Messaging in a Time of Crisis

Director of Communications
Published 4/1/20
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Highlights from Destination International’s COVID-19 Update Webinar

During a recent webinar with Destinations International, Miles Partnership Senior Vice Presidents Laura Libby and Nate Huff shared key insights for how travel industry businesses can best message to key audiences—while measuring impact and engagement—during these unprecedented times.

Their advice? Take a “messaging” versus a “marketing” approach to create a holistic, fluid strategy with consumers that leans into storytelling and creates value for your partners. Start by creating a plan that focuses on what your organization can be doing now, while setting yourself up for continued evolution. Establish your message points, create plans to share them, set a new baseline and start measuring the progress of your efforts. A phased approach will create space to react to shifting circumstances in real time.

Five key recommendations include:

1. Continue to monitor and analyze—and evolve—your engagements with paid and organic social media efforts, which will help you evaluate the response and interest in the messages you are sharing. Now is the time to double down on ensuring your paid search traffic is directed to the best possible content experience in order to inspire confidence in future visitation. Otherwise you are losing the chance to convert your most likely (and needed) short-term visitors. We all know that it is less expensive to maintain a consumer than to acquire a new one.

2. When measuring your efforts, focus on understanding local and consumer stakeholder needs and sentiments, and keep in mind those can change weekly. To do this, consider adding simple surveys to your emails, and keep a close eye on top keywords for search to your site.

3. Many DMOs are in the process of aggregating information to support local businesses and communities such as restaurants, retailers, tours and other attractions. As you collect this information, create a content calendar for sharing these stories across channels. This will help provide direction, identify where additional opportunity may exist and prioritize the collection of new content—all with the overarching goal of maintaining interest and engagement for your partners and destination. Email and social media are two great ways for sharing your content and maintaining relationships with consumers, as is paid media, which can take the form of locally boosted posts linking to takeout restaurant features and other content that supports your industry during the crisis.

4. Keep your messaging engaging and relevant. Travel will likely be different once it starts back again, but even as we are all currently limited in our movements, consumers can still be in a Dreaming phase. Topics such road trips, outdoor recreation, self-guided tours of your scenic byways and even virtual tours lend themselves to the dreaming phase. Much of this content likely already exists in your library and just needs to be repurposed.

5. Use your own data to contextualize your strategy against national and global trends. When it’s time for you to start marketing once again, focus on your owned channels and identify benchmarks (web traffic; travel sentiment; media consumption beyond news) before moving into the next phase. When it’s time, expand paid placements to CTV and programmatic buys—just be sure to closely track consumer response and modify your calls to action from dreaming to welcoming to planning travel.