Episode 134

Does Your Destination Need A VP Of Market Research?Brianna Francis

About Our Guest

Brianna Francis

Brianna Francis, Vice President of Marketing Communications at Visit York County, joins this episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast to discuss her role and how tourism in York County has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Learn from the strategies that they have utilized to make the most out of everything that can be found within their destination.

"The pandemic has offered us an opportunity to really stay with our destination, and say what we can do differently to be successful in a business model, not just in a tourism model" -Brianna Francis

Episode Highlights

  • Name: Adam Stoker
  • Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic
  • Favorite Destination: Fiji
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand
  • Name: Brianna Francis
  • Position: VP of Marketing and Communications at Visit York County
  • Favorite Destination: Jekyll Island, Georgia
  • Dream Destination: All National Parks

“Does Your Destination Need A VP Of Market Research?” – Show Notes and Highlights

Show Highlights:

What the media reporters are looking for:

    1. Relevance
    2. Timeliness

Meet journalists where they are now to make it easier to get your story out.
York County South Carolina is unique for its ample outdoor space and waterways.
DMOS should be definitive in describing their destinations.
York County created an important hire during the pandemic to do intense data analysis on travel.
There have been an increase on hotel data seen during the pandemic.
South Carolina’s sports tourism has always been beneficial, but even more so during the pandemic.
While leisure travel has taken a huge dip because of the pandemic, South Carolina almost had 100,000 people spend the night in 6 months’ time just for sports tourism.
South Carolina assigned budget to in-destination marketing to help maximize the revenue from sports visitors.
Utilizes a mobile app called Visit Widget for people to get map information on trip itineraries.
The next two years will be focusing on brand as Carolina Panthers move their training facility to Rock Hill for a training camp.
Brianna points out that just because DMOs operate a certain way, doesn’t mean that they have to stay the same. Make sure to understand where the gaps are and work on those. 

  

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:

Destination Marketing Podcast
Adam Stoker
Relic
Carowinds Fury 325
Catawba Indian Cultural Center
Lake Wylie
UberMedia
Rock Hill Parks Recreation and Tourism

Episode Transcript

Transcript:

 

Brianna Francis: [00:00:00] The pandemic has offered us an opportunity to really stare at our destination and say, what can we do differently that is successful in a business model, not just in a tourism model. And I think it can really help you a long way.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:00:21] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Adam Stoker. We’ve got a great show today for you, a friend of mine. Her name is Brianna Francis and Brianna is the VP of Marketing and Communications at Visit York County South Carolina. Brianna, welcome to the show.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:00:39] Thank you. Hello from sunny South Carolina.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:00:43] That’s right. You guys are well into some of the best weather of the year, aren’t you?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:00:47] It’s beautiful. It’s wearing a jacket in the morning and you’re sweating by 2 p.m.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:00:53] That really is the best time of year that you’re not because sometimes especially in the middle of summer, you wake up in the morning and it’s like the heatwave hits you as you walk out the door and you’re like, I don’t want this today. But, but with the light jacket in the morning, sweating in the afternoon, it’s kind of the perfect temperature mix.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:01:14] Four seasons in one day. What more could you ask for?

 

Adam Stoker: [00:01:16] That’s right. That’s right. Well, we’re excited to have you on and we’re going to talk a lot about York County and what makes it unique today. But before we dive in, I’d like to have you answer a couple of the icebreaker questions we’d like to ask to get to know you a little bit. So first of all, Brianna, what is your dream destination? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:01:39] I like traveling in the United States. I feel like sometimes we get so wanderlust with international travel, but there’s so much beauty throughout the United States. I’d love to do every national park and really see the wonders of our country. I think that could be a really cool destination trip.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:02:01] That would be an amazing trip. It’s one I would love to do with my kids someday and just show them all the different parts of the country and the unique wonders of the country. How long would that trip have to be Brianna?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:02:13] So I had somebody tell me that your vacation needs to be at least 10 days so you can fully unplug from work but I think that one may have to extend out to a month plus or a lifetime.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:02:25] I think we’re like 45 days. Wouldn’t it be amazing to get to the point where you could actually take 30 to 45 days and truly visit every national park in the country?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:02:36] That would be amazing.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:02:37] Any national parks that are on your top five list that you want to make sure you see?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:02:42] I’d have to do a bunch of research, but all of the ones that are in the out west I just think that that’s an area that I haven’t gotten to visit and explore enough. I’ve been to the Estes Park area in Colorado but really digging into those national parks out there and building up some endurance to do those hikes.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:03:03] Well, shameless plug, but I think five of the best parks you’ll ever find are the mighty five parks here in Utah.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:03:12] Well, I’ll take your word for it.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:03:13] Okay. Let me know when we’ll plan this trip.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:03:16] It’s on my calendar.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:03:18] Perfect. Okay. Let’s talk about your favorite trip you’ve ever taken. What was it?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:03:24] So last year we discovered Jekyll Island, in Georgia, part of the Golden Isles and it was incredible. The perfect mix of pristine, natural wildlife mixed with protected growth. I just thought Jekyll Island is just a jewel. It’s gorgeous.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:03:46] So I actually have a Jekyll Island story, believe it or not. So when I was in high school, I think I was a freshman in high school, my best friend’s grandparents actually lived on Jekyll Island.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:03:59] That’s amazing.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:04:00] We would go to Jekyll Island. I think we went three or four times while we lived in Statesboro Georgia. And while we were down there we go out there and one night we were having a campfire on the beach and we were all just — we had the beach music going, just hanging out, it was really peaceful. A few teenagers just having a good time and then all of a sudden my brother just starts screaming, screaming. From the firewood that we brought in to the beach, there had been a scorpion on one of the logs that we brought in and he got stung by a scorpion on Jekyll Island and it was crazy. I mean he was in so much pain. I’ll never forget that.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:04:43] That’s quite the story.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:04:47] It was wild. So tell me about your trip to Jekyll Island. Sounds like it was less negatively eventful. You probably had a little bit more positive experiences and that’s not the negative one isn’t one that stands out for you. It’s a beautiful place. Tell me what stood out to you.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:05:06] I thought the bike trails around the island are just such an accessible way to experience nature. And I also love Driftwood Beach. I just think it’s unique, you have all of these trees that look like they’re dying coming out of the ocean and it’s a combination of just interesting nature all mixed together. Plus The Legend of Bagger Vance was filmed there so you can’t miss out on that.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:05:31] Right. What a great movie.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:05:33] Yeah. One of our favorites. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:05:36] Well, good stuff. I tell you Jekyll Island it’s a special place for me. I’ve never had anybody bring that up on the show as their favorite place, but I think it deserves to be up there. I’m glad you mentioned it.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:05:48] Yeah, it’s one we’re going back in the month. So excited to get back there. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:05:52] Oh, good for you. Okay. All right, well let’s talk a little bit about your background and how you ended up in your role today?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:06:00] Sure. So I am originally a Hoosier and it was a quick path to get to South Carolina. I studied TV Journalism and I started my career in Myrtle Beach. I was 22 thought I was moving to an area that would be just like the Outer Banks turns out Myrtle Beach is a lot different than the Outer Banks. But I got to cut my teeth as a young TV reporter there moved to Greenville South Carolina. I got out of the news about three years ago and somebody took a chance on me to start running the social media pages for Visit York County and fell in love with tourism and 2.5 years later here I am running the whole marketing department and learning every day. It’s a lot of fun.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:06:45] Oh, congratulations. And clearly, you must, you must have been doing something right to have moved up so quickly into the VP of Marketing and Communications role. What do you think helped you progress so quickly in your role?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:06:58] I think being on the other side with TV and reporting really gave me an understanding of how to pitch a story, what journalists are looking for, what makes news relevant. I have taken an approach in a destination that’s not a traditional destination, digging into relevancy and making us not just share fluff about our destination all the time, but they’re being a content marketing reason for why we’re sharing what we’re sharing. I think it’s really resonated with potential visitors and locals alike.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:07:39] You just sparked the first and probably not the last deviation from our outline that we planned for today. But it’s unique to me that you were in news media before you went to the destination, and I think it would be great, let’s do a quick masterclass, right, for all of our listeners. The destinations that are listening, that may not have that background that you do. What is it that helps get the news stories run that you’re looking for? You’ve been on both sides. You’ve seen what reporters are looking for. Can we get a couple of free tips from you?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:08:12] Yeah. So, the number one thing is there’s a difference between local news and travel media, obviously. But the main thing that connects the two is if you have a journalist that’s taking something to an editor or they’re going to a pitch meeting in the morning, that producer is going to ask them why today? Why is this relevant? Why should people at home care about this? So before you even send that email to a journalist, you need to know why it would be important to someone who doesn’t know about this, to begin with.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:08:46] And why is now the right time to tell the story?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:08:49] Absolutely. I mean, you can have the best piece in the world, but if now isn’t that moment that people care about it, then it’s not going to get picked up and then you don’t want somebody to be tired about it, hearing about it three or four times in their email inbox. So timing is everything.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:09:05] Yeah, okay, that’s a good one at any other ones for us?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:09:09] I think it’s really building relationships and supporting journalists. Our freelance travel journalists have been so heavily hit by COVID, the journalism industry is just fragile in general. It’s supporting them even when you don’t need something and building those relationships so that you’re top of mind for them. The last thing I would say that I learned back in journalism school is to think of your story ideas like a stovetop, you should always have four burners going, so your biggest burner is the one that’s most relevant and ready to go right now. Then you got three other burners that should always have a story on them, ready to go out at any time.

 

So you may reach out to a journalist and say, “I’ve got this big story,” and they’re like, “I can’t do that one. Will follow it up with three others.” The likelihood is that they can pick up something.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:10:02] So for everybody that’s listening, these are some pretty important nuggets we’ve just gotten. I love the four-burner concept here where your biggest burner’s probably your lead story about your destination, but you better have a few other others cooking just in case. I really like that advice and then going back to one of the previous things that you said was that a lot of these journalists are struggling right now and these travel writers are struggling right now. And I would say that is an opportunity for each destination to be proactive in reaching out to them and maybe at the time that they can afford to foot the bill for their entire trip on their own or whatever, like some of them have done in the past that, that you be proactive and get them down to your destination and create those accommodations for them to help them to, to maybe keep what they’re doing a float instead of having to go get another job.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:10:52] Totally agree. And I think that you need to meet the journalist where they are now to make it easier for your story. If this is an earned media piece, what else you have to lose? Right? So meet them where their needs are right now to help get your story out.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:11:07] Well, you know what, Brianna, we just got some really good nuggets that weren’t even included on our outline today. So we’re already ahead of schedule. I appreciate that advice.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:11:16] It’s no problem. I love connecting my two worlds together, it’s the best part of my job. 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:11:23] Well and it clearly was great preparation to get you to your role. You talked about that today. You’re the VP of Marketing and Communications at York County. So, so tell me what makes York County South Carolina unique as a destination?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:11:40] This is something that we bring up in daily conversation here. When I started and I asked that question, they said, “Well we have a little bit of everything,” which I think is the worst statement you could ever say. You need to be definitive in describing your destination. I think that we have ample outdoor space and waterways with the Catawba River and Lake Wylie and we have a history that is so deep from the only federally recognized Indian tribe in the state to Civil rights history with the historic friendship nine jail, no bail set in. I think what makes our destination so wonderful are the local businesses that really make our main streets. I don’t want to be anywhere in the USA. I love that you can’t find what’s on our main street anywhere else.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:12:32] That’s really good because when, when most people think of South Carolina, the first destinations that come to mind are those coastal destinations, right? The Charleston, the Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach like you mentioned and you can sit on the beach for a day, maybe two days and then you kind of want to go do something, you want to go see something. Your destination sounds like it’s got some really rich, alternate activities. Then maybe the traditional when most people outside of South Carolina think of South Carolina to offer.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:13:06] Yeah, I mean, I love that you can go from being on the top of one of the tallest roller coasters in the country at Carowinds. And then that afternoon you can go to our Catawba Indian Cultural Center and learn about the history of our Indian nation here. So that deep breath of multiple different things gives a really wholehearted look at a unique destination.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:13:32] I like it, I like it. Okay. Well, one of the things that I found interesting from our previous conversation is that you know when most destinations were contracting and many even lost staff, you decided to make a really important hire. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:13:48] Yeah, we made an investment in a program called UberMedia. And UberMedia is its data location services. So it’s giving us data, mobile location on who is visiting our destination and data is great. But unless you know what to do with it, data is just great. So we actually hired somebody, we decided to make an investment in a new position Market and Research Analysis. And so we hired Elizabeth Shanaman coming to us from Philadelphia and she is able to take this intense data that we’re getting in a volatile time for travel.

 

So you’ve got, you know, what are our hotels doing from one week to another? You’ve got the mobile location data of who’s visiting right now and partner with who’s taking a brochure and things of that and giving it to us so that we can better analyze how to spend and maximize the dollars that we have at a time where dollars aren’t guaranteed.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:14:52] That’s interesting. You said something that I think is really important because there’s a lot of data companies out there and it seems like new ones continue to pop up. But if you don’t know what to do with that data, it’s just numbers on a page. Right? So I love that you made that hire and really focused on that. So after you put Elizabeth in that role, what did you learn that maybe came as a surprise to you or that maybe affirmed something that might have been a hypothesis for you guys before she came in? Tell me a little bit about what you’ve seen from her work there.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:15:24] Yeah. So from the mobile location data, she’s been able to put together visitor profiles for us and then tell us which markets are emerging out of the pandemic. Like maybe markets we didn’t see before, but markets were seeing now and which ones are still lagging behind. Obviously, the ones that are lagging behind the most are our business travel. So we’re able to see segment from our sports traveler, to our leisure traveler, to our business traveler and where they’re coming from. Then figure out how do we section out our pie of dollars to really dig into those communities.

 

So watching our bread and butter communities and how they’ve kind of the ebb and flow of their visitation from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic has been just fascinating.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:16:15] Tell me so have your feeder markets changed significantly in this process?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:16:21] They have not. We have some decisions to make about some feeder markets and they’re underperforming. Do we continue to advertise there when we know that business travel may take several more months to return? Do we educate them about our destination before they’re ready to start business travel again and start predicting that? Or do we focus on places that we know are visiting? Those are some hard decisions we’re making over the next two months.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:16:48] Yeah, they are. See, these are conversations that without having someone in that role might not even be had. I’m hearing dollar signs here of, well, okay, over the next two years. How much could you have possibly spent in the wrong markets without gathering some of this intel and seeing these changes in monitoring these changes and without someone monitoring that on a daily basis, I could see tens of thousands of dollars being spent in the wrong markets if that were to continue?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:17:20] Hands down. I think that a lot of people do these when they do a new brand and they figure out who their potential visitor is and where those potential visitors are coming from. But how often are you doing a temperature check on that? It can change rapidly and we’ve seen it change rapidly especially because of the pandemic.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:17:39] Interesting, interesting. Any other changes you’ve made since putting Elizabeth in that role?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:17:45] Yes, she has really focused on our hotel data and what we’re getting from STR. It’s fascinating. I’m sure every destination is getting those reports in. But unless you’re making charts out of it and truly looking at what’s happening week, over a week, month over month, you’re not ingesting it the right way. We saw an increase. We’ve probably had 12 hotels open over the past year and a half. So with the decreasing of visitation and people spending the night with the increase of hotels, we’ve really had to watch rev par and occupancy in a new way. So putting those STR reports has just been phenomenal for us for her to evaluate that.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:18:27] Very cool. Good stuff. Okay. well let’s maybe shift gears a little bit here and congratulations on making that hire because I actually think that more destinations should be considering having and maybe it’s not a VP level person, but somebody to analyze the consistent flow of data that’s coming in on a daily basis instead of hey, let’s look at this quarterly or something like that. I think it requires more time and effort.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:18:56] I totally agree with you.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:18:57] Well, let’s talk a little bit about, I know that youth sports is a really important offering that you have at York County and it’s become even more important through the pandemic. I’m wondering if you see that continuing into the future and anyway, I just kind of want to understand youth sports and its importance to your destination and where you see that going.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:19:19] Sure. I think when we’re talking about leisure travel and leisure travel advertising, sometimes it’s hard for people to wrap their mind around because it’s not as tangibly measured as sports travel and that’s something that I’ve really learned in the past three years. Rock Hill Parks Recreation and Tourism has done a fantastic job building a sports destination since the eighties for starting with baseball and softball fields and now moving into all five disciplines of biking in one space. So Velodrome, BMX, whatever, and now a Rock Hill Sports and Event Center, which holds volleyball and basketball. The amount of people that we have been able to bring into the destination because of sports tourism has always been beneficial, but even more so now in the pandemic.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:20:10] Got it. Okay, so tell me about this partnership with Rock Hill. You’ve been able to work with that. If I understand correctly, it’s a sports complex park within your destination?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:20:21] Yes. So our partnership is with Rock Hill PRT and how that works is they are bringing in sports events and we partner with them to help, you know, it’s a bid process type of thing. So we work together to bring in those events into their facilities and then we work to make sure that those sports visitors are spending the night in our hotels to make sure that they’re staying. Charlotte is right across the border. So how do we make sure they stay in York County instead of spending the night in Charlotte so that while they’re here they’re generating that additional attacks.

 

It’s a fascinating thing. We have 96,000 hotel nights from July to December. That’s during the pandemic, just sports tourism.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:21:06] Wow. So we’re talking about a critical piece of your tourism ecosystem.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:21:10] Yeah, absolutely. We saw while leisure travel has taken a huge dip and business travel, even more, we’re still having almost 100,000 people spend the night in six months. So how do we look at the visitor who is here and get them to do even more? This may be the only vacation that some of these families are taking is pocketbooks get a little tighter. So how do we get them to experience more while they’re here for sports tourism?

 

Adam Stoker: [00:21:40] And one of the tactics you’ve used to try to do that and to try to keep them from going to stay in Charlotte is you’ve been geo-fencing those sports facilities a little bit with advertising. Can you talk to me a little bit about what your strategy was behind that and maybe what the results of that effort were? Then did Elizabeth play a key role in understanding those results?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:22:01] Elizabeth plays a key role in everything we do. So yes, we geo-fenced our sports facilities because we knew that the families were going to be staying there and the reason why we pivoted to this, this was with me starting this is my first fiscal year of our advertising budget and I decided that we needed to advertise all 12 months out of the year. So instead of just sending digital display ads to our top three feeder markets and hoping that someone would decide to do a leisure trip, we decided to attack them here in the market.

 

So we geo-fenced all of these sports facilities where we knew these thousands of people were coming every weekend. We gave them advertisements about different attractions, restaurants and things to do right outside of those facilities. And we saw an increase in traffic to those web pages. Of course, I mean a click-through rate. But it was fascinating because we believe that we are creating a culture of sports tourism becoming a vacation, similar to what you would do if you’re going to Hawaii for a conference with your wife, right? Like you’re coming to Rock Hill for sports tourism. Let’s spend one more night and make a date night out of it or a family experience at Carowinds. So that’s really the new culture that was surrounding around sports tourism.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:23:19] I think that’s great. It speaks to me of something that I feel has been really neglected in destination marketing in general. That’s that we spend so much of our budget outside of our market to get people to the destination. Then we do in a lot of cases a poor job of telling them what to do once they’re there. So the fact that you guys have assigned budget to in-destination marketing to help maximize the revenue from those visitors that have made that trip to either the sports complex or anywhere else within your destination, it shouldn’t be. But that’s a fairly innovative move. Was that difficult to convince your stakeholders that in-market or in-destination advertising was going to be a valuable piece of your plan?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:24:02] It wasn’t. Thankfully, I’ve got a boss, Billy Dunlap who just believes in me, possibly to a fault, but a lot of destinations were switching to a local messaging and this isn’t a local message, right? It’s in-market message, which I think is what you touched on, making sure that while people are here they’re spending that extra dollar. I think it goes a long way. We’ve seen are from just doing this, we’ve seen the traffic on our hotel pages on our website go up 117% year per year.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:24:39] Wow.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:24:41] So we know it’s working because we’re getting in front of them and getting information to them that they wouldn’t have looked up otherwise. So it’s fascinating.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:24:49] Yeah. And another in-destination tactic that you mentioned was a word that I hadn’t heard before and we had a good laugh about this. But you mentioned a Signicade. Tell me about a Signicade.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:24:59] I guess I’ve ordered so many of them now. They’re actually like, it was a little bit like toilet paper there for a while. You couldn’t find them. Some people may call them A-Frame signs, some people call them Signicades. They’re the plastic A-Frames that you might see in front of like a lunch spot that says, “Come inside and eat lunch here.” We bought dozens of them and printed signs that have QR codes on them and put them at every single facility in front of the concession stands, in front of the bathrooms, in front of the field signs. If you’re headed onto a Rock Hill Parks Recreation and Tourism facility, you’re going to see a QR code that leads you back to our website. In just a month we had more than 100 scans of it. I think that credits to the restaurants because people are getting used to QR code menus. But it’s been invaluable. People want to know. They don’t know where they are and they need somewhere to eat nearby so they scan it and find their next meal.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:26:01] Yeah, I don’t want this to sound insensitive, but I think the pandemic maybe the best thing to ever happen to QR codes because QR codes were kind of looked at as hey, this might never take. Then all of a sudden it’s become one of the most important usable tool’s during the pandemic.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:26:18] It’s fascinating. We set up a van, we have like a mobile visitor center, so we set it up with a table at our Carolina Nationals BMX that had 7500 people there. We just set up signs on either side with the QR codes. Instead of handing people literature, we just showed them how to scan QR codes and they loved it because it was so much less interaction face to face with people.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:26:44] Fun and then going back to the Signicades, I think that A-Frame should rebrand to Signicade because that is a much more sophisticated description of those little A-Frame signs. So the funny thing about those is that is an in-destination tactic that might feel antiquated to people. I mean, signage, right? On-site signage, you don’t think about that a lot in destination marketing. Yet I think that’s a really effective use. I mean, yes, digital marketing is great and geofencing is great, but as they’re walking into the event, they’re all walking past that Signicade.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:27:21] Absolutely. And it’s mobile. So say they’re not having an event at one location, but they are at others. We can just pick them up and move them and they’re pieces that we can have forever and change out the messaging on them. So it’s relatively inexpensive for a long-term solution.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:27:39] Great, Great. In the last year, your mobile app became pretty important to you guys, even more than it had been before. Tell me how you’re utilizing that app and maybe what you’ve seen over the last year with that app.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:27:54] Yeah, so we’ve had an app now for more than five years, but I think this year it’s become even more important. This is a way for people to get map information in the palm of their hand and experiences on trip itineraries in the palm of their hand and more accessible than a destination guide. We just reformat our destination guide basically in the app. It’s through Visit Widget and we absolutely love it. We’re getting between 60 and 80 downloads a week and it pulls the same information from our website. So it’s a relatively low impact for our staff to keep up with, but it makes a huge impact for people who are here to get that information.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:28:39] That’s a lot of weekly downloads.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:28:41] It’s a lot of weekly downloads. It even shocks me. I’m like, “I’m not sure I would download it,” but 80 people are, so that’s great. We also have a Brew Trail and a Taste Trail that live out of the app. So there’s a reason for people to utilize it, but it does extremely well.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:28:58] That’s great. All right. Do you plan to continue to add and modify the app or do you feel like it’s in a really good place and you’re going to continue to utilize it as is? What’s your plan for that app?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:29:10] Yeah, so it’s a really good tool for us. The next thing that we’re about to do with it is revenue generator through Visit Widget were able to put ads inside of it and we just actually put our first one and it. In two weeks it had 2500 impressions and 50 clicks for that ad.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:29:27] Nice.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:29:28] So you can see that it’s beneficial to our partners. So being able to sell that space on top of ads in our destination guide and ads on our website, it just gives us another revenue model.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:29:39] Great. Yeah, you’re going to pay for the whole app with the advertising.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:29:41] That’s the hope.

 

 

Adam Stoker: [00:29:43] I like it. Okay, well you’re doing a lot of unique and interesting stuff at York county. I am really impressed with a lot of the different tactics. You’re not just doing what everyone else is doing, you know? And I think that that’s remarkable. So tell me what’s next. You’re obviously not just going to cash in and say, okay, we’ve done great, we’re going to let it ride. You got plans. What do those look like?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:30:06] Well, our plans are ever-evolving here in York County. I don’t even think we’ve talked about it, but the Carolina Panthers are moving their headquarters and training facility to Rock Hill, set to be open for training camp in 2023. So I think our next two years are really focusing in on our brand and who we are and being confident in who we are before the massive storm of the NFL comes.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:30:31] Yes.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:30:33] We need to make sure that we are confident in who we are and our partners are confident in what they have to offer to complement an experience for the NFL.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:30:42] So did that come through economic development that they made a proposal and were able to secure getting the Panthers to come to do there, is it spring training?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:30:52] Yeah, it’s spring training. It is a little bit of that. I think it’s more so the vision of the owner, David Tepper and the new staff that they have there. They really saw the need for a year-round indoor training facility. We had the acreage in space to do it. I really think it’s going to transform our destination a lot like Plano with the star.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:31:18] Great. So tell me a little bit about okay with the, with the Panthers coming to town in the next couple of years, what do you need to get in order?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:31:25] So I’m having meetings over the next months with lots of our different attractions, giving them the ability to really hone in on their stories and sharing that. I want people when they start Googling Rock Hill for the purpose of the Panthers facility, they’re finding all of our other partners and finding that the world will not begin and end at the Panthers facility. There are gobs of local restaurants and unique shopping and history that lie beyond that facility as well because they bring in their own visitors. But we need to make sure when they bring in those visitors that there are experiences for them outside of that as well that are unique.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:32:08] Yeah, I would imagine now is the time for all of your partners to kind of level up and prepare not just the Convention and Visitors Bureau, but each part of the customer experience probably has to level up and get ready.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:32:19] Absolutely.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:32:20] Very cool. Well, if you could give one piece of advice Brianna to all of our listeners, what do you think that would be?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:32:28] I think that the pandemic has offered us an opportunity to really stare at our destination and say just because traditional DMOs operate this way, doesn’t mean that we have to. How do we reach the visitors that we have? How do we reach the visitors that we want and what can we do differently that is successful in a business model, not just in a tourism model? I think it can really help you a long way.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:33:01] I like it. I like it. Take a step back and take a very close look at your destination. I think being willing to admit the gaps and work on those and maybe not look at your destination through rose-colored glasses.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:33:15] I think it’s hard because we’re trained to be our destination’s biggest cheerleader, but we also need to make sure we’re understanding where those gaps are so that we can lift it to the level that we are a cheerleader for them.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:33:27] Yeah. Great stuff. So if people want to learn more about you or your destination, what’s the best way for someone to get a hold of you?

 

Brianna Francis: [00:33:35] Well, first you got to download the free app, Visit York County SC and just had to visit yorkcounty.com. I’m on LinkedIn, we’re all in LinkedIn. So love to connect.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:33:47] Great. Brianna, thanks so much for coming on and sharing your valuable experience with us and your insights for our listeners. It’s been a really, really insightful episode.

 

Brianna Francis: [00:33:58] Well, I appreciate it. This was super fun.

 

Adam Stoker: [00:34:00] Well thanks so much Brianna and thanks everybody for listening. We appreciate your listenership. If you enjoyed today’s episode, don’t forget to leave us a rating or a review. It really does make a difference. So thanks everybody and we’ll see you next week.

 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently from destinations around the world of Adam, why does my destination need a podcast? You talk about it on your show, but why? The difference between a podcast and placing and have is that if you are willing to do the work that it takes to build your audience, you are creating your own medium. And now what it does is allows you to own your success and not be reliant upon the reach of another medium. So you’re creating your own advertising medium and there’s incredible value there.

 

So if any of you have considered doing a podcast, I would really look into it. It’s the long game. I would look at what it takes to start one. We obviously have a product at Relic. Every destination needs to start today and do a podcast. You will reap the benefits over the next several years and years and years.

 

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