Rachel opens up by explaining that in the year up to the pandemic, Visit Philadelphia had just celebrated the tenth consecutive year of growth.
They had huge plans, new initiatives, summer ad campaigns, hotel packages and even launched a new radio station and a year-long sisterly love campaign. But with all those milestones, 2020 brought with it different milestones.
Rachel Ferguson opens up by explaining that in the year up to the pandemic, Visit Philadelphia had just celebrated the tenth consecutive year of growth with over $7bn in spending, supporting more than 100,000 jobs.
They had huge plans, new initiatives, summer ad campaigns, hotel packages and even launched a new radio station and a year-long sisterly love campaign. But with all those milestones, 2020 brought with it different milestones. Philadelphia has been dealt a blow of a different kind, going from the health pandemic, economic devastation, diversity, equity and inclusion crisis.
They knew that they needed to address these issues, that they couldn't carry on without changing. With a platform and a voice, they had to use it to master the art of a meaningful pivot. The art that they had to use this year was more than they could ever imagine.
Starting with health. Visit Philadelphia started by thanking healthcare workers on all outdoor media everywhere. What makes Philadelphia special is the spirit and its people. This was about thanking essential workers, not taking credit for the thanks. Most messages didn't even carry the Visit Philadelphia branding.
We learn that sometimes we need to adapt, sometimes we need to completely pivot and sometimes we need to stop and listen.
The reality is that more than half of the industry now finds itself out of work. Responding to this, they launched a jobs section for anyone working in the hospitality sector. They communicated that hospitality and the visitor economy is a jobs creation sector. Cash strapped and struggling, there was the reminder that recovery starts at home and so attention turned to supporting the local economy, encouraging locals to discover or re-discover the many things that make Philadelphia special, with more than 5million impressions since the campaign launched. They've since launched an influencer component to this, to communicate that locals can have an authentic and fun experience, without travelling far, triggering motivation to have an amazing experience in the destination.
Showing examples of how influencers have played a role in revitalising local discovery, Rachel points to the example of a local influencer who takes people on a tour of the city as part of a series #OurTurntoTourist.
With a completely different take on the city, Rachel explains how they linked sports mascots with local pride and discovery, to show people that there's a fun, clean and safe way to explore the city around game days.
Visit Philadelphia also decided to confront the issues of today and address the injustices highlighted by Black Lives Matter. With the belief that Philadelphia grows through its diversity, they decided to take a stand by creating web content and providing tools to help travellers support black and brown owned businesses. This continues to be a priority for Visit Philadelphia, making a statement with their media and brand assets and driving campaigns to directly increase footfall to black and brown owned business. They continue to work hard to raise awareness and use media, such as the podcast Love + Grit, which gives a voice to issues, stories - the lovely and the gritty, through the people who love and breathe the city.
Talking about Love + Grit, Rachel explains that the podcast is specifically for black and brown travellers. It's authentic, engaging and rich in the diversity of its subject matter. This is an example of a strategic pivot born out of the pandemic.
1. What makes Philadelphia, or any other destination, special is the spirit and its people. Use your platform and voice to master the art of a meaningful pivot.
2. Communicate how relevant tourism is and how hospitality and the visitor economy is a jobs creation sector. Responding to this, you can think of creating a job section for anyone working in the hospitality sector.
3. Add an influencer component to this to communicate that locals can have an authentic and fun experience, without travelling far.
4. Remember sometimes we need to adapt, sometimes we need to completely pivot and sometimes we need to stop and listen.
Rachel Ferguson is the VISIT PHILADELPHIA’s chief innovation and global diversity officer. In this role, she is charged with helping to grow the leisure tourism segment by identifying and leading marketing programs focused on multicultural and multigenerational travellers and new geographic markets.