Episode 143

On the Road in College Station TX

Episode Description

In this episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast, Adam takes the show on the road to College Station Texas. He is joined by Kindra Fry, Senior Manager of Sports, Tourism & Events at Visit College Station. Listen to hear them talk about how her destination weathered the pandemic by focusing on personal growth, as well as how they dealt with the division of their CVB over the past year.

"You have to look at how you are going to develop. Personal growth and professional growth with the individuals is so important to me and it's important to them too. I think that's the only way we get better as a team." -Kindra Fry

Meet our Host and Guest(s)

  • Name: Adam Stoker
  • Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic
  • Favorite Destination: Fiji
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand
  • Name: Kindra Fry
  • Position: Senior Manager-Sports, Tourism & Events at Visit College Station
  • Favorite Destination: Warm Beaches (Cabo)
  • Dream Destination: Italy

“On the Road in College Station TX” – Show Notes and Highlights


Show Highlights: 

  • Built a tourism experience around the ecosystem of College Station by finding and showcasing unique things beyond Texas A&M such as football, the library museums, kind and friendly people, and its history. Complement what already exists and run with it.
  • College Station was a joint CVB with Bryan pre-COVID. 
  • College Station and Bryan still work together on how they all can benefit each other.
  • Trains are part of College Station’s history.
  • As part of their brand campaign, College Station did a whole video series about Why I Compete in College Station.
  • It doesn’t matter what type of organization you are. Any transition is going to be difficult because you’re learning whole new things.
  • Despite the pandemic discomfort, College Station has experienced personal growth, team growth and professional growth.
  • In order to prioritize growth, Visit College Station partnered with local businesses to open their doors through virtual client events.
  • Sports are more resilient during the pandemic.
  • Visit College Station is adopting a unique approach to warm up clients through a direct mail campaign.
  • Kindra advises DMOs to keep an open mind and look at things differently despite the setbacks.


Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:

Episode Transcript

Kindra Fry:                [00:00:00] You have to look at, how are you going to develop. Personal growth, professional growth with the individuals is so important to me and it’s important to them too. But I think that’s the only way we get better as a team. That’s how you get more creative, you get better ideas. You really start to think about here’s all the possibilities.


Adam Stoker:            [00:00:20] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Adam Stoker. For our newer listeners, I’m President and CEO of an advertising agency called Relic and we help destinations all over the country with their marketing. Today, I’ve got an amazing guest. Her name is Kindra Fry and she is the Senior Director of Sports Tourism and Events at Visit College Station. Kindra, welcome to the show.


Kindra Fry:                [00:00:48] Thank you very much. Happy to be here.


Adam Stoker:            [00:00:50] Oh, we’re excited to have you and we’ve done this a couple of times with the show, we’ve taken the show on the road. Tomorrow I’m actually teaching the marketing course at Tourism College here. And so I thought it would be really fun to do some in-person episodes while we’re here and I appreciate you being willing to do it in person. It feels weird to be in person.


Kindra Fry:                [00:01:09] I know it feels great to be in person again.


Adam Stoker:            [00:01:11] Yes, it does. I’m actually really excited that Texas decided to do an in-person Tourism College and not a virtual one. It’s just so much better when you can see each other face to face.


Kindra Fry:                [00:01:22] Absolutely. And I think we’re all waiting like we’ve been waiting for this for so long. It feels like an eternity. But to be able to just be back face to face and to see colleagues that I haven’t seen in over a year. It’s pretty awesome.


Adam Stoker:            [00:01:37] It’s good. It feels good. Well, you’ve heard some of the episodes of the show and one of the things that we like to do is just ask a couple of icebreaker questions to get the conversation going. So let’s start with your dream destination. If you could go anywhere in the world Kindra, where would it be?


Kindra Fry:                [00:01:53] I would love to go to Italy.


Adam Stoker:            [00:01:57] Italy.


Kindra Fry:                [00:01:59] Yes. And the Mediterranean. All that area.


Adam Stoker:            [00:02:01] I got to tell you, Italy must have a lot of appeal because it may be the most popular answer on the show. You shouldn’t feel bad about that. It’s a great destination. What I’ve learned though is that as people tell me that Italy is where they want to go, the why and the places within Italy that they want to visit is usually different. So I’d love to hear your why. Why do you want to go to Italy?


Kindra Fry:                [00:02:23] Well, you know, I don’t know. I’ve just always wanted to go there and I think it’s because back, way back when I was a lot younger than I am today and we studied the Roman gods and all that, the Greek history and all that good stuff. All that area was just appealing because of all of that. And to see the Colosseum and all that kind of stuff. That’s just really why I’ve wanted to go to see all those things. But then I’ve seen so many pictures of even just the Mediterranean sea and all of that area. So I feel like I could fit right in right there.


Adam Stoker:            [00:03:00] I like that. You know, it is kind of funny as we learn especially growing up the mythical side of history, right? That you start to blend the mythical in your head with the actual and it really does sound like a magical place and so it’ll be fun to make it real.


Kindra Fry:                [00:03:21] Yeah exactly. I think I should do it.


Adam Stoker:            [00:03:23] Okay who’s going with you?


Kindra Fry:                [00:03:25] My husband for sure.


Adam Stoker:            [00:03:26] Your husband, no kids?


Kindra Fry:                [00:03:27] Maybe not. We’ll see. When they’re a little bit older. We’re in that weird phase.


Adam Stoker:            [00:03:33] You’re in the young children phase and I’m in the same phase.


Kindra Fry:                [00:03:35] We’re in the young and teenagers.


Adam Stoker:            [00:03:37] Oh man. Both.


Kindra Fry:                [00:03:39] Yeah, it doesn’t mix well.


Adam Stoker:            [00:03:41] Okay so you and your husband headed to Italy to make it real. All right. Tell me about one of your favorite destinations that you’ve been to.


Kindra Fry:                [00:03:50] You know I have a lot of them but my most favorite and instead of picking just one is just beach. I love to go to any beaches. With the blue, beautiful water and I like to hear water and I like to hear waves and so it’s just very calming for me. So really I’m comfortable if I have a beach it really doesn’t matter where.


Adam Stoker:            [00:04:15] So we could draw a circle around every continent in the United States maybe except Antarctica.


Kindra Fry:                [00:04:20] Yeah, warm. Let me rephrase warm beaches.


Adam Stoker:            [00:04:24] Warm beaches. Okay, that does eliminate a few. So that’s good. That’s a good qualifying. Can you think of one that you went to that stood out?


Kindra Fry:                [00:04:31] You know we went to a few years ago we went to Cabo and I had never been down in that area so I would say that was pretty spectacular.


Adam Stoker:            [00:04:42] Cabo is amazing. I had two things that happened in Cabo that kind of hurt the experience for me. One is I got stung by a jellyfish.


Kindra Fry:                [00:04:52] Oh no.


Adam Stoker:            [00:04:53] So did my wife. And then the other one though is do you remember that big rock outcropping as you come into the bay that people were swimming and jumping off of? I did something to my eardrum jumping off that dang rock and I’ve never swum in the water. Getting water in my ears has always been an issue.


Kindra Fry:                [00:05:13] So Cabo is not probably your favorite necessarily.


Adam Stoker:            [00:05:15] It was still amazing. It’s still amazing. But those are like two things that were really unique that happened.


Kindra Fry:                [00:05:22] Yeah. Yeah. I did get stung by a bee while we were there.


Adam Stoker:            [00:05:25] Did you? A bee?


Kindra Fry:                [00:05:27] That was fun. Uh-huh? A bee. It was nice.


Adam Stoker:            [00:05:30] How did that happen?


Kindra Fry:                [00:05:33] I was sitting by a pool and enjoying a beverage that happened to be sweet and there’s a lot of bees around there because of the sweet little beverages and fruits and all that good stuff and apparently it landed somewhere under my arm, I don’t know where, but I put my arm down and got stung and so halfway through this wonderful vacation we had, I had a giant arm.


Adam Stoker:            [00:05:57] Not allergic?


Kindra Fry:                Because that swelled up, not allergic, but it swelled up really nicely. Didn’t have Benadryl or anything like that with me. So I had to go by that and I don’t speak or read Spanish very well, but the bottle was all in Spanish, so I just kind of from memory opted to take whatever dose of Benadryl that I could remember was okay.


Adam Stoker:            [00:06:22] You’re hoping the dosage and instructions are the same across borders.


Kindra Fry:                [00:06:25] Yes. I’m hoping. It seemed to be okay. That was still good.


Adam Stoker:            [00:06:32] So okay we somehow took this negative and that was my fault. So tell me one of the fun experiences that happened while you’re there.


Kindra Fry:                [00:06:39] What we did, so this was a vacation with just my husband and we did a little cruise, like a dinner cruise type thing that took us further into town. So we got to experience some of the local activity which for me as working in the tourism industry is my favorite part is I don’t ever look for the chain restaurant or the easy place.


Adam Stoker:            [00:07:05] Seen your frogs.


Kindra Fry:                [00:07:06] Yeah, I’m more of a, where do people that live here go, that’s what I want to go experience. So we got to do that and then we got on this boat and it took us way out into the Pacific in all that area and it was just awesome and it was at sunset, so it was just over the water. It was just beautiful. And I think that was probably one of my favorite things that we did during that whole week.


Adam Stoker:            [00:07:31] Sounds great. The thing that I love about travel is you can have little experiences. I mean that was probably 1/40 of your trip, I can’t do the percentages there, so let’s stick with that. But that’s really stood out for the entire trip. These little experiences along the way that can make a trip extremely memorable. I think that’s really cool.


Kindra Fry:                [00:07:53] Yes, and I think that’s why I love what I do because I’m getting to create that for other people and in a destination that isn’t typically on the map for people to come and experience. So not only do we get to talk about it, but then I’m hoping that people leave when they’re at a tournament or they’re even at a convention with some little snippet that was a memory that they could take and hold onto forever.


Adam Stoker:            [00:08:18] Okay that’s the perfect segue into my next few questions. So I’d love to have you just give us a little bit about your background and how you ended up where you are today.


Kindra Fry:                [00:08:30] Yeah. So I started out thinking I was going to work in college athletics. Got a Sports Management degree and I was all in and interned at SMU. And I was like this is it, this is what I want to do for a living. Didn’t end up working out that well. But I ended up with the NAI. So in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and at the time they were in Tulsa Oklahoma, which is my hometown.


Adam Stoker:            [00:08:57] Oh, man, we’ll have to talk about Tulsa after.


Kindra Fry:                [00:09:00] Yeah, I love Tulsa.


Adam Stoker:            [00:09:01] Me too.


Kindra Fry:                [00:09:02] So I ended up there with them and really working with them and doing the events and some of their marketing. There’s where I got a taste of working with a convention and visitors bureau or sports commission because we work directly with the Tulsa Sports Commission and all that at the time. So, dabbled my feet in that just working with them with the different events and championships were hosting and ended up meeting my husband there and we both worked for the NAI. And when we came back engaged from a trip that we both took, one of us was going to go and I said, “I’ll go,” because he hadn’t been there as long.


So I left and ended up in at the time, we were in Olathe, Kansas in the Kansas City area and ended up working for their sports commission in their CVB because we already had that connection and they had a job opening. And I had, like I said, just kind of dabbled with that and knew what they did, but it wasn’t a career path at that point, just really needing a job because we had just got married and we were broke. So we both needed an income and loved it.


Just dove in and really started out on the convention side of things, which is completely different from the sports side. So I had to really relearn and all kinds of things and I enjoy that. I like to learn new things and so that was fun. And then one thing led to another, my husband is an Aggie, so probably a year after we got married, he got a job back here in college station at A&M. And so, no, I had no idea where I was going. I’ve been here once. I was a collegiate cheerleader. So we had come down here. I went to the University of Tulsa and A&M. Just wiped us all over the field. So that was my experience with Texas, A&M. So that’s fun.


Adam Stoker:            [00:10:56] Tulsa is not the only university that’s had that experience.


Kindra Fry:                [00:11:00] Oh no.


Adam Stoker:            [00:11:01] You’re not alone.


Kindra Fry:                [00:11:02] We weren’t alone, but we ended up coming moving here and their Sports Commission actually had a job open at the time. So I feel like it was just meant to be, I was supposed to be here and I was supposed to find that job and have been here ever since. So I am working on my, let’s see, December 1st I will start my 18th year here in College Station and helped rebuild their sports department basically at that point and then just kind of worked my way through and ended up where I am now as the Tourism Manager and the Senior Director.


Adam Stoker:            [00:11:40] Tell us about, tell us about your role and kind of what falls under your purview.


Kindra Fry:                So I oversee all of the tourism aspects, so conventions, sports, leisure, all of those things are kind of under my purview and we have great people in place that really run individually those departments. I’m just here, I like to see my role is helping be a resource for them, whatever it is that they need, I’m the one that’s going to go try to get that for them to make sure we have all the things in place and they have all the tools and everything they need to be able to do their job and to bring people to our community, welcome them here, talk about the wonderful things we have, why we all love living here and sharing that with other people. My role is to make sure that they have all the things they need to do that.


Adam Stoker:            [00:12:27] Great. Great. So one of the things that I find interesting about your destination is there are a few destinations around the country that are, the tourism is centered around a university and the rest of them are destinations that happen to have a university. Right? You guys are much heavier on the university side. Texas A&M is, man, I mean it’s one of the largest, in fact, Kyle Field is one of the most renowned stadiums in the country. Obviously, people that leave Texas, A&M have a lot of pride and this is an important place to them. So they want to come back. They want to support the football team and the basketball, the other athletics that are around. So how do you build a tourism experience around that college ecosystem that’s kind of unique to your area?


Kindra Fry:                [00:13:20] Well, you know, that’s a great challenge that we’ve had because A&M defines this area really. But then we also have other things, right? For us, that’s been kind of that challenge. Yes, we have a great partnership with Texas A&M. And a lot of the people that come here, especially on the leisure side of travel are coming here because of that university. We do have a lot of former students that are coming back. We’ve seen an increase in our retirees coming back to our community to retire here, to live here. They were Aggies and they just want to come back home so to speak. And so we’ve had a lot of that happening.


But the real challenge was finding things beyond Texas A&M. Now being in Texas, football is huge across the state that’s a thing. And so that is a strong point for us. We’re home to the state 7on7 Tournament which will be here next weekend actually.


Adam Stoker:            [00:14:20] Oh exciting.


Kindra Fry:                [00:14:22] It started here in 1998. It had one year of hiatus due to NCA rules and SCC rules at the time about having 7on7 on campuses. And we’re not allowed to do that anymore. But we thankfully have expensive facilities here. So we were able to move that just to another facility in our community. So we started to look at what are those unique aspects outside of the university itself knowing that the university is a big driver, but what is it beyond that. Being home to the George H. W. Presidential Library Museum, huge. No one else can have that. We are the only place in the whole world that can have that library in that museum. We’re the only place in the whole world that they made that, and this is going to sound weird but, they made that the bushes made this their permanent home. They are buried here. We have them here and they’re not Aggies, but they fell in love with this campus and this university.


So that is something unique to us. No one else can have that. So we talk a lot about that and thankfully in Texas, we have three libraries, presidential libraries here. So we haven’t a niche there that people, lots of people love to go to presidential libraries. I for one would love to go to all of them myself. So being able to partner with other people in the state. We’ve created this whole tour aspect that we can partner with our friends in Dallas and our friends in Austin and have that triangle of presidential libraries.


So it’s just been trying to find those other unique things, things that stand out. We are very, super friendly here. And that was one of the things I joke around. I’m a transplant because I’m not from here. But that was one of the first things I noticed when I came here. You cannot get lost here because if you do and you look like you might be a little bit concerned about where you might be, someone’s going to tell you how to get to where you’re trying to go. Whether they know you’re not, they’re going to help you. Most friendly people here. That was one of the biggest things that stood out to me.


Adam Stoker:            [00:16:32] Yeah, I’m going to jump in there because not every destination has the luxury of having locals that are friendly and outgoing and not everyone has the same attitude towards tourism. And I think we talked about the little experiences, the little moments that can change whether a vacation was good or bad, right, or that least define a vacation. Interactions with the locals have got to be up there.


Kindra Fry:                [00:16:57] Oh yeah.


Adam Stoker:            [00:16:59] And I think that’s a huge asset for you guys that you’ve got locals that are willing to be kind and welcoming and accepting to people that come to visit the destination.


Kindra Fry:                [00:17:08] Absolutely. And I think a lot of that is the culture of A&M. I mean, that’s just their service-minded university and in this whole community is service-minded, which is just amazing how I think it probably filtered out into the community just that being aware of there are people who need help, there are people who — I mean, hurricane evacuees we’ve had, we’re on the path. So when people need to evacuate the coast, they’re coming this way and we are able to open our arms and our doors and people are just donating right and left to help other people. It’s just really an amazing place.


And I mean, for me moving here way back 18 years ago, at the time I wasn’t thinking about starting a family or any of that stuff, but as I grew here in the community I’m like, this is it, this is the place I want my kids to be. So, there are no plans for leaving. This is home. And I think that’s really a lot of people that come here get that feeling immediately even if you’re from another university. I mean that was one of the biggest things we heard from SCC when A&M went into the SCC was, do you people tell people to be nice to everybody? Like what is happening here? Do you send a memo out to the whole city letting them know? And I’m like, “Absolutely not, this is just who we are.” And I love that. I really do. And I think you’re right. I think that is a huge piece of creating those memories for people to take back with them. They want to come back because it’s such a nice place to be.


Adam Stoker:            [00:18:40] Yeah. My business partner Colby and I were big college football fans and we’re big BYU fans and were based in Provo, Utah. And so when BYU is playing someone in the SCC lots of times we’ll go down to the game and have that experience. I’ve got to say that not every SCC community has the same fan experience.


Kindra Fry:                [00:19:04] That’s what I hear.


Adam Stoker:            [00:19:07] It’s great that you guys have such a great culture, I would say of being kind. One of the things that I heard from you as you were walking us through your destination is you’ve got a great base with Texas A&M. It’s a great foundation, right? But one of the things that you’ve done that I find really interesting is you’ve taken these sports and events opportunities to get people that may not be coming for Texas A&M. They’re coming for the sports and events. They can experience the community, have the cultural experience that you’re talking about with the people and the different activities, the George H. W. Bush Library, which I’m a big fan of, we’ve done work with them and what great people over there.


Kindra Fry:                [00:19:50] Yes.


Adam Stoker:            [00:19:51] But you’re able to use this asset of your sports facilities and your event opportunities to have people have that experience. Then you’re building on that foundation and expanding that foundation of Texas A&M. I think it’s a really interesting strategy for tourism growth.


Kindra Fry:                [00:20:07] Absolutely. We, that’s one of the things we try to do, especially in our youth sports side. When they’re here, we use that partnership with A&M to do tours and as long as we’re offering it to everyone, we’re not messing with any rules or any regulations or anything like that. A lot of people will take that time and do it themselves and that might not have been something they were looking at doing necessarily, but they’ll go and do a tour of A&M and the history on that campus is just phenomenal. So it’s just a really great time for them.


One of our veterans’ parks is the Athletic Complex, which is where most of our flat field space is, we have a Veteran’s Memorial there and it is really a cool experience to walk through. There are several different statues and things there, but it gives you the history of all the different wars, not just in Texas, but all the wars that we’ve been in as the US. It takes you like on this little nice history walk and we have a wall much like the Veterans Memorial in DC that you can anybody can put the names and submit names on that wall. I mean there are thousands upon thousands of names on that wall that some are from this area, some are not. And it’s just a really cool experience that you can go from military and history which is, you’re going to find a lot of that on A&M’s campus and even out into the community you’re going to find some more of that military in history.


We have a G. I. Museum that has tanks and helicopters and they do a big World War reenactment once or twice a year. So they will have all that, you will be in the tank like you can have experiences in it which is really cool and then Santa’s Wonderland which is our Christmas. So Christmas is all done up down here and that’s one thing that we are expanding on currently is the Christmas and the holidays and what does that look like and how do we make that bigger for our whole community? So we’ve expanded that out into more of the park and more of the city and all that.


So it’s finding those, I think the key and I think every community can do this, right? You’d find those things that are unique to you, take that and build off of it and build around it and what are some other offerings that you can give that complement what already exists in your community and you just take it and run with it because that’s who you are.


Adam Stoker:            [00:22:42] Yeah, I see a lot of destinations using this strategy of, we’re going to do sports and events and have that be a great way to bring additional tourism. What I don’t see them doing that I see you doing is that you’re infusing those facilities with pieces of the tourism experience here in College Station and it allows them to not just come to play a baseball game and leave, right, but they get to have a little bite-sized piece of that experience while they’re here. That’s different. I don’t see a lot of destinations executing in that way and I think it really sets you apart.


Kindra Fry:                [00:23:18] Yeah. And I mean, that’s one of the most important things is how do we connect all of that? You know the last thing we want is someone to do exactly that. Go play a baseball game, go play a football game and go back to a hotel room and just sit there and not do anything. So, we try extremely hard to share here are all the things that are happening while you’re here. You need to go see these things. These are the top things you should go check out about College Station because I want them to leave and I want them to have had those memories and made those memories with their families and friends and all that. But I also want them to go tell the rest of their family and the rest of their friends about the great things College Station has to offer so that they’ll one, maybe they’ll come back and bring them with them or they’ll have them come on their own and have those same experiences. But even have their own.


Adam Stoker:            [00:24:08] How did that take place? How did the planning that to infuse tourism experiences into facilities? Because we’re talking in government multiple departments working together here, which is not easy in a lot of cases. How did that planning take place?


Kindra Fry:                [00:24:24] Well, it’s a kind of a long drawn out thing because one thing we have not mentioned yet is that there’s also a sister city right next to us Bryan.


Adam Stoker:            [00:24:35] Yes.


Kindra Fry:                [00:24:37] So prior we were a joint CVB. We were a standalone 501 C(6) organization and we received funding from both Bryan and College Station and our county at the time. So with both cities under that mindset, we are a tourism-minded community and that was almost happened organically because of Texas A&M. People were coming here regardless. They were bringing people here. I mean when you can put 102,000 people in a football stadium, those people are coming. And so yes, that may be their main goal, but I think it all of that kind of filtered organically into both communities that, okay, we’ve got downtown Bryan and that’s a place that all your local shops, local restaurants, all of that area, it’s awesome. They are really good at programming, entertainment and things there. So all of that was already happening.


College Station you have all these other Veterans Park and the museums and all those things are already here. So I think the cities at the time were both, it was kind of just an organic thing that was happening. And as a tourism arm, we were advertising those things. Right? So we were like, okay, look, we’ve got these things in our community and we’ve got all these people coming for this particular event, let’s make sure that they don’t sit in the hotel the whole time. So let’s go, let’s talk about all these different things. Let’s create events around these busy times in our community so that people can get out and experience it.


And then COVID hit and then at the same time COVID hit both cities opted to go their own way with tourism, devastating at the time. We were all devastated at the time. But you know, we’re a lot further down the road now and we can kind of look back and I think it was important for the cities to do that. I think Bryan is looking for what’s unique about Bryan and when we had that joint, the marketing effort going on, we didn’t focus just on one community or the other, we focused on both. We focused on this as a full community and we still are. That has not changed. What is good for Bryan and things that are unique that happened and Bryan are also good for College Station and vice versa. So College Station, when we have these events and Veterans Park directly across the street or three hotels that are in Bryan. So they’re benefiting and we’re each benefiting from whatever is happening in our communities.


I think that they’ve worked together to do things that complement each other. They’re still working on what’s best for College Station, what’s best for Bryan. But they’re also looking at, but what’s going to complement the whole community and how will we all benefit by having some of these things here. And so I think during this transition period and trying to figure out what’s unique about College Station and the decisions that I now make our College Station decisions and not the whole community necessarily, that has been a fun and unique new challenge that we’ve had to face in light of COVID happening all at the same time too.


It really gave us a moment to take a step back and really focus on what are those things and we had something good in place already. How do we build on that? How do we make it better? How do we improve it? I think that’s what we spent a lot of our time doing while we’re trying to dissolve a full organization and start a whole brand new organization at the same time. It’s been fun and challenging at the same time to look at what are those opportunities and build upon more what already existed.


Adam Stoker:            [00:28:28] Part of that process was a rebrand.


Kindra Fry:                [00:28:30] Part of the process was a rebrand, obviously.


Adam Stoker:            [00:28:31] – because your name obviously changed.


Kindra Fry:                [00:28:33] It changed.


Adam Stoker:            [00:28:34] So tell us about that process.


Kindra Fry:                [00:28:35] So that was fun. Both of us had to go through it. Destination Bryan was born from this transition. Visit College Station was born and we also had Bryan College Station Sports and Events, which was part of Experience Bryan College Station. I mean this starts to sound like a crazy story, right? You’re going on these, you know, it’s like a soap opera, you can’t keep up with everything. But we created Visit College Station and then, so part of that was what is unique about college station? What is our history? Who were we? How did we get our start? Well, 100% from A&M. College Station was a mail stop. It was a train stop. That’s how you got to Texas A&M back when it began.


So trains are a history here. Trains are part of the history and a lot of times you don’t want to focus on that. Like that’s not something for me, even being here almost 18 years and selling this community and living in it and loving it. I didn’t think about the history behind the trains and really what that meant for the growth of this community. And so our logo now and our brand now has a train track around it. So we tried to bring that in. That is something that’s unique and something that is about us, but we don’t focus on that really. Oddly enough we’re building a new city hall right now and it is idyllically like an old train station. It’s obviously larger and bigger but taller, but the facade is too kind of make you think about a train station.


Adam Stoker:            [00:30:12] A bit of a throwback?


Kindra Fry:                [00:30:13] A community. Yes. And it’s directly across the street from campus. So it just made sense that those things fit together. Well then, what are we going to do with sports at that time? I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t even know where to go with this.” And we wanted those action words, right? So we had experienced before and that is a trend within our DMO world, but I love the idea of an action. So we want you to visit College Station and you can visit College Station multiple times and have a different experience every time. Just like any other destination. I’m going to have a different experience every time I go.


But then what about sports? What do you do with sports? And we went through so many renditions of action words, but we landed on Compete. It’s not that we’re competing with other people necessarily, but we wanted that mindset of a sport. You know, when you’re in sports, you are competing and you’re just emboldened with competition and that’s the challenge and the competition is the key and we’re coming in, we’re having these tournaments and the whole goal is to get the win. So we landed on Compete College Station and basically the same logo really because we needed them all to talk in. We wanted you to see if you see our logos, College Station is all one.


Adam Stoker:            [00:31:32] You want the consistency.


Kindra Fry:                [00:31:33] We’re one city with all these different fun facets. So that’s how we got to ended up landing there and it took off and there are so many fun things you can do with Compete. Like we did a whole video series about Why I Compete in College Station. We hit up one of our softball tournaments that was here and it was really a neat organic thing that we just said, “Hey, why do you compete in college station?” And they would say I compete in College Station because I like these things,” or because the people are friendly because the fields are pristine or whatever that was, but it just flowed and it rolled right. So we’ve just jumped on and hit the ground running with Compete College Station.


Adam Stoker:            [00:32:16] I like it. Well, the two brands and the visual identity is what, what I should refer to because the brand is much more than just visual identity, but it works together. I really like how the two logos work together. You’ve got that brand consistency. It’s really interesting to see the work that you guys have had, not your choice, right? The decision was made and it’s like, okay, we got to figure out this brand now. I think you guys have landed in a really good place.


Kindra Fry:                [00:32:42] Yeah. And that was one of the big things and it’s taken a while. I mean, in any transition, I don’t care if you’re public, private, doesn’t matter what type of organization you are. Any transition is going to be difficult because you’re learning a whole new thing. I mean, we were a standalone organization and now we are part of a city. So learning the contracting, learning the marketing efforts, I mean, some of the things that we had here, we have departments in the city that do those things too. So it was a lot of angst there at the beginning. It was scary quite honestly because no one knew. The city staff didn’t really know, we didn’t know as tourism staff. What is really happening? What’s the plan? How are we doing this?


You grow up quite a bit in a short amount of time figuring out what that looks like and how are we going to move forward. And I think, you know, during a pandemic on top of that when tourism is just being pelted and hurting so badly. It was scary. It was just honestly very scary. But that’s the best thing about this team that we have in place here with Visit College Station. We rallied around each other. We support one another. We lost three of our favorites, right? I mean we were all a family and our family got broken up and they’re in Bryan and we love them just as much as we did when they were here.


We collaborate, we worked together still and I think that’s a blessing in all of this, is that we all, we both have people in each city that we know we’ve worked with, that we can bounce ideas off of. We already had that great relationship before but now you’re semi competing with your next-door neighbor and it’s a scary thought to think, and we don’t like to even use that word, we don’t like to say we’re competitors, but we also support one another and we’re going to do things here in College Station that are going to benefit College Station, but they’re also going to benefit Bryan and vice versa. We’re going to reciprocate. And I think that’s the cool thing about all of this coming to be, was that we could rally around each other and we could get through it.


We’re on the other side now, so we are getting those contracts finished. We’re getting our feet under us a little bit better. We’re understanding processes better. I think the city is learning tourism. This isn’t something that’s been on their radar really, because they had an outside agency that did that. So they’re learning about cells and what does that mean? And we’re a bunch of crazies over here and, where cells people, that’s who we are. You know, we’re just all over the place and outgoing and fun and want to do that and want to create that because we’re all about creating those experiences for people coming in.


So it’s been a fun process, I think for everybody. It just feels good that we’re able to look back and see what we went through. But now we’re building a new staff, we’re bringing new people in, we’re able to just grow. I think that that’s the exciting part of all of it right now.


Adam Stoker:            [00:35:48] And you mentioned the growth that you’ve experienced and this doesn’t mean like an explosive tourism growth that you’re talking like personal growth, and team growth, right?


Kindra Fry:                [00:35:58] Personal growth and team growth.


Adam Stoker:            [00:36:00] Not necessarily destination marketing related, but I really, really feel like so many of us when we’re in the moment and having the discomfort, we don’t realize the growth that’s taking place, right? And then you get on the other side of it and you look back and you’re like, wow, if that hadn’t happened. It was awful. It sucked, right. But as I look back, it was critical to my growth.


Kindra Fry:                [00:36:21] Right.


Adam Stoker:            [00:36:22] It sounds like your team has been able to take advantage of the discomfort that came from the crises that you dealt with during the last year and grew as a team.


Kindra Fry:                [00:36:33] Absolutely. And I think that’s the best part about all of this because I think it really makes you, you have to look at how are you going to develop. And that’s one of the most to me as kind of leading this team, personal growth, professional growth with the individuals is so important to me and it’s important to them too. But I think that’s the only way we get better as a team. That’s how you get more creative, you get better ideas, you really start to think about, here’s all the possibilities. And while this may be this big right now, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.


So, I can take this piece and I can build this and now I can build on that and you just continue to do that. That’s what we had to do during all of this. I mean, we had to find ways to keep things going, to keep College Station in the minds of people. Our conventions teamed at a phenomenal job of virtual client events. We were calling on our local businesses, our local businesses are hurting. They are not able to open their doors. So how can we keep them alive? So we would work with them. And we did cookie decorating client events that were virtual. We did wreath making, we did out of the ordinary things we probably would not have ever done in a setting of being in-person.


But we had to think and twist and turn immediately on a block to keep College Station at the forefront of people’s minds as a destination. And when you started to see some of those bigger cities, people not being comfortable with being in the bigger cities when in the height of the pandemic. But yet we were still semi-open with precaution, we had to think of those ways to make people feel comfortable. Our conventions team capitalized on that. And now because of that we still have those relationships going and we just did our last virtual client event two months ago and now we’re planning the in-person, we’re doing site visits, were getting out and getting to go meet face to face with people, which for salespeople, I mean this was terrible. When you can’t see somebody and interact with them face to face, it was terrible.


Sports kept going, sports is a little more resilient, you are outside, you felt a little more comfortable because of that. You can space out better. So it slowed but it kept going and even now from that we still just people calling, “Hey, can you have some space on this date? We really need a field or we need multiple fields or we need this.” And I think, just because we stayed on top of things like that and we stayed in contact and let people know, hey, here’s what’s going on here. That’s why we were able to do all these things during this transition on top of professionally growing individually.


We were able to also grow with our clients at the same time and we’re able to put them first. And I think that’s the mindset and I think that’s why we are so successful at doing some of the things we do is because we think about if I were a visitor, what would I want to do? And as a local, we get caught up sometimes and oh, there’s nothing to do or you’ve been there done that. But we can take that time and think about the outside. What was exciting was when I first got here and there’s been a lot of change since I first got here. So what were the things that were exciting then? And how do we do that? And those were like little facets that we thought about all the way through this transition and pandemic and everything. And I think that’s why we were able to kind of come out to the light on the other side of the tunnel, right and just continue to go and grow.


Adam Stoker:            [00:40:15] That’s great. The last major topic that I wanted to talk to you about today is you’re doing something and we’ve collaborated on this, but you’re doing something that I haven’t seen a lot of destinations do and that’s a direct mail campaign. So I was wondering if you would be willing to talk about the direct mail campaign that we’ve just finished and printed the pieces for. Why did you develop that? And what’s your plan to execute?


Kindra Fry:                [00:40:39] So we were just trying to think of something unique, something different that sports planners haven’t seen or something that’s going to draw attention, right? And how do we connect with them in a way that isn’t going to always be us just shooting out an email or making a phone call or showing up at their door? In the interim times where we’re not seeing them face to face, how do we connect? So we worked on this mailer, this direct mailer and it’s a box, I mean it’s a box that we’re able to put different information in. It may be focused on swimming or it may be focused on track and field or it may be focused on something else. But we’re able to put those different focuses within this box and really hone in on what it is that would stand out to them. What is it about our community that would make you want to come here facility-wise because of sports planner, first and foremost, is going to worry about what kind of facilities do you have that my people are going to enjoy? Are they state of the art? Are they up to par? Are they above part? What is it that is going to jump out? And that was what we wanted to do.


So we have all these great photos, we have a whole list that were finishing right now of the different groups that we want to send these too and they’re going to start going out here in the next probably a month or so that we’re going to get ready for fall.


Adam Stoker:            [00:42:08] So you’re readily customizing those boxes based on the segment of your list that it’s going to, how cool.


Kindra Fry:                [00:42:13] Sometimes you don’t want to hit somebody with a bunch of unnecessary. You want to get to the point, here’s what we’ve got and this is specific to you and your event and here’s what it is. So that’s kind of what we’re trying to do and focus on that. And Dominique has been with us for quite some time. He’s great. So he’s prepared a beautiful letter, to go in with that and it just gives us something to follow up on, right? So we’re going to send these boxes out and send this direct mailer out and then we’re going to be able to pick up the phone and give a call or email –


Adam Stoker:            [00:42:49] You’re warming them up.


Kindra Fry:                [00:42:50] Yeah, and just follow up and hey, how’s it going? And we’re not, we’re not those salespeople that want to just push a sell, push a sell, push a sell. We want to get to know you and we want to make sure that you feel like you’re a right fit and that we are your right fit as well. So it just gives us an opportunity to open that door.


Adam Stoker:            [00:43:09] Great. I’m excited to report back once we see the success of that campaign. So we can talk about direct mail for destinations because I think it’s an untapped opportunity for a lot of destinations.


Kindra Fry:                [00:43:19] Well, and I think in this digital age we’ve lost a lot of that connection, the personal connection. And I think really a direct mail piece is a form of a personal connection where I love getting mail and I think a lot of people enjoy getting mail and it just gives us an opportunity to hey, you’re important to us and we want you to feel that way. So I think it’s a really cool way to just connect personally with somebody and start that conversation if it hasn’t already happened.


Adam Stoker:            [00:43:49] I think with direct mail, a lot of people will how to underdo it. What I mean by that is they’ll send a postcard and they’re like, well the postcard didn’t work and it’s like you send a postcard that could be thrown away with the carpet ad and could be thrown away with the tire ad. So what you guys have done here is something I think is you can stand out, it is a personal connection because it’s a box with a letter inside, it’s got a collateral piece, whether that’s a brochure or something more tailored to the sport that you’re talking about.


I think if you’re going to be successful with direct mail, it can be a personal connection, but you’ve got to make it not the same thing they get in their mailbox every day.


Kindra Fry:                [00:44:29] Right. Yeah, it’s going to get lost with junk mail if it’s the same like the little flyer postcard or whatever, you know, it’ll get lost. So then that was our thought. At first, when this idea came, they’re, “Let’s do a direct mail piece.” I’m like, “Hm, really?” This is not going to be worth our money for the same reasons that we just talked about and they’re like, “No, no, no, this is going to be different. These are boxes. It’s going to…” I’m like okay, well, let’s do that. Let’s try it and see what happened.


So it’s something for us to try. I think it will be successful because again, it’s going to be tough when you get that to be like, I’m just going to toss that. We’re not going to toss that, you’re going to check it out. And what is this thing that’s coming to me? So, I think it’ll be good. I’m excited to see how it’s going to flow.


Adam Stoker:            [00:45:16] Great. Well, Kindra, we’ve talked about a lot today.


Kindra Fry:                [00:45:19] Yeah.


Adam Stoker:            [00:45:20] Boil it down for me into your main piece of advice that you would give other destinations as they’re moving forward whether it’s post-COVID or whether it’s just some people are going through a rebrand, some people have separated out from another destination, some people have combined with another destination. What’s your main piece of advice that you would give destinations right now?


Kindra Fry:                [00:45:41] You know, I think having gone through what we just went through keep an open mind, this is going to sound really silly, but I think the pandemic was a good thing in the sense that we were forced to look at things completely differently, right? And I’m hoping that what we have learned from all of this. And I know I have and I hope that others too, look at things differently. Let’s continue to do that because collaborate. I mean, don’t hesitate to call your colleagues and ask questions. How are you dealing with this? How are you handling that? I think networking and collaborating as number one. And yeah, it was before, but even more so now because we’re all recovering, we’re all trying to figure out what this looks like. And we not only just as destinations but even those that have events, they’re scrambling, do I do this hybrid? Do I only do it in person? Do I keep doing virtual?


I think that for us as destinations, we obviously don’t want the virtual decision. It’s okay to be hybrid, but we don’t want that decision to be 100% virtual. So I think my main advice is to be open-minded, be willing to accept the challenge, keep a positive attitude through it all and just know that you’re growing. I struggled with that at the beginning. Like I’m why am I going through this? This is crazy. I don’t want this. Really once I took a step back and accepted it and looked at this as a growth opportunity, doors started opening and ideas started flowing and new things started happening. I think that’s really the main thing through all of this is if we can just keep that open mind and think about different things, collaborate, ask questions of other people, how are you dealing with this? How are you handling it and come up with your unique way of doing that based on what your feedback is? I think that’s my top thing because that’s something I know for sure, that’s at the top of my list, that’s what I’m going to be doing moving forward from now on is finding those things that are unique. But even looking at ways other people are doing it and how can I ask questions about that and adjust.


Adam Stoker:            [00:47:52] Yeah, I love that you said to have an open mind and look at things differently. Hopefully, it won’t take a pandemic next time for us to be willing to take a step back and look at our destination differently or our business differently depending on who’s listening. So, I think that is incredible advice. Thank you Kindra.


Kindra Fry:                [00:48:11] Absolutely. Absolutely.


Adam Stoker:            [00:48:12] Well, if people have questions and want to learn more about what you’ve gone through or anything like that, what’s the best way for someone to get a hold of you or learn more?


Kindra Fry:                [00:48:20] Either way, you can call me. I’m happy to talk and visit or email.


Adam Stoker:            [00:48:25] What’s your email?


Kindra Fry:                [00:48:26] It’s kfry@cstx.gov.


Adam Stoker:            [00:48:31] Great. Kindra, thanks so much for coming on and sharing your experience with us today.


Kindra Fry:                [00:48:34] Sure. Thanks for coming.


Adam Stoker:            [00:48:35] It’s good to be here in person.


Kindra Fry:                [00:48:36] Yeah, welcome to the heart of Aggie land.


Adam Stoker:            [00:48:38] Thank you and thanks everybody for listening. This has been another great episode of the show. Please make sure that if you enjoyed today’s episode as the fire truck goes by that you leave us a rating or review. And otherwise, 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? Stakeholder engagement is so underutilized in destination marketing and a podcast does a great job of engaging those stakeholders. Now you have the ability to show all of the things that you’re doing on your podcast and engage those stakeholders. 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.