“Rockin the Suburbs”: Ed Harris – Show Notes

  • Name: Adam Stoker
  • Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic Agency
  • Favorite Destination: Fiji
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand
  • Name: Ed
  • Position: Harris
  • Favorite Destination: Kinsale, Ireland
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand

“Rockin the Suburbs” – Show Notes and Highlights

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About Ed Harris

  • When Ed was a junior in high school, he guarded Kobe Bryant in a basketball game. He knew him personally. When he posted a picture from one of their games, CBS contacted him for an interview. You can view the interview on YouTube.
    Being a sports fan, he worked at many sports companies and apparel industries after college including AND1, Converse, Timberland and Under Armour. He was in the fashion, footwear, and apparel industry for 12 years.
  • His last company was eBay before switching over to tourism. After a 24/7 e-commerce lifestyle, he was ready to slow down. Having moved to the Philadelphia region, he became VP of marketing for Valley Forge. Today, he not only is CMO of Valley Forge, but also on the tourism board and teaches at a local university on the side. He said, “It’s a fun busy” lifestyle.
  • Valley Forge is a national park located 18 miles outside of Center City, Philadelphia. It’s in Montgomery County. His role is to promote the whole county.

 

Membership-based DMO

  • As a membership-based DMO, you provide and show value to the member base regularly. That can be exhausting at times, but there is value in having a collection of businesses who want to be involved, share updates, and fuel your social media and website content engines. 
  • Six years ago, when Ed joined, they were around 300 members. Now, they have over 675 members and growing.
  • It might be more work, but it works for them because when they have events, people come. They want to network and they see the value in sharing. 
  • Members pay $300 per year. To make this worth it, they receive password access to the CRM for website listing updates, event creation and more. They also receive listings in seasonal guides: travel guide, annual visitors’ guide, golf guide, arts and culture guide, and others. All of these are available both digitally and physically. 
  • They also have a comic book. In the comic book, two kids go back in time, meet George Washington, and adventure to discover over 10 Revolutionary War sites throughout the county. After publishing, a teacher in New York asked for a box to integrate the comic book into the curriculum. When the comic book was noticed by a homeschooling family that traveled across the country, it landed its own spot on The Today Show.
  • Another unique thing about their destination is that they have their own mascot — Monty. Monty the mascot is a big orange fox who primarily wears a colonial outfit and a tricorn hat, similar to George Washington’s time. In a member-based community, it’s been a hit with families and kids, as well as others when he shows up to events. He has different outfits for events.
  • Monty also helps open their destination to bigger audiences as the mascot interacts with big sports teams’ mascots in the area and university mascots. That reach increases when pictures are shared on social media.

 

Valley Forge and the Coronavirus

  • The national park is closed. Initially, they closed down the building on the site. Then, as people started leaving trash they had to shut it down completely. Many people were furloughed. They are hoping to open again soon.
  • It’s a different time because messaging shifts from attracting visitors to leveraging your voice for the community. Messages now state to support small businesses. It’s still marketing, but a different form than we are used to. 
  • This is where a membership-based DMO is helpful. They are using their members to drive messages. Instead of an event, panel, or guest speaker, they are sharing messages on social media to audiences of 150,000 or more. 
  • Newsletters are important to help stay in touch with members, as well as Zoom calls to ask how they are doing because they appreciate that. 
  • During COVID-19, the fourth book in the comic book series is going to be released digitally. It does lose the personal touch of a physical copy, but eventually, they will be printed.

 

It all comes down to the culture that you provide for your staff and community. It needs to be an environment of welcoming ideas. Whether the idea comes from an intern or the DMO executive, all ideas are valid.

Think positive. Think of new things. Think big. Trust your team.

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast