Nestled within the breathtaking Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, next to the Blue Ridge Mountains is where you’ll find Staunton, a city that lays claim to some of the country’s most beautiful natural landscapes, and all the charms of a small town rich in arts, culture, and cuisine. Promoting all of this is Visit Staunton, the official destination marketing organization (DMO), with a small but mighty marketing team of three, tasked with raising awareness of Staunton as an ideal travel destination.
Leading those efforts is Jessica Williams, Visit Staunton’s Sales and Marketing Manager, who handles a variety of duties, including but not limited to liaising with group tour operators and meeting planners, and working with local hotel and attraction partners, in addition to overseeing marketing strategy for Visit Staunton.
Needless to say, Williams is always looking for solutions that save her time as she and the Visit Staunton team work on broadening their audience of marketable travelers and bringing visitors from all over to Staunton. Localhood, a platform that helps DMOs develop and distribute short-form visual Stories that can be shared outside of social media channels, is one of those solutions, and Williams says it’s proven invaluable.
“We’re a small team, in a small town, and we have a small budget, but with Localhood, we’re able to leverage additional exposure to our broader audience for Staunton,” she says.
Williams says it takes, on average, only two or three minutes for her to create a Localhood Story. “When I first started using Localhood, I was surprised at how easily and quickly I caught on to being able to create the Stories,” Williams says. She says she can also easily create Localhood Stories by using the Localhood app on her mobile phone, which is a big plus when she’s on the road and can’t be near a desktop computer.
The fact that the CrowdRiff Platform and Localhood help her to source user-generated content to use for Localhood Stories makes it that much easier. “It broadens our photography library and most of these images don’t look staged, and that’s what people want to see these days–they want to see themselves there, and that’s definitely helped us,” she says. “It helps us paint a picture of Staunton through others’ eyes, so I’m just grateful that there’s a platform for this.”
An example of a recent Localhood Story that Visit Staunton created saw high engagement levels and focused on five ways to enjoy a staycation in Staunton. Williams created the Story from an existing Visit Staunton blog post, thinking it might appeal to locals, but it gained considerable reach and resonance with travelers near and far after it was repurposed on Instagram and other social media platforms.
“It was one of our most popular stories as far as views and our interaction rate; I wasn’t expecting it to have as much reach as it did,” she says. This Story received over 44,000 impressions on Google Search and Google Discover, exceeding the average Story impressions of 2,000 multiple times over.
The multichannel distribution approach that Localhood enables also helps Williams be more efficient and reach new audiences. The statewide Virginia Tourism Corporation often promotes Localhood Stories from Visit Staunton on their homepage, for example. “They have an amazing reach, so if someone’s just interested in Virginia in general, they could come to their main web page and see our Stories there,” she adds.
And while the destination has traditionally appealed to an older demographic, Visit Staunton is hoping that distributing content on other platforms like TikTok will help them reach younger travelers, too.
“I love that you’re able to download an actual video to your MP4, and so not only am I using the Localhood Stories in our Instagram and Facebook Stories but I’m also using it for Instagram Reels and TikTok, too,” she explains. “It’s a new platform that has a completely different audience than what we’re used to with Facebook and Instagram.”
Another benefit of Localhood Stories is the fact that they allow for richer caption content, and they also make it easy for people to be directed to Visit Staunton’s own website for more information. “It allows you to put more information in the Story, and the swipe-up feature lets you go into a little more detail, and you can click through to your website, so that person is engaged on your site, too,” she notes.
Her advice for other DMOs considering using Localhood?
“Do it,” she says. “It’s definitely enhanced our marketing and it can do the same for you."
"You don’t need to be scared, and if you’re a smaller DMO like us, you know that time is precious and you’re wearing multiple hats so you’re always asking yourself: ‘Is this adding on another task or job that I have to do?’ But Localhood has definitely helped us and complemented our marketing, especially because nowadays people are very visual and they’ve got shorter attention spans.”