“What Destination Marketers Need to Know Today”: Nicole Mahoney – Show Notes

  • Name: Adam Stoker
  • Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic Agency
  • Favorite Destination: Fiji
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand
  • Name: Nicole Mahoney
  • Position: CEO at Break The Ice Media
  • Favorite Destination: Anna Maria Island for a friend getaway and Maine for the family vacations
  • Dream Destination: Victoria Falls in the KAZA region of Africa

“What Destination Marketers Need to Know Today” – Show Notes and Highlights


Show Highlights

How Nicole Got Into Tourism

  • Nicole became interested in tourism while working for her father and their family-owned business — an electric retail store. Every year, she would organize the car stereo competition. It was the first time she saw visitors coming from the whole Northeast for this event. It would draw 5,000 people and be held in the parking lot.
  • After working for her father, she worked on building a new Triple-A baseball stadium in downtown Rochester in the ‘90s. That opened her eyes to what sports and this venue would mean for the economy and visitors there. That was her introduction to the CVB in the area — Visit Rochester.
  • After the stadium, she ran one of the area’s largest festivals — The Lilac Festival. It is a 10-day event that happens every year (except for this one — 2020).
  • That’s when she started her own entrepreneurial ventures doing freelance and marketing work for all types of businesses. The central theme being, all these businesses were tourism-related.
  • She started her own agency 10 years ago and still continues tourism work today.

Destination on the Left Podcast

  • Destination on the Left is one of the longest-running podcasts in the tourism industry.
  • Nicole had the idea for it in 2013 when someone she knew was running a podcast called the CEO Hour. He would interview CEOs from big companies and Nicole co-hosted one episode with him about tourism CEOs. 
  • Podcasts hadn’t gained traction or popularity yet and being too expensive, she wasn’t able to execute the idea then. In 2016, podcasts became much easier and she was able to launch.
    • Currently, they just surpassed their 181st episode.
  • She loves bringing on people from all aspects of the travel and tourism industry, or “ecosystem” as she calls it. She loves interviewing everyone from DMOs to museums, restaurants, tour operators, researchers, and more.
  • Podcasts are a lot of work, but she’s been doing it for so long, Nicole doesn’t know what she would do without it.

Break The Ice Media Agency

  • Nicole’s agency just had its 10th anniversary in October 2019. The agency specializes in travel and tourism. They work with destinations, museums, wine trails, breweries, and more. 
  • The agency focuses on strategy by helping clients identify goals and establish marketing plans and tactics that tie back to those plans and goals.
  • Tactics they specialize in are travel PR and digital strategies. They perform travel trade marketing — representing clients at shows — or helping them market directly to the consumer. They also provide association management services and stakeholder programs.
  • The agency has gotten into doing Travel Alliance Partnerships, in which Nicole has coined the term “co-op-eration,” meaning it’s a collaboration but we’re still competing a bit for consumers. For example, they have put together a Haunted History Trail program where there are 89 stops across New York state that are part of a collaborative program. They also have opportunities where destinations partner together to market to the Canadian market. They pool their funds to do so in this Trade Alliance Partnership.
  • The company has been starting to hold virtual summits with different presenters in the tourism industry that have been on the podcast in the past. They are about to have their third summit.
  • The agency also recently launched an online course in strategic marketing and post-pandemic recovery planning. They took their entire process and made it an online course with seven-modules and homework to coach you through on your own. 

Handling Crisis Situations

  • We can get through hard times now because we have done it before. We’ve done it in our careers and in our personal lives and everything we’ve been through makes us stronger and more capable of getting through this trial now.
  • Businesses have been creative in bringing their unique offerings online. These virtual experiences are creative investments that will live beyond the course of the pandemic. It enhances the marketing assets and the experience and builds awareness.
  • You have to have a forward-thinking mindset. It’s the fight or flight mode and you can’t choose flight. You have to figure out how to fight and react to the situation to make it work for you and your business.
  • Now’s the time to take risks. You’ve already hit the bottom, where you feared you would be if you took a chance. So, now you can try without fear. Now’s the time for trial and error. People are more forgiving now than before, so you can experiment and try new things. You could be successful.

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast