There is a lot of talk about “story-telling” in the digital world and in tourism and destination marketing. Lots of this is actually another kinder name for marketing – but I want to talk about actual story-telling.
At the ITB World Tourism Expo in Berlin last month we were treated to a really interesting talk on Audio Influencing in Tourism by a chap called Henry Barchet. I came away from that interested to see how we could use audio and in particular podcasting to help market our destinations and attractions here in the UK & Ireland.
Podcasting is massive. According to the research organisation The Infinite Dial, 51% of the US population describe themselves as “podcast fans”. American podcast fans listen to an average of 7 shows a week. I think we’re probably similar in Europe - those kinds of numbers feel applicable here too. The on-demand audio sector is growing at a phenomenal rate generally.
But is podcasting relevant to us when marketing our attractions and destinations online?
I think it definitely is and I think it’s worth considering for your own destination.
So back to storytelling…
We run workshops for our website clients, focused on getting them to think differently about how they can maximise the likelihood of those online visitors becoming real life visitors, by really maximising the website experience for their online visitors.
These workshops often include rangers, guides and experts for the attraction or place we’re working with. I am continually struck by the vivacity, enthusiasm and the life they bring to their world. These individuals quite literally bring their National Park or their city or their museum or their coastline to life. Full confession time: in our workshops we’re actually trying to bottle that passion, somehow get it across on screen.
But what if we don’t just stop at the screen? Why not have those people literally telling the story of your destination, your attraction, your city? That authenticity, that story-telling in a natural voice is so powerful. It such a big part of the real-life experience we offer isn’t it?
Why are podcasts powerful for our audiences?
- They are intimate. They are often in the human ear, nanometres from the brain and our emotion responses. Or in a car or on a home speaker. But always in a place that your audience has chosen to listen to you intently.
- They are selected by the user. They are not received in broadcast format. If we can get an online visitor to choose to listen to the tale of our place, they are literally in full receptive mode.
- You can be patient with your message. An ad is 30 seconds if we’re lucky and we need to cram lots – probably too much - into that radio or TV spot. A podcast is any length you want it to be and always longer than 30 seconds. Be careful how long you make your podcast though – there is good science around optimum podcast length available now.
How are they particularly relevant for us in tourism and destination marketing?
- They could be the decider. If a visitor is deciding where to go for their trip and has whittled their list down to say 2 or 3 options, could a podcast on your place gain that little bit more engagement than your rivals? Yes, very possibly. Practical information on parking, public transport options, recommendations on where to eat or grab a coffee. Could it mean the difference between choosing your theme park or your competitor’s destination? Yes, very possibly.
- They can get your visitors ready to spend. I think there is something in post decision value. Okay so maybe not a full pill for potential buyers’ remorse. But still, can we use a podcast to whet the appetite for what they’ll do when they come to your region? Could we use it to trigger ideas, to increase the chances of a greater spend whilst they are with you? I think we could.
- They can get your destination into your visitor’s world. Podcasts are great for car journeys. And they are great for whiling away a train or bus journey. Could your little podcast series provide a must-hear, last minute list that you have curated? Can you imagine your visitors actually on their way to you, wanting a list of stuff to know about? Could we picture them downloading your podcast? What about the drive home again? There is also opportunity to engage with visitors post visit, to give them a recap of key facts, this could be segmented into interest topics and signpost visitors to further engage – subscribe to an email list? Sign up for event notifications?
- They reach people in a different way trio a screen or a brochure. Let’s always remember that not everyone likes to read (or is blessed with full vision). A podcast is perfect to reach these potential visitors – why not engage these visitors, visitors that prefer to listen than to read, where your competitors don’t?
Podcast format options for the destination marketer
- The obvious format is the 1-to-1 interview – get an interviewer to talk through the attraction in ‘fireside chat’, Q&A format. This is common in podcasts and thus familiar. Think about the story of your city, why it matters.
- Walkaround guides with lots of sound and activity are format you could embrace. Clearly theme parks are candidates for this format, but so are national park tours where the guide is the star. A progression from an audio tour, a guide podcast gives listeners the power to use their own device and explore at their own pace.
What to watch out for in planning your podcasts
- Production quality. Remember that all your visitor has to base their judgement of your park or your museum on is what they hear (or can’t hear). And expectations are high – you will be judged (somewhat unfairly perhaps! against 150 years of quality radio broadcasting! But that’s what listeners are used to and will expect. Make sure if you’re doing this in DIY style that at very least have a decent microphone and an editor that knows what they are doing.
- You need a little podcast plan. Just like you plan your content or publishing, plan your podcast series. Don’t run out of ideas. Don’t pad – if you have 5 natural topics, you have 5 natural topics. Your visitor will thank you for 5 high-quality pieces but not for 8 poor-quality pieces.
- Make them the right length. There is lots of good research on the optimum length available. Always make them slightly shorter than you might think they should be.
- Make sure you do regular read-outs, reminding listeners where to find out more - 'go to visitbackpool.com' or 'log on to bunrattycastle.ie'. Your visitor will probably have their phone or tablet to hand. These need to be natural, but frequent.
Where to host and publicise your podcasts?
Your tourism podcast needs to be accessible and easy to find.
Both Apple iTunes and Google provide ’home base’ for podcasts. This provides a starter guide for what you need to do.
Once you submit yours to the Google and Apple stores, the main Podcast apps such as Sticher, Overcast, TuneIn etc will then list your podcast and make it available to podcast listeners out there.
Smart speakers and voice platforms like Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple Siri will recognise your podcast automatically if you make it searchable in the way they recognise. Amazon are specifically targeting the hospitality sector with the ‘Alexa for Hospitality’ product, it aims to simplify tasks for guests to enhance and personalise their experience. Acting as a virtual concierge to adjust room temperature, order fresh towels, recommend local restaurants and even check out.
Don’t forget to place it in Spotify and A/cast too. These platforms are growing in importance for podcast content.
How to promote your podcast
Clearly you should have good visual clues and promotion on your websites and apps. People now expect to see audio links where you have your social media icons, but don’t stop there – build the audio links into your core content and section pages too.
You’ll need good links from your social media platforms too… but make sure you’re getting your audience on to your main website – that means you can analyse them, measure them and market to them most effectively.
You can promote via ‘normal’ social platforms – ads, boosts, mini campaigns and promotions as you would do normally.
But let’s think laterally about promoting your podcast. We need to think about audio specific linkages in the minds of the visitor.
For example, if I’m a massive Beatles fan and I’m on Spotify, might this be a good place to promote my podcast for Visit Liverpool? All cities have their sounds and associated bands. Some larger regions have their own sounds too – think reggae and the Caribbean, samba and Brazil.
What about movie sound tracks? If I’m downloading a sound track to a movie, that is set partially on location in my region, that Spotify page would be a natural place to promote my podcast for that region.
If I’m offering a place of natural beauty and peace like the Brecon Beacons, I would be in the same section as wellbeing and mindfulness podcasts perhaps.
You will know your offering and your uniqueness. Make sure you promote your podcast by association, with the sounds of your region or attraction.
Getting started with a podcast for your destination
- Have you got an interesting expert? If not on staff, a volunteer? I bet you do. Make sure you choose your best talker rather than simply your most knowledgeable expert. Podcasts don’t need to be recorded live, thank goodness – so even the most nervous cathedral guide can be the most engaging interviewee.
- Invest a little in getting your podcast produced. That normally means a modest audio studio (local radio stations are often ideal) and half decent equipment. This can be done inexpensively but remember that you will be judged on what your visitors hear and nothing else.
- Get it happening. Make one, put it on your sites. Put it on to your social pages. Get it onto the podcast channels. Promote it a little and see how it goes. Test, review, adjust and go again.
Add audio to your promotion mix for your destination or attraction. Tell your story through sounds. Tell it through words. Convey the experiential value of your destination or attraction. Podcasts can really bring your offering to life.
Thinking of revitalising your tourism marketing strategy? Whether it’s with the perfect podcast or a compelling digital marketing campaign, we would love to help! Why not contact us to discuss.