a sleek and efficient user experience, and is relatively easy to figure out, even if you aren’t a tech whiz.

Unlike website stats, Analytics offers a deeper look at what is happening on your website beyond simply counting page visits.

Analytics can tell you how many people have visited your site, which pages they visited, and what actions they took. Analytics can help manage SEO campaigns, provide you with a big picture view of how people are interacting with your social channels, and what is working and not working when it comes to your marketing efforts.

Looking for page visits? Look at Behaviour Flow. Wondering how your visitors are reaching your page? Check Acquisitions. Wanting to know where your audience is from? Look to Audience. And if you’re stumped about how to do something on Analytics, chances are good the answer is available online (thank-you, Google). Read on to learn more about why adding Analytics to your marketing should be your Christmas present to yourself (and your business).

  1. It’s free and easy to use

Such a powerful marketing tool must cost a fortune, right? Wrong! Analytics is free to use, and is easy to set up. Even for novices, Analytics can be set up with just a few simple steps  and you can start gleaning data almost immediately.

  1. Tells you where your market is

Analytics can provide detailed reports of where visitors are geographically when they access your site. This can be of use in targeting online advertising campaigns and particularly social media campaigns.

  1. Tracks advertising campaigns

Analytics will tell you exactly how an advertising campaign has performed, by providing stats for website visits from referrers, social media campaigns, email campaigns, and more. You no longer need to throw money away and tell yourself your investment has been worthwhile, now you can know all the dirty details.

  1. Generates reports

You will probably become addicted to the reporting function on Analytics. Your reports can be as complex or as simple as you would like to see, and will help make sure you are on track with your marketing goals (yes, you can report on your goals, too!). Using reports, you can compare time periods to see how your stats differ by seasons or by year, or in response to the launch of advertising campaigns. Basically if there’s something you would like to know about your website, there is a report that will inform you.

  1. Evaluates your content

Wondering what’s happening with your blog posts and if it’s worth the time to write them? With Analytics you can track how visitors reached your post, and what action they took from there. You can also see which posts received the most traffic, which can provide insight into what content your customer base is engaging with the most, so you can create more of that content.

Convinced you need Google Analytics? Eager to get started? Read this article from Google for easy to understand, step by step instructions on setting up Analytics on your website.

 

Happy wandering!

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

If you build it they will come: 5 steps to developing killer content – November 2019

You hear it everywhere.  Content marketing.  It’s a term that’s used a lot these days, particularly in the tourism world, and definitely within our organization. Done right, content marketing can be highly effective, but done wrong, your wheels might be spinning and you don’t know what to do next!

So how do you do make sure you are doing it right? The answer to this question is surprisingly less obvious than you might think. We can all recognize amazing content marketing campaigns, but can sometimes forget to note the elements that make them stand out.

Briefly defined (according to Dictionary.com), content marketing is:

“A type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”

Read this sentence closely, because the answer to the question above lies in the first few words. Content marketing is the “…creation and sharing of online material…” (emphasis added).

Do you see which comes first? This chicken or the egg question is an element that is easy to miss in the rush to dive into the content marketing world. The first step in amazing content marketing is physically creating compelling content.

This means developing the written words that tug at something in your soul, the photos that make you long for the experience, or the video that takes your breath away.

At OHTO, partnership opportunities exist to help tourism stakeholders to develop killer content, specifically because we understand that the quote “if you build it, they will come” is 100 per cent true. First you need killer content that tells your compelling story. Once that part is in place, everything else naturally follows.

At this year’s OH! Tourism Summit in Pembroke, developing strong partnerships was the focus of the event, but the content marketing theme was nevertheless interwoven through every presentation. There was a lot of discussion about how to partner to extend your reach and elevate awareness of your brand, but beneath it all were the casual mentions of the challenges in creating that content in the first place.

If you’ve been looking for a way to strengthen your content, read on for more information about the challenges of creating content, and how to circumvent them.

  1. Identify your strongest assets and their message

If you just thought “well, duh” when you read the heading above, don’t be surprised if this is harder than you might think. Identifying your assets is about more than just writing down the name of a park or museum, it’s taking the time to sit and find a way to spin those assets in a way that delivers your curated message to the reader. One excellent example of this is the video created by OHTO in partnership with Hastings County that went beyond identifying Eagle’s Nest Lookout as an asset, it identified the message to relay to the visitor, loosely translated as simply: “Find serenity in Hastings County.”

  1. Plan ahead – waaaay ahead

Don’t expect to begin developing content to use in two months from now. Understand that there is often a long lead time between when you create your content and when it actually reaches the consumer, sometimes a year or more will pass while you sit squirming on amazing content you can’t wait to get out into the world, but you are waiting for the right opportunity. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint!

  1. Find good talent and communicate your goals clearly

Finding good talent means taking the time to source photographers, videographers and writers who understand what you are trying to create and have the experience and skills necessary to bring it to fruition. Ensuring that your goals for the project are well communicated will go far in avoiding disappointment later on in the game. Oh, and talent doesn’t refer only to your contractors – believe it or not, models are also considered talent, and they are just as crucial to creating inspiring content as those taking the photos or video.

  1. Coordinate the heck out of it (also known as pray for good weather)

Creating content is a logistical nightmare that can have you waking up in the middle of the night in a sweat, worried you will forget something. You need to coordinate schedules for the models, your contractors, and yourself, along with any businesses or operators who may be included in the content creation. And don’t forget about the weather! Mother Nature can be less than accommodating when you need sun for your shoot, so be prepared for inclement weather conditions.

  1. Don’t underestimate your audience

If you see your photos or video or written content and aren’t blown away by how awesome they are, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t do well in the marketing world. Be brutal in rejecting anything less than your vision. After all, if you aren’t moved by your content, how will your audience be? So if you aren’t sneaking back to your computer to replay your video or flip through your photos, think about why not and how you can improve your content development for next time.

Happy wandering,

 

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

 

We are Stronger Together: October 2019

We are stronger together. This is a statement that has withstood the test of time and history, and continues to be relevant today. That we aren’t also strong individually isn’t at question, it’s that when we work together, there is nowhere to go but up.

Stronger, better, smarter. This is true not only in tourism but also in virtually every other industry in the world. Two minds are better than one. Four minds are better than two.

The potential for collaboration is tremendous – in 2019 and 2020 the world is celebrating 75 years since the end of World War II, a feat that came about thanks to the collaboration and partnership of allied forces.

And think of the other instances in which partnership brought about greatness: If the Wright brothers hadn’t partnered to invent the airplane would we be able to fly around the world today? John Lennon and Paul McCartney both made beautiful music as solo artists, but together they created something eternal – the Beatles. And would Ben and Jerry’s ice cream taste as sweet if it was just called “Ben’s Ice Cream?” or “Jerry’s Ice Cream?”

Collaboration is the key to unlocking so much success, a chance to throw ideas into the mix, make connections, and further common goals. For tourism operators and stakeholders in Ontario’s Highlands, our primary goal is to bring visitors to our community, and to present a cohesive message about what a visitor can expect during their visit.

It’s the tremendous potential of partnership and collaboration that led us to settle on this year’s Oh! Tourism Summit theme – Stronger Together: Growing Tourism Through Collaboration.  At the summit on Wednesday, October 23 at the Germania Club in Pembroke, we will be delving into how we can work collaboratively to leverage ourselves and our destinations more effectively.

This theme is present in every aspect of this year’s conference program, from a presentation by Lisa LaVecchia, President and CEO of Destination Ontario, who will be discussing how to Leverage Your Reach to Tourism Matters by Beth Potter, President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario. Throughout this year’s conference we will be learning how we can be better together, and hearing straight from the experts about the power of collaboration, with success stories of how partnerships have made big differences in driving visitation in communities across Ontario’s Highlands.

Here in Ontario’s Highlands we are killing it when it comes to increasing visitation to our regions, and working hard at becoming better and better at what we do. But how do we pull together that partnership piece? How do we prove that two minds are better than one?

Find out on October 23. Come put your head together with tourism leaders from the Ottawa Valley to Hastings County, Lennox & Addington, Frontenac County, Haliburton Highlands, and Lanark County, and see for yourself what can happen when you partner up.

With our sights set on becoming Ontario’s next most talked about destination, we invite you to join us for a day of exploration, innovation, networking, and collaboration. Please have a look at our conference website, www.ohtourismsummit.ca, for full program details and to register today.

Let’s grow tourism together by inspiring more visitors to Come Wander in Ontario’s Highlands.

Happy Wandering,

 

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

Sharing Events: August 2019

We are thrilled to hear about more and more events being dreamed up and developed across Ontario’s Highlands! Visitor events can be a lot of fun, but are of course also a lot of work. On top of all the planning, coordinating, and set-up tasks, there is the challenge of marketing the event to drum up attendance.

This can be time consuming and expensive, but the payoff for the hard work and investment is worth it when smiling visitors not only enjoy themselves, but share their awesome experiences with their own networks, helping to inspire more people to visit and attend future events.

We’re always happy to help spread the word to our audiences and inspire people to check out the unique, fun, and sometimes quirky festivals and events taking place across the region. If you’re planning an event, here are our top three suggestions of simple, quick, and free ways to help spread the word:

1. Tell Us! We can’t share what we don’t know – The sooner you let us know about your event, the better. When we hear about events early, it gives us time to share them across multiple channels; to do things like feature them in a story on ComeWander.ca, share them on social media, and include them in our consumer newsletter. Here are some easy ways to keep us in the know:

  • Fill in our Seasonal Product Knowledge Forms – We send these out in the Highlands Highlight and also include at least one question about events happening in the upcoming season. Don’t subscribe to the Highlands Highlight? Sign up here.
  • Tag us on social media and use #ComeWander to make sure we see any posts about the event.
  • Send us an email with information about your event to info@ohto.ca.

2. Add Your Event to the OntarioTravel.net Events Calendar – This is home to events happening all across Ontario and can be filtered to specific Ontario’s Highlands events, which is where we link visitors to for event information on ComeWander.ca. You can create a free listing at TourismPartners.com.

3. Share on Social – With easy to set up event pages on Facebook, and the simplicity for people to share messaging across every platform, social media is a cost-effective way to highlight your event and encourage your fans to share it with their networks. As mentioned above, remember to tag us and use #ComeWander to leverage your messaging and ensure we see it.

Happy event planning,

Julie Mulligan
OHTO’s Marketing Manager

Summer Content Push: July 2019

With our busiest tourism season in full swing, we’ve been working hard to gather, support, and push out visual content to highlight key summer experiences available in Ontario’s Highlands – and there’s more to come. Our summer content push has three pulses, each focused on one key experience and supported with additional efforts that include along-form video, tailored Shareable Moment videos, a story on ComeWander.ca, an Influencer trip, and content creation, all pushed through a targeted media buy on Facebook and Instagram.

I’ll go further into detail about our promotional efforts to support this summer push a little later, but first, wanted to share the three key themes and timing for each push. Always working with a Visitor-First approach, our team identified these themes by researching things like:

  • Past content performance – what engaged readers and was a hit with our target audience
  • Search engine optimization – what key terms are bringing people to our website and enticing them to read stories
  • Trends – what’s buzzing on social media and what is our target audience looking to experience

From here, we identified the following three key themes to respond to our audience’s passions and interests, align with our Wandering Personas, and highlight some of our unique summer experiences.

1. Canadian Wilderness Adventures

  • Identified to respond to passion for Adventure Trips
  • Aligns primarily with Freedom Finder
  • Experiences include whitewater rafting, kayaking, backcountry camping, hiking, mountain biking
  • Dates of content push: June 25 – July 14

2. Backroad Burgs ‘n’ Brews

  • Identified to respond to passion for Culinary Travel
  • Aligns primarily with Rustic Roamer
  • Experiences include breweries, chip trucks, burger joints, and pubs
  • Dates of content push: July 22 – August 8

3. Mindful Moments in Nature

  • Identified to respond to passion for Relaxation and Disconnection
  • Aligns primarily with Serenity Seeker
  • Experiences include natural views, places to go to soak in the beauty of nature, places to disconnect from the every day
  • Dates of content push: August 19 – September 8

We’re working with DMO partners to further leverage the messaging, and have already travelled around the region earlier this summer to conduct video and photoshoots to gather visual content in support of these key themes.

Each pulse of our promotion will focus on one key theme and will include:

  • A story on ComeWander.ca, featuring businesses and experiences related to each key theme and linking visitors directly to operator websites for more information and to book
  • A video pushed out across our digital channels, driving visitors to the corresponding story on ComeWander.ca
  • Digital advertising on Facebook and Instagram – this includes Video Display Ads, Link Ads to content, and Remarketing Ads
  • 3 shorter ‘Shareable Moment’ videos shared throughout the course of the activation
  • A feature in our consumer newsletter
  • An Influencer travelling to Ontario’s Highlands and visually sharing their experiences through the Instagram channel in relation to the key theme – confirmed Influencers are: Andrew Szeto for Canadian Wilderness Adventures, Little Miss Ottawa for Backroad Burgs ‘n’ Brews, and Hopscotch the Globe for Mindful Moments in Nature

As you can see from the dates above, our first pulse has already taken place, with our Canadian Wilderness Adventures video launching June 25 and being supported in the ways outlined above. Results of this pulse are still being gathered, but we are happy to share that the story on ComeWander.ca has been a top performer and has already received over 5, 575 page views.

We are thrilled with the initial success of this first push and look forward to sharing and promoting the next two. Watch for future videos (Backroad Burgs ‘n’ Brews will launch Monday!) and be sure to share and engage on social media to help leverage messaging, increase reach, and encourage more people to Come Wander this summer.

Happy wandering,

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

Rec Geo Rockin’ Relaunch: June 2019

As one of the most diverse geological settings in Canada, opportunities to discover the incredible history of the land, dig for buried treasures, and uncover stories from the past are woven across Ontario’s Highlands. OHTO has been working with partners to leverage our unique setting by developing and promoting these experiences through our Recreational Geology program since 2012, and visitors have since flocked to the region to discover the stories of our Earth, see unique gems with their own eyes, and try their hand at rockhounding.

We’re excited to announce that we’ve revamped our Recreational Geology program and are heading strong into market for the busy summer season with a promotional campaign to support the relaunch of this program and encourage visitors to Come Wander to Ontario’s Highlands’ most rockin’ experiences this season.

The program revamp includes:

  • A revised “Hidden Gems” brochure  – available at visitor centres and attractions throughout the region to guide adventures, this brochure includes a map and information on the 44 sites of interest for recreational geologists and average Joes alike, grouped by county
  • Reskinned #OHRocks Geo-Selfie signs throughout the region – larger-than-life signs that mimic the white border of a Polaroid photo, inviting visitors to snap a selfie to remember the scenic views and unique experiences
  • A ‘Geo-Selfie’ digital map  – available on ComeWander.ca, detailing the locations of the Geo-Selfie Polaroid signs across the region
  • A featured recreational geology story on ComeWander.ca – highlighting experiences and sign locations across Ontario’s Highlands

Promotional efforts to increase the buzz around this revamped program will include digital ads, as well as an exciting ‘#OHRocks Geo-Selfie’ social media contest launching July 1 with prizes from across the region.

The contest will run until August 31 – with promotions on ComeWander.ca, social media channels, and in-destination by the businesses where the Polaroid signs live; enticing visitors to snap and share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #OHRocks for a chance to win either two tickets to Cavestock 2020 (Bonnechere Cave’s underground concert series) or an experience for two with Haliburton Highlands adventure guides Yours Outdoors.

Wondering how you can get involved?

  • Share the message on social media using #OHRocks
  • Download a copy of the digital map to show visitors where they can go to snap their own ‘Geo-Selfie’ near you
  • Encourage visitors to share their ‘Geo-Selfies’ using #OHRocks for a chance to win
  • Suggest visitors download a copy of the “Hidden Gems” brochure for more information on recreational geology sites across Ontario’s Highlands

If you have any questions about our Recreational Geology program or promotional efforts, please feel free to contact me at Julie.mulligan@ohto.ca.

Looking forward to a rockin’ season ahead,

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager

Increase Your Exposure: May 2019

With the success of our recent marketing efforts and partnerships, we’ve had some inquiries into how to best participate in Come Wander and get involved in marketing opportunities.

We’re driven to create content and share stories – whether written on our website, compiled through our newsletter, promoted in video, or captured in photos – that will resonate with our audiences and inspire readers to take action. We also want to make sure we are sharing authentic stories from across Ontario’s Highlands and representing our partners like you.

If you’re wondering how you can increase your exposure, participate in Come Wander, and boost your chances to be featured in marketing special initiatives, here are the top 5 things we look for:

1. Standout Product & Experience

We have a strategic, visitor-centric, and experiential approach to tourism development. To meet our brand promise to our visitor, and build trust, we need to be sure experiences we’re suggesting to visitors standout in terms of quality, uniqueness, and customer service. We want to do everything we can to ensure visitors are having positive experiences they can rave about to best leverage word-of-mouth marketing and build advocates for the region.

2. Eagerness to Partner

We invest in opportunities and promotions to inspire visitors to Come Wander Ontario’s Highlands and one way we can leverage our efforts is to partner, whether that be with provincial, sub-regional, or individual business partners. These opportunities include things like hosting Influencer trips, coordinating video and photo shoots, and paid digital advertising pushes. We look for partners who are eager to work with us and who see the value in these opportunities, and we prioritize those who are willing to contribute to the opportunity – this doesn’t necessarily have to be a strict financial investment, but could instead be an investment of time, a reduced rate (i.e. charging for hard costs only) for an experience being promoted, or even comping an experience or upgrade.

3. Keep Us in the Loop

We can’t share what we don’t know. We strive to stay aware of exciting news and new experiences being developed across Ontario’s Highlands and have processes in place to ensure we are doing so (i.e. following and monitoring businesses on social media, collecting responses to Monthly Guiding Questions and Seasonal Product Knowledge Forms, connecting with partners). If you think there’s something we should be aware of – a new business, event, or experience you’re excited about; a story you think should be shared; a topic you don’t feel is represented in our current content – please tell us! Fill in a Monthly Guiding Question or Seasonal Product Knowledge Form, send us an email, or give us a call at 613-629-6486 to make sure we’re kept in the loop.

4. Customer Reviews

This goes back to the standout product and experience because checking online reviews are one way potential visitors, as well as our team, evaluate an experience. It’s important to not only have a listing on sites like TripAdvisor and Google My Business, but also to monitor these listings and engage with reviewers. A positive review is a great (and free!) marketing opportunity, and a negative review is a chance to correct course and show that you care about the experience of your visitor.

5. Quality Imagery

It’s well-known that visuals help improve engagement and catch the eyes of consumers, whether that’s in a post on social media, a blog, a newsletter, or an advertisement. We share imagery from across the region constantly and are often on the hunt for great shots to visually display the visitor experience in an eye-catching way. We do have a database of imagery we’ve collected through photoshoots and partnerships, but we know that we don’t have imagery for every single business or experience across the region. This is where we turn to our partners like you to reach out for high quality imagery of your businesses and experiences that we can share to help further your story.

If you have any questions about what I’ve outlined above, or want to discuss potential marketing opportunities, please feel free to contact me.

Wishing you a wanderful summer season,

Julie Mulligan

OHTO’s Marketing Manager