In the age of COVID-19, how are you showcasing your destination to the media, meeting planners, and travel agents?
Some destination marketing organizations, like Tempe Tourism, are turning to virtual familiarization trips (FAM) to stay top of mind with these audiences and creatively market their destinations.
Last week I sat down with Toni Smith, Director of Communications, and Rachel Semik, Content Strategist, Tempe Tourism, to discuss how they ran a successful virtual multi-stop FAM trip.
Missed our conversation last week? You can watch the full recording below, or continue reading for the key takeaways.
An overview of the multi-stop FAM
Goal: Generate brand awareness for Tempe, stay top of mind with journalists and travel bloggers, and show them why they should visit in the future when it is safe to do so.
- Zoom for hosting the virtual FAM
- Canva for designing the introductory presentation
- CrowdRiff for sourcing and getting rights to UGC in the presentation
Courtesy Tempe Tourism
Attendees: 13 travel bloggers. Tempe Tourism partnered with Wanderful, a women’s travel network, to send out the invitations to their network. Unlike many traditional FAMs for the media, the attendees weren’t under contractual obligation to write/create content about their experience.
How the hour was spent:
- An introduction to Tempe using a presentation that included user-generated content to show the “true flair” of Tempe’s key stops. (10 mins)
- Virtual tour and tasting by Four Peaks Brewing Company. The brewing company sent people beers to taste beforehand as part of the FAM swag. (15 mins)
- Virtual tour of Jayarr's studio, a local artist who is popular for his murals around town. (15 mins)
- Virtual tour Canopy by Hilton, a new hotel in Tempe. The Director of Sales took them through the bar, where the bartender made a signature cocktail, and the kitchen, where the chef made a flatbread and talked about the menu and his background. (15 mins)
Items in the swag bag:
- Sample beers from the brewery
- Stickers the artist had created
- A gift from the hotel
- Coffee mug from Tempe Tourism
- Visitor’s Guide from Tempe Tourism
- A postcard introducing the bloggers to the tour, which included the businesses’ social media handles for giving shout outs
“What I thought was surprising was that when a few people received the gift bag ahead of time they posted that either on their Instagram feed or as part of their story to get their audience excited about the fact that they were getting ready to take a virtual tour.”
- Toni Smith, Director of Communications, Tempe Tourism
Your top FAQs answered
Logistics and set up
Did you have any challenges shipping the alcohol over state lines from local brewers?
TS: I don’t know if it’s true with every state, but in Arizona, if they’re sending sample products for marketing purposes they can do that. We couldn't ship it ourselves, but the brewery was able to do that for us.
Did you have to pay the brewery/distillery to send samples?
TS: It was complimentary. We did reimburse the distillery for shipping* which we offered to do with the brewery as well and they declined. They were able to take that on their marketing budget.
*The team ran two virtual distillery tours before the multi-stop FAM with CaskWerks Distilling Co.
What was your timeline? How soon before the event did you invite the media, reach out to partners, plan schedules, etc?
RS: I’d say it was a total of four to six weeks.
TS: We were able to do that because we had a list of everybody who had expressed interest through Wanderful and we chose the ones we thought were a good fit.
I would say though if you’re going to ship them something ahead of time, schedule for that. We knew we had to send our swag pack by a certain date to get the least expensive ground rate through UPS.
Did you physically go as the moderator to each stop or did you do it each virtually as a facilitator too?
TS: For the multi-day trip, we did a practice run a week ahead of time to make sure everybody’s Zoom connection worked okay. We gave people a specific time to call in. The tour started at 2 pm our time, and our first guest, Four Peaks Brewing Company, called in at 2:10. The next person was at 2:25 and the last person was at 2:45. They had very specific times, so they were only on the tour for 10-15 minutes instead of the whole hour.
Did you have any connectivity or microphone or sound issues at each stop? Did you have special equipment that you provided to the stops or was it just through iPhones?
TS: The sound was fine, and everyone used iPhones. It wasn’t an elaborate set-up. I think it lent authenticity where it wasn’t overly produced.
One of the things I found out on Zoom is that there’s a little checkbox when you share your screen that says optimize video clips. Make sure to check that!
Involving your local businesses and partners
How did you choose what local businesses to highlight?
TS: We didn’t know if the audience would be family bloggers or twenty-somethings. So we thought about the things we talk a lot about in Tempe. Our culinary scene, which includes our breweries, and our art scene.
Looking back at some of the [in-person] tours that we did, we thought about some of the people who are really dynamic and had a big enough personality that they would be able to captivate an audience, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Not just about their work—we wanted them to be able to help tell the Tempe Story.
At the end of the tour, a couple of people said, ‘wow, we actually feel like we got to go somewhere for an hour,’ which I think is the best compliment you could get.
Courtesy Tempe Tourism
Did the partners address any new post-pandemic precaution, such as mask-wearing sanitizing, etc?
RS: Absolutely. We are mask-wearing as a city and as a county. All of the partners did have a mask on. Jayarr [the artist] was the exception because he was at home. We were very, very keen on that. We want everybody to stay safe so that people can visit.
Do you have any tips for choosing people and subjects that are dynamic?
TS: First and foremost, choose someone who’s comfortable with Zoom. The people we chose used Zoom on their phones and took us through their property or businesses, which was great.
Second, go with the main themes in your city or your state. What do you usually promote? Find out a way you can translate that into a virtual tour.
Do you have plans to incorporate virtual FAMs post-pandemic?
RS: We have talked about how for marketing budget purposes we may not be able to afford to host anybody down the line. We thought this might be a good option pre-tour if we can only afford people for a weekend trip. Maybe it’s pre-recorded, or it comes from partners. There are a lot of partners doing great things.
TS: It falls into the budget conversation—if we can only have someone for one night instead of three or four. Or if they’re really into arts and culture and the person we’d love for them to meet in the city isn’t available for some reason, maybe we could do a virtual interview with them, ahead of or after the tour.
I know we're always trying to cram in so many activities when someone is on the ground. Maybe this will be a way to supplement those in-person FAM trips as well.
Do you plan to bring these guests back when it is safe to do so to see the destination?
RS: Absolutely. That's the ultimate goal. We want them to get here to Tempe. And again, this is really a pre-tour. We want them to see Tempe, as it is right now, and plan for their trip. Yeah, get excited, guys, let’s go to Tempe!
Tempe’s tips for running a virtual multi-stop FAM
- Now is the time to go back through your Rolodex and see who might be a good fit to invite to your virtual FAM. It’s a great time because you’re not competing with other trips for travel content creators; their schedules are a little more open and it’s easier to get them to participate in something that’s an hour out of their day.
- Give yourself a runway of 4-6 weeks. If you don’t have a list of people who are already a good fit either through your or one of your media partners’ networks, you will need more time.
- If you want to send people something ahead of time, build that into your timeline.
- Stay at each “stop” for 10-15 minutes max.
- Do a practice run ahead of time.
- You don’t need fancy equipment. Use what people have so long as the visual and audio quality is good.
- Highlight people who are comfortable with Zoom and can captivate an audience. (At one point, Jayarr did a headstand, for example!)
- Find ways to translate what you usually promote on these tours into something virtual. A kayaking tour might be tough, for example, while a tour of a museum of a brewery is more doable.
- Encourage people to post by including the businesses’ social media handles on the invitation card.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new!
Header image credit: @frankielopez