Episode 133

Effective Storytelling

Episode Description

In this episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast, Mike Verret from Verret and Associates joins us to provide some tips and tricks on how to improve your destination's brand messaging and awareness. Listen to learn about some of the successes that destinations such as Lake Havasu, Arizona, and Charleston, South Carolina have had, and how you can apply these brand principles to your own destination.

"Clarity of message is more important than any service that you provide because they're not going to see the service if your message to them upfront isn't clear. Once you smooth out that intro message you can start to provide your services. They are never going to get there unless they connect to that crystal clear message that sets you apart from the beginning." -Mike Verret

Verret and Associates: https://www.verretandassociates.com/

Meet our Host and Guest(s)

  • Name: Adam Stoker
  • Position: Co-founder and CEO of Relic
  • Favorite Destination: Fiji
  • Dream Destination: New Zealand
  • Name: Mike Verret
  • Position: Founder of Verret and Associates
  • Favorite Destination: New Orleans & Hong Kong
  • Dream Destination: Maldives

“Effective Storytelling” – Show Notes and Highlights

Show Highlights:

Understand the unique character of your destination to make that connection with your consumers.
Relate to the audience in terms that they’ll understand what sets you apart from the other destinations.
What they see in the first 6 to 8 seconds when they pop open your destination website, that’s what they’re latching onto.
Positioning of information tying all together with the headline or tone with the attention-grabbing nature of your destination and services.
The key selling point comes across the personal touch and a really good visual.

Two important components in effective marketing of destinations:

    1. Get customers’ attention
    2. Keep customers’ attention

Branding is an important part of keeping customer attention.

Two assets that represent your brand:

    1. Personality
    2. Attitude

Messaging mistakes destinations make in their storytelling:

    1. Default ‘welcome to’ message
    2. Too much noise
    3. Too many messages

Clarity of message is more important than any service you provide.
Your job as a destination is to put them in that place when they first see your message and give them something to hold onto about what you are.


Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:

Destination Marketing Podcast
Adam Stoker
Mike Verret
Verret & Associates
Travel Vertical Podcast

Episode Transcript

Mike Verret: [00:00:00] Clarity of message is more important than any service you provide because they’re not going to see the service if your message to them upfront isn’t clear. Once you can smooth out that intro message, that’s where you can start to provide your services and all the specifics. But they’re never going to get there unless they connect to that crystal clear message that sets you apart from the beginning.


Adam Stoker: [00:00:20] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Adam stoker. As always, we’ve got another great show for you today. We’ve got a friend of mine, his name is Mike Verret and Mike is with Verret & Associates. Mike. we’re excited to have you. Welcome to the show. 


Mike Verret: [00:00:38] Adam. Thank you so much for having me. I’m happy and humbled to be here.


Adam Stoker: [00:00:41] Absolutely. And you know, we, we’ve got an interesting conversation to have today. You and I have talked a lot about storytelling and I think it’s something that every destination needs to do a really good job of and we’ll talk about that today. But before we jump in, I’d love to have you answer a couple of questions that we like to ask everybody that comes on. And the first of those questions is what is your dream destination, Mike? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?


Mike Verret: [00:01:10] Okay. I have given this some thought when you told me we were going to talk about this and the one place I can think of, I’m not even positive where it is, but it is the villas or the rooms that are out over the water. I believe it’s somewhere and perhaps off the coast of India. I want to go somewhere where I can stay on the ocean, not have to see anybody, just be there and it looks so relaxing. Just based on the images I’ve seen in videos, I’ve seen where you have your own home above the water for a week or two. That would be a dream for me.


Adam Stoker: [00:01:42] Yeah, I think the one you’re referring to is in the Maldives which is really, or is it the Maldives? Yeah, I never know how to pronounce that, but so that’s one place. They also have them in Bora Bora. They have them in Jamaica now there’s a new resort in Jamaica that has them and then they’ve also got some in Fiji I believe. And I’m sure there’s a couple of other places around the world, but I’ve always looked at those and thought, man, it looks incredible.


So tell me, Mike, if you were to go to the Maldives, which it sounds like is the destination you were talking about, how long would you stay and how far out are we from you actually taking that trip?


Mike Verret: [00:02:20] I would stay for at least two weeks most likely. And I wouldn’t just stay in my ocean abode. I would definitely explore. But I am a beach-going person. I’m perfectly happy just sitting on the beach and reading or listening to music, jumping in the water once in a while. I don’t have the urgency or the need to go touring or anything. So I’d go for at least a couple of weeks unwind and I think that’s a retirement, a retirement trip dream right now, but I’d love to make it a reality sooner.


Adam Stoker: [00:02:50] Yeah, I feel the same way. I feel like Instagram and Tiktok are flooded with images and videos of the Maldives and, and oh, I just can’t imagine.


Mike Verret: [00:03:03] It’s turned into such eye candy. And seeing these places like just social media must have increased travel frequency and people going to see places on its own simply because people are able to see things from real people all the time from those areas. And it’s just like the greatest travel brochure there is for those places where you see real people sharing their experiences and you want to get in on it.


Adam Stoker: [00:03:27] Yeah. Who, who gets to go with you, Mike? When you go on that trip, are you flying solo for two weeks and just hanging out and unwinding on your own, or who’s going with you?


Mike Verret: [00:03:37] I think my wife would have me drawn and quartered if I didn’t bring her with me. So I’m going that, but I’m on the fence about bringing Archie, my accountant. Who’s also my dog. 


Adam Stoker: [00:03:47] Okay. So at least your wife and maybe your dog. 


Mike Verret: [00:03:51] Yeah, the kids are on their own.


Adam Stoker: [00:03:54] You know what? That is a non-kids trip, isn’t it?


Mike Verret: [00:03:58] Absolutely.


Adam Stoker: [00:04:00] Well, okay, I appreciate you sharing that with us. It gives us a little bit of insight into how you look at travel and maybe some of your aspirations as it pertains to travel. What about somewhere you’ve been that was just incredible for you?


Mike Verret: [00:04:13] Well I have to places, my heart is still in New Orleans and I know it’s a for us that would be a domestic trip and it’s, you know, a short plane ride. But that is one of my favorite cities and one of my favorite cultures in the world. And it’s so funny that it’s… it’s really unique among the 50 states and it’s a place I just love to visit, especially for the food and the people.


But the other trip that I’ve had the privilege of going on five times and I still can’t get enough of the city is Hong Kong. I thoroughly enjoy the city, the people. It’s an unbelievable experience when you think of the population of the five boroughs of New York City, all on a piece of land the size of just Manhattan and they make it work. It’s a marvel of engineering. It’s a marvel of capitalism and it really has a lot of beauty to it. But I love the hustle and bustle of the city and which I know is contrary to my Maldives dream, but I love just being able to take everything in. That’s sort of my kind of sightseeing, it’s less about history and more about the active culture.


Adam Stoker: [00:05:22] Did you say you’ve been there five times. Yeah. Okay. So what took you five times to Hong Kong?


Mike Verret: [00:05:28] Well, I worked in the advertising business for years and my last advertising role was with Hasbro Toys and Games. And in 2011 they hired me onto the brand team. So I was in the transformers business for two years and then I moved over to Hasbro Gaming and my role was the voice of Hasbro gaming, the face of Hasbro gaming. I would travel around the world and present at whether it was internal meetings like brand summits, buyers at the different toy fairs around the world, or even consumer events. So the three biggest toy fairs for us, were always Hong Kong, Nuremberg, Germany and New York. So I would go to Hong Kong every year and Germany and then there were times when I go to other locations that were equally as fascinating to me, like Mumbai, India. I went there for a brand summit. Three hours east of Mumbai at a yoga retreat for a brand summit. I don’t know many jobs that afford you an opportunity to do that as part of your marketing role.


So I had a lot of opportunities to travel for work and my domestic travel personal travel has been far less explorative, but I think working with Hasbro and in the capacity that I was in really gave me an opportunity to see some amazing places and Hong Kong was one that I just couldn’t wait to get back to.


Adam Stoker: [00:06:46] It sounds fun enough to be in the brand department for Hasbro and you’re just rubbing it in when you mentioned that you also got to go to Hong Kong five times for work.


Mike Verret: [00:06:59] Yeah, I guess that’s not really fair. Well, let me put it to you this way, the travel and what I was best at which was forming connections with an audience and getting them to really believe in and buy into Hasbro Gaming, which was about 35% of my time. The other 65% was far more mundane and frankly frustrating for me because it’s not what I wanted to be doing, but at least I had that outlet several times a year where I was able to literally and figuratively escaped the mundane nature of just brand marketing and go to different places, do what I do best and meet new people, form new connections and that’s really what everything was about.


So it was a great opportunity. It wasn’t all hugs and kisses and all puppies and rainbows, but it was a really, really fantastic six years in terms of the experiences that I had in the places I got to go.


Adam Stoker: [00:07:54] You know what though, Mike, I wonder if that’s how you can gauge if you’re truly an optimist or a pessimist is when you talk about that experience, do you talk about the wonderful 35% or do you talk about the painful 65%? If you’re an optimist, I think you focus on the good and focus on the amazing opportunities that came with that. And if you’re a pessimist, maybe you’re spending your time talking about the negative. Probably a good way to gauge. 


Mike Verret: [00:08:22] Yeah, absolutely. Let me put it to you this way, the person who had to deal with the 65% side was my poor wife. Everybody else got to hear about the 35%.


Adam Stoker: [00:08:34] You’ve got to tell the good story outdoors, but then you get home and you’ve got your home therapist there.


Mike Verret: [00:08:40] That’s right. We’re always on the stage, especially when it comes to business. There’s no business without show business essentially. And business, in general, is built in a different language like you and I would never use the term synergy or ID8 outside of business, the business world. Right? So we all play a character, we all play a role and we have the opportunity to use what we have at our disposal to connect with our audience, to connect with our customers and our co-workers in a meaningful way just by leveraging what we all have naturally. So that’s really what I focus on now and you’ll see attitude is everything.


Adam Stoker: [00:09:15] Let’s talk about that. We’ve insinuated a little bit into your background, but I’d like to have you may be back up and give us your background and how you ended up doing what you do today.


Mike Verret: [00:09:26] Sure, we covered the face of Hasbro Gaming part, but when I left Hasbro in 2018, what I wanted to do was what I felt I was best at in the business world and that was connecting to and communicating to an audience, connecting with and communicating to an audience. What I knew about myself was I can hold an audience’s attention because I focus only on them and I can see what they’re picking up on, not picking up on. Frankly, it keeps the focus off of me if I’m only thinking about them, but I had a way with an audience.


So when I left Hasbro, I didn’t want to go back into corporate America and I didn’t want to go back to agency life right away. I wanted to see if I could build something with what I knew how to do. So I started Verret & Associates as mainly presentation skills initially, the first say, year of its existence and I worked with businesses workshops going into their office and working with the teams on individuals on how they presented. So it was going great and I was happy doing what I was doing. And when the COVID pandemic hit, nobody wanted you in their office anymore.


So obviously that was a stumbling block, but it forced me to step back and realize that what I understand is an audience, not one that’s standing in front of me. I understand how an audience receives a message from a business or from a brand and I understand the importance of the brand of the business getting that right and understanding how the audience is going to receive information.


So what I’ve built my business into is showing companies how to talk about themselves with their audience. The reality is businesses have an incredibly hard time doing it because every single detail about your business is important to you. But if you are able to step away from that and see what’s important to the consumer or the audience of your message, you’ll start to see that what’s important to you is not what’s important to them or the order that you’re communicating in isn’t the order that they need to receive it.


So what I’m able to do is give businesses an audience perspective on their message and then work with them to craft it in a way that’s going to get the audience’s attention and get them to say, “Tell me more.” It’s been a fantastic journey. But I think the untapped potential for me was I was only thinking about people in front of me and not thinking about psychologically how does a consumer receive a message and put a lens of logic and human nature over that and you start to understand how you need to talk to your audience about your own business. And I’m casing point and proof of this. I needed to hire someone to write my website and what I do because I couldn’t do it. Every single thing I was thinking about, I just couldn’t get out of my own way.


So I know it’s a real struggle, but it’s been a great experience. And what I find is all businesses see their audience the right way. It’s just about choosing the right way to deliver that message to them, and once they can get there, they’ll see a huge increase in engagement, a huge increase in connection with that audience. So that’s what I provide.


Adam Stoker: [00:12:34] Well, you know, Mike, this is why I wanted to have you on the show is because I feel like destinations, in general, have so much encompassed within their brand. So you’ve got your outdoor activities, you’ve got your dining, you’ve got, the attractions that are there, let’s say museums or amusement parks or whatever it is, right? You’ve got all these different things within your destination, you’ve got stakeholders that want to be taken care of, you’ve got political officials that want to make sure that they have a say. There’s so much that you have to keep track of, so how do you take a destination with all that to offer and simplify the message in such a way that you can clearly communicate that someone should want to book a trip there?


Mike Verret: [00:13:20] Well I think the trick is starting with the point of arrival, right? Why are people looking at destinations in the first place? They’re looking for places that have accommodations, that have restaurants that have activities. Obviously have meeting facilities that will meet the needs depending on the partner. So if somebody is looking at destinations, you have to assume they already know all that because why would they be looking at your destination as a place to go if you don’t fit that bill? Okay. There’s a little bit of a logic jump that you have to get to with this.


What it has to do with is there are two messages that they’re predisposed to expect when they’re looking for a service that your destination can provide for their meeting or whatever it is or family vacation. It doesn’t matter. So if the first thing they see when they get to your destination site is welcome to this destination and here are all the facilities, you’ve just met the base lowest expectation of your audience because they’re already expecting that you’ll have that. Okay. So if everybody is doing the same thing, it all starts to sound really similar. Welcome to hear, welcome to there, here’s where you stay here is where you play and we would all look the same. So it’s about understanding the character and what makes each destination different and how they can embody that to make that connection with the consumer or with the audience.


Adam Stoker: [00:14:46] Yes. You know, this is one of the major issues plaguing the industry and every time you add a factor or someone to take care of into your messaging plan, you water down your message. So, for example, if my message has to show equal love to all my hoteliers and all my dining establishments and all my attractions and political officials and stakeholders and everybody that we mentioned right. If I have to do that, it gets watered down with every accommodation I make. And now you’ve got destinations all over the country and all over the world. Really, just like you said, their website says, here’s where you stay, here is where you play and it’s so similar and so every destination has a similar thing.


So, you had a quote that I thought was really interesting, that seems to be somewhat of a guiding principle for you. And it’s by Loretta Lynn, would you mind kind of walking through that with us?


Mike Verret: [00:15:46] Absolutely. I attributed it to Loretta Lynn, I’m sure you’ve heard it from other famous people or non-famous people too. But it’s a simple philosophy that I go by. “You have to be first, best or different.” And first and best, 99.9% of the time aren’t even an option, the ones that are first or best are clearly known and they got there obviously first or they accelerated to best very quickly. But for the lion’s share of us, for the other 0.1%, what you’re talking about is different. How do you be memorable? How do you stand out for something that you stand for?


And the trick there is relating to the audience in terms that they’ll understand what sets you apart. Okay, so if let me just put this in context for you, let’s say out of the age out of the industry completely, you are hiring an ad agency. Now, obviously, you have an ad agency expectation that you need to get a message out and you need marketing services or advertising services. So let’s say you meet with five agencies that you bring in and the first four say we’re an ad agency, here’s the work we’ve done and here are our accomplishments.


But then one agency, the 5th one comes in and says, here’s your challenge and what you’re up against. Here’s exactly how we would solve that problem. And here’s work we’ve done that validates our approach, Now, which one of those stands out to you?


Adam Stoker: [00:17:15] Well, of course, the last one, right?


Mike Verret: [00:17:17] Because they are positioning themselves as helping the customer, helping the client, understanding their challenge and immediately forming a connection with them. If I’m expecting agencies to come in and present to me, I already know their agencies. I already know the work that they’ve done because I called them in the first place, which means I did some due diligence. Take some leaps with your audience and give them credit for having a little bit more direction than okay we’re that agency and here’s what we do.


So what I did was form a connection with that audience by identifying their challenge, saying I understand it, here’s how I will solve it and here’s proof of what I’ve done in the past. I am going to get that business because I’m the one that stood out among the five. So let’s apply that to destinations. It’s the same approach if you have five destinations that are on the possibilities list for a company and all they’re seeing when they get there is welcome to here and here are all the services we can provide. You’ve hit the lowest level where a destination and here’s our services at no point did you connect with me on what’s different, on what stands out about your location, or what makes you unique in my mind. So you’ve lost that opportunity.


When you can grab the attention right away, that first contact what they see in the first 6 to 8 seconds when they pop open your destination website, that’s what they’re latching onto. They’re not reading down about services. They’re looking for something to stop them from scrolling or going to the next destination site. So that’s the challenge is how do you stop them.


Adam Stoker: [00:18:52] So, so I like that mike and I’m going to back up a little bit to your quote of, “You either have to be first, best or different.” With that and so many destinations, you’re not the first to have a hotel or an outdoor attraction, right? You might have the very best asset within your destination. And in that case that simplifies your marketing challenges a lot. But that goes for very few destinations around the world and so different is what’s left, right, like you mentioned. But I’m trying to appease all these stakeholders within my destination. How can I come up with messaging that’s potent or powerful enough to get the stakeholders within my destination to buy off even though it doesn’t mention, hey, here’s all the things we have.


Mike Verret: [00:19:42] Well, that’s a, it’s a good question and frankly it has to do with the positioning of information. So let’s think of all of those constituents, all of those stakeholders as basically tactical executions for a company who would go there, who would go to that destination for meeting purposes. You’re looking at, okay, there’s accommodations, that’s tactical execution of a good destination operation, okay? Hotels and lodging things to do, dining and nightlife, all of those are tactical decisions that the audience is going to make. But what ties them all together is a headline or a tone that you can set that they all hang off of. Okay, so if you’re grabbing their attention with, if history, if the historical nature of where you’re going to be or where your destination is, is the big play for that area, why wouldn’t you lead with that? Why would you say welcome to this place and here are our services? You want them to connect to the location beyond just a hotel, just things to do and just dining and nightlife.


So it starts with that main message, that first impact that somebody sees when they click on your destination website, it starts there. Everybody else gets their delivery off of that message, because think of it this way, you’re not going to appease anybody if it’s a listing of your services in the same priority without any way to get them to read about them.


Adam Stoker: [00:21:10] Yeah, I think that’s a great message and it’s interesting because I want to dive into brand with you too because I think that’s an important topic for us to hit. But starting with this initial messaging, the first message that someone sees when they’re exploring whether or not your destination is where they’re going to go, those first 8 seconds like you said, are so important, who’s doing it right? Who have you seen that? Is that is reflecting this tactic accurately on their website and is actually capturing someone well within the first few seconds?


Mike Verret: [00:21:45] Yeah, I went through some CVB sites to have some context for our discussion and I found some pretty interesting, there were some, some good findings. I looked at approximately 40 different sites and I picked out 5 that I really kind of liked their message and how it brought their personality and attitude of their destination, their brand. We’ll talk about that a second, but how it brought it to life. The first one is Charleston, South Carolina. And when you go to the website, the first thing you read is history loves company. See Charleston through the eyes of people who love to call our city home. And it’s a beautiful image of the water in the background and the old church right in the center of the town, it captures exactly what they’re preaching.


I think that that’s a way to get people to say, okay, Charleston is all about history. It’s not about welcome to Charleston. And here are the things to do. I get an understanding of what I’m getting into just by reading these first 3 words. That is something that will stop someone and say, “Okay, it matches with the image, I understand what I’m getting and it has that small-town feel to it.” So the key selling point comes across the personal touch and a really good visual.


Adam Stoker: [00:23:02] This is perfect. And I think this really illustrates the principle and we’ll go into a couple more as well.


Mike Verret: [00:23:06] Sure.


Adam Stoker: [00:23:08] But there are two components that we’re discussing today, right, is first how to get their attention and second, how to keep their attention. Right? And how to tell your story effectively with your brand. But first how to get their attention? Explore Charleston has done a great job here of making it. And I’m a little bit partial to Charleston because I went there with my wife a couple of years ago and I can tell you that the demonstration of history from these horse and buggy tours to going out to these historical plantations and all that there is to learn, by going to that destination, history is the message to lead with for Charleston, even though it’s a beautiful beach destination, even though it’s got some great water features. History is what separates it from the other beach destinations in the area.


So I think that’s a really effective use of fast messaging to capture their attention. I love what they’ve done there.


Mike Verret: [00:24:12] Yeah, I think you’re hitting the nail on the head and even the horse and buggy tours, the historical tours they’re living and breathing it once you get there. So, from first contact all the way through the experience, you get one story as an audience.


Adam Stoker: [00:24:30] Right.


Mike Verret: [00:24:31] And that’s important. I mean, you got to put your money where your mouth is. If you’re going to say history loves company and we’re all about history, it better be there when I show up and they do a great job of that.


Adam Stoker: [00:24:43] So I like that. Tell me another one. We want to give our audience the opportunity to kind of see several that are doing it right so they can kind of figure out how to craft this for themselves. So tell me another one.


Mike Verret: [00:24:55] Well, the next one that I really think is phenomenal is Lake Havasu, Lake Havasu, Go Lake Havasu when you get there the first message is Find your Element in Arizona’s Playground and they break the screen, the image is four images each aligned with water, earth, air and fun. So those are their elements and come and find your experience is illustrated here something for everybody beautiful backdrop, but it’s a different approach and it captures the imagination of the audience right away. Like on the water, on the earth, in the air, I could see all the things that we can do there. 


Adam Stoker: [00:25:34] Well, I’ll tell you another thing they do differently there Mike that I think is fascinating and that’s what they’ve included water, earth and air, which are elements that we’re all aware of, right? We understand those and then they had fun and you’re saying okay, these first few are fundamental elements of life, right? Then fun is added in the mix and that is a really good way to say how important fun is by combining it with those other elements without going into this long diatribe of why. Right? It’s very clear upfront.


Mike Verret: [00:26:10] Yep. Couldn’t agree more and frankly, wind wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. Right. Well, they’ve created the four elements of Lake Havasu and what you get when you go there and you see it in 8 seconds. I keep referring to the eight seconds. I feel I should give you context Adam.


Adam Stoker: [00:26:32] Yeah hit me with that.


Mike Verret: [00:26:33] I use examples all the time in explaining things. And my favorite one resumes. Okay? Resume, when someone writes their resume they spend so much time listing out their accomplishments, where they’ve worked, what they’ve done, what their capacity was in that role. If you talk to the person who is hiring they will tell you that on an average they spend 7 to 9 seconds per resume which tells you what? It tells you you spent all that time writing something that is way below the fold and not going to be seen unless you stop them dead with your opening sentence. That’s how you get somebody to go beyond the 8-second thing. Stop them with your message, intrigue them with your message. Find your element in Arizona’s playground lines up with water, earth, air and fun. It sparks the imagination and lets people really run wild with all the things they can do there.


Go back to the resume. If my first sentence doesn’t deliver on who I am and what I stand for and differentiate me, they’re not going to read the stuff I spent hours doing. So with the CVB sites, it’s not about listing out everything that you can do. It’s about getting them to read on to find that stuff and you have to keep that in mind that simplicity of that first handshake, that first contact, they make a ton of decisions based on that. So that’s where you have to be different. They will continue to find the rest of the information they need if you can get them to stop with your message.


Adam Stoker: [00:28:04] I think that’s a great point. I think we’ve really made it clear why it’s so important that the first message they see and that’s whether on your website, in an ad, in a video, whatever, right? That you have 8 seconds to draw them in. Now let’s talk about keeping their attention. And I think branding is such an important part of keeping their attention and telling their story. So talk to me a little bit about your philosophy on branding and why it’s so important for the destination.


Mike Verret: [00:28:33] Sure. So just like every business, a destination in this context is just like a business, but just like any business or any person, you have two assets at your disposal at all times that represent your brand and it’s your personality and your attitude. So one is a constant and one is a variable. Your personality if you set the personality of your destination or whatever your personality is, like, you can’t be a ski resort if you’re on the coast in South America, that’s not going to work. You need to be a ski resort. Okay?


So you’re basically, what you have to work with. Your constant is the personality of who you are, The attitude, your attitude is your variable and you can control that anytime you want. Okay, so to put it in perspective of just people, I could be having the worst day in the world, but nobody needs to know it because I could just choose to project my attitude in a certain way that nobody would know what’s going on. I could wield my attitude like a weapon as an individual.


Destinations can do the same thing. They have a personality and an attitude that they can deliver, and that formulates or defines their brand, what they stand for. So go back to Charleston, for instance.


Adam Stoker: [00:29:52] Before we do that, Mike, before we do that, can I ask a clarifying question here because it’s going to sound like pushback and it’s not. I’m looking for clarification here, and you talk about how your personality is constant, your attitude is the variable, right? So, if I’m a destination and I’m trying to think about it this way that I can basically be a little fluid with my attitude if I change it too much, I’m essentially, I almost look like I have multiple personality disorder at this point, right? So how do we make sure that while understanding that the attitude is variable, how do you do it without seeming like you’re all over the place?


Mike Verret: [00:30:32] Okay, well, I’m again going to apply it to an example that we just discussed Lake Havasu.


Adam Stoker: [00:30:37] Perfect.


Mike Verret: [00:30:38] Okay. Lake Havasu could have gone, they have water, earth, air and fun. We can’t argue that, right? That’s everything that personifies — and you can take the word fun out if you want. But what you see there is available to you in Lake Havasu, that’s all part of the personality of the place. But the attitude Adam could have been go extreme at Lake Havasu and all of these images that you see turn into extreme sport images just based on that.


Adam Stoker: [00:31:09] Perfect, Perfect. I think that’s a great explanation of how to, how to understand the difference between personality and attitude and why attitude is variable. So thanks for the clarification there. You’re getting started on Charleston and I cut you off. So take us back.


Mike Verret: [00:31:25] That’s all right. What I was going to say and we sort of just manifested it here too, but Charleston is about they are a historical destination. They have stuff that nobody else has that is inherent to the history of our country. They can’t get away from that. They have to embrace that, right? So their personality is history. Their attitude about history could be anything. But what they chose to do is come see it through the eyes of the locals, come on a horse and buggy ride, go on these tours. They used a very homely welcoming attitude with it.


They could have gone a different direction and talked about the civil war. You know what I mean? They could have gone a different direction and said, this is a historical monumental place that you have to come and see to understand the history of our nation, but that’s not what they chose to do. They chose to play up the small town historical feel of it with their attitude and they matched it perfectly with what the audience would be looking for.


Adam Stoker: [00:32:24] Perfect. Okay. I like it, Mike. I think that’s a really good framework for our destination listeners to look at is do you know your personality and your attitude? Do you know how you could change the way you manifest your attitude in your marketing and advertising? I think that’s one of the important keys to telling the story of your destination is to understand the difference between those two.


Mike Verret: [00:32:48] I think so as well. I mean I pointed out constantly to colleagues and clients that part of being different — I love the term get out of your comfort zone. You need to get out of your comfort zone. To me, that’s not a place I want to be because in my comfort zone I have a lot of ownable, valuable things that I’m just not utilizing yet. When I’m in my comfort zone, I represent the true me.


So if the comfort zone for Charleston south Carolina is history and it’s about come to this quaint, oceanside historical village and experience it for yourself, the way that the people here do, then you’ve just connected with me on exactly what you’re all about and I can’t really get away from that. You know what I mean?


Adam Stoker: [00:33:32] Absolutely, absolutely. Well, I appreciate that. I think those are some good tips and tricks for our listeners. I want to make sure that we touch on the pitfalls and we don’t want to call out any specific examples. I don’t want any destinations feeling like there, they’re getting called out for this. But what are some of the mistakes that you’ve seen in storytelling and especially messaging that you feel could help our destinations make sure, okay, if I’m doing that, I need to make a change now.


Mike Verret: [00:33:59] Yeah. Well there are three things that I think would be most important and we’ve covered a lot of them at least peripherally in this discussion. But the first is the default ‘welcome to’ message. It doesn’t do anything for anyone. If you’re just saying welcome to wherever this destination is, they looked at your destination, they don’t need to be welcomed there. They need to know what you offer and what sets you apart. So that default ‘welcome to’ greeting is something certainly stay away from.


Adam Stoker: [00:34:26] Can I add to that? It’s why are you here? Or why do you want to be here? Right? It’s not welcome to. It doesn’t matter. Why are you here?


Mike Verret: [00:34:35] Yeah. Like what can we offer you that drove you here? We already know you’re looking for a place to go. So we don’t need to say welcome to. That’s something that we say when you get off the plane when you’ve already signed the contract and you’re arriving. So we need to get down to business. It’s not welcome to this place. It’s here’s what we can do for you or here’s what sets us apart, should be your leading message to that first contact.


Adam Stoker: [00:35:00] Yeah, you don’t need small talk on a website. 


Mike Verret: [ 0:35:02] No. No. The second one is too much noise, too much going on and it’s actually really closely related to too many messages. But too much noise means I don’t know where to look. So some of the examples we were looking at a very clean, right? It’s just an image and a headline. But if there’s a lot going on the page, like we’ve got this going on this week and look who’s here and the circus is in town. And it becomes completely overwhelming to think of pop-up ads when you’re in the old days of much less secure computer internet pop-ups where they would just keep coming up and you wouldn’t know where to look. That’s what the human mind is looking at when they see a ton of messages or a ton of images and they don’t know where to look. And that becomes a challenge.


And finally, too many messages is really important because you need to think about it as like a well-written FAQ section of a website where you start very general, what is the audiences’ first question going to be? And then it drills down in detail. So as people are reading, they’re going from big to smaller to smaller to smaller, all the way down to the details. The same thing is true for your destination website. If you have too many messages, they’re not going to know what to do. If you have one message that drives them forward and gets them to look for more information, they’re going to be more apt to do it simply because they have plenty of places they can visit. They’re not going to waste their time sorting through websites and too much going on. They’re going to feel like they’re overwhelmed. They need a big idea to latch onto almost like a theme if you will for why they would go to that destination.


So your ability to say it’s about history or it’s about the four elements of Lake Havasu, is really, really important because that’s what they remember first and that’s the most general thing that you need to communicate.


Adam Stoker: [00:36:58] So to recap that a little bit, we’re trying to avoid having too many messages, too much noise and if your website has welcome to insert destination here, let’s change that today.


Mike Verret: [00:37:11] Yes sir. Today. Absolutely. 


Adam Stoker: [00:37:14] Correct me if I’m wrong, Mike, but if I’m boiling it down into a simple takeaway for this discussion, its clarity. You need to provide clarity for people that are why should you visit here? And if you’re not clear in that message, you’re missing.


Mike Verret: [00:37:34] You are knocking it out of the park, Adam. Clarity of message is more important than any service you provide because they’re not going to see the service if your message to them upfront isn’t clear. Once you can smooth out that intro message, once you can get them to stop that intrigue and say, “All right, I want to learn more. Tell me a little bit more about this.” That’s where you can start to provide your services and all the specifics, but they’re never going to get there unless they connect to that crystal clear message that sets you apart from the beginning.


Adam Stoker: [00:38:07] Great, well, Mike we’re running up against it. So tell me, is there anything I haven’t asked you that you think would benefit our audience to know?


Mike Verret: [00:38:14] Oh my goodness. Not about me personally. No, I would say here’s the one thing I would say. When you guys talk about your destinations, what you’re talking about is what makes you different. But if you just say this is what makes us different. Or if you just come out and say we have a beach, everybody has a beach. It’s about how you can engage them. It’s about how you can connect with them on an idea that will resonate with them.


So any time you can put an idea into your message crystal clear, that will set your audience’s mind running, like give them an idea to run with, that’s when they’re going to really buy into what you have to sell. It’s like the movie inception where if you put an idea they talk about it, you put an idea in someone’s head and it’s more addictive than any drug because they can’t get rid of it once it’s there. Your job as a destination is to put them in that place when they first see your message and give them something to hold onto about what you are. And that’s the number one challenge and talking about your own business. But once it’s in place, once you get that message nailed you immediately see the results.


Adam Stoker: [00:39:18] Absolutely. These tactics worked for a worldwide toy company like Hasbro, they will work for your destination. So these have been great tips and Mike thanks for coming on. How can people get a hold of you if they want to learn more?


Mike Verret: [00:39:33] Oh, Adam, thank you so much for having me. The best thing to do is look me up on LinkedIn it’s always easy. Mike Verret V-E-R-R-E-T or go to my website www.verretandassociates.com.


Adam Stoker: [00:39:47] Perfect. Perfect. Well, thanks again for coming on, Mike.


Mike Verret: [00:39:50] Thank you very much, Adam and congratulations on this podcast and everything. I think it’s fantastic.


Adam Stoker: [00:39:57] Thank you. And thanks everybody for listening. Another great show today. If you enjoyed today’s show, please make sure to leave us a rating or a review and otherwise we’ll talk to you next week.


Hi everyone. You’ve probably heard the episode that I recorded a few weeks ago with Laurie Jo Miller Farr from the Travel Vertical and eTourism Summit and I’m so excited. We’ve got a great new show coming out where Laurie and I will be going through the week’s news that you probably see in the travel vertical email that goes out. If you haven’t subscribed, you most definitely need to subscribe to the travel vertical email. But in addition to that, we’re going to be every other week rounding up the news from the industry. We’re going to talk about what positions are available in the industry.


So if you’re looking for something looking for a change, make sure you tune in because you’ll find out the latest jobs that are available. We’re also going to talk about the amazing ideas that we’re seeing in the industry, whether it’s a creative campaign, an innovative tactic, a unique partnership, we may even talk about something outside the industry that is really relevant for all of you that are listening. So if you’re looking for more industry content, especially in the form of a podcast, you’re not going to want to miss this show. It’s the Travel Vertical Podcast hosted by me and our friend, Laurie Jo Miller Farr from the Travel Vertical and eTourism Summit. We’re going to do it every other week. You’re going to love this content. It will help you stay up to date with what’s going on in the industry.