Using Content Marketing to Meet and Exceed Traveler Expectations

During this session, Anna and Gwynne, guided us through how we can reset traveler expectations through content marketing.

They started off the session by commenting how difficult the last two years have been due to the pandemic, with restrictions being very different around the world, which resulted in yet another impediment. Despite this, Anna highlighted that people still want to travel, and they are prepared to spend more compared to before.

During this session, Anna Hrach, from Convince & Convert, and Gwynne Spann, from Visit California, guided us through how we can reset traveler expectations through content marketing.

They started off the session by commenting how difficult the last two years have been due to the pandemic, with restrictions being very different around the world, which resulted in yet another impediment. Despite this, Anna highlighted that people still want to travel, and they are prepared to spend more compared to before.

Anna noted that navigating the new travel landscape has become incredibly frustrating for consumers, which has resulted in a shift in consumer mindsets and needs, who are now focusing in lower funnel needs.

She explained that we can meet and exceed travellers' expectations with content marketing by shifting our approach slightly.

Determine why you want to communicate

It is essential to figure out the purpose of the content we want to create. We should focus on the 'why' instead of the 'what' to achieve messages that don't repeat themselves and that provide value to customers, which will return great results.

Real-life example: Why Visit California wanted to communicate in a pandemic. Gwynne explained that when they planned their communication at the beginning of the pandemic, they decided to communicate due to their responsibilityas an organisation with great visibility; they had to be considerate of their consumers' desires and tolerance for outreach; and they then decided on the message, the communication, which had to be transparent and address the environment.

Gwynne mentioned that Visit California had to acknowledge the real-life situation of consumers during the pandemic but also show inspiration for the future through their message, which they accomplished through the use of stock images content. They monitored their users engagement to identify which type of content was working best, in this case it was content that motivated them to dream, and by knowing this they were able to create dialogues with consumers at these difficult times.

Understand what audiences need

Anna explained that once we know the 'why' we want to communicate, we need to focus on our audiences and understand what they want. She mentioned that relevancy creates time and attention, but that to be relevant you need to understand your audiences.

Anna guided us through how wants and needs have always been fragmented amongst travellers, but emphasised that these have fragmented ever further during the pandemic and become more complex. This is why to better understand our audiences and better speak to them information should be delivered to them through a blend of qualitative input and quantitative data.

Due to the lack of time and resources we are experiencing, audience research needs to focus on the following, as the more we know about our audiences the more relevant we can be for them:

  1. Social listening. Hear what audiences are saying and get a sense for how they feel.
  2. Organic search. Understand what information audiences are seeking.
  3. Onsite search. Understand what audiences look to us for, in their own words.
  4. Real discussions. Nothing can take the place of a real conversation with our audiences.

Gwynne then explained how Visit California understands its target audiences. She mentioned Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, through which she explained that before the pandemic people would travel to satisfy their self-fulfilment needs; whereas in the post pandemic era, people are travelling to satisfy psychological and basic needs. At Visit California they realised that they no longer had a conversion problem, but they had an awareness problem once the pandemic hit. This required them to re-think about where they were within the marketing funnel.

By means of informing their audiences about the topics that they wanted to know more about they developed the 'What You Need To Know campaign and safety protocols, which provided all information about California's offering considering the situation of the pandemic and contained information about the requirements and restrictions in place. Gwynne explained they used all of their distribution channels to promote and raise awareness about these initiatives.

Distribute content in the right ways

Once we know why we communicate and what are audiences need, we need to focus on how to get the content to them in the right ways. Anna highlighted that trust in brands and governments has plummeted, with people trusting real people like them more than ever. She explained that the best way to build trust is to have real people deliver the message, that is, user generated content, employee generated content, and that from advocated and fans can all have amazing results.

Gwynne intervened to present how Visit California distributes content. She explained that their content strategy aims at compelling consumer-focused content, while deftly including and driving to California's tourism industry. This strategy focuses around five types of contents:

They saw urban content was performing very well, which represented an opportunity to change the messenger of their messages. They used a set of locals from California to tell the story of the destination and feature what they know about it, highlighting hidden facts about California.

Gwynne then talk about how to tap into your advocates, which can be done by utilising more User Generated Content, specially when travelling isn't possible. They achieved this by reaching out to employees who had content from their own trips.

How do you stay relevant in digital?

Having a content strategy is key, but also for everyone in the team to know abut the strategy and the goal to remain useful to the consumer.

Key Takeaways

1. When communicating with the audiences, we must be responsible, considerate and clear on the message.

2. Understanding our audiences doesn't necessarily require huge time and economic investments, but it is necessary to stay relevant.

3. Trust in brands and governments has declined, which calls for User, Employee and Advocate Generated Content.  

Published on:
December 2021
About the contributor

Anna Hrach

Anna’s a content expert who loves tackling her clients’ toughest digital marketing problems. In case you’re wondering, her last name is pronounced “her-ROCK.”

Gwynne Spann

Gwynne Spann is the Director of Content Marketing at Visit California, a role that has evolved from managing the production of printed visitor guides to overseeing the development and deployment of the organization’s global content program.