How-To Tell Your Destination’s Stories

In a primarily digital-based world, it’s imperative that travel destinations utilize all the tools in their toolbelt. We have previously discussed the significance of content cleansing, optimizing your marketing in the midst of a pandemic, and how to write great blog headlines. Now, we’re discussing the importance and key components of storytelling in tourism marketing by how to tell your destination’s stories.

Telling stories in your digital marketing can help build your brand, gain customer trust, and possibly even increase conversion rates. Believe it or not, consumers respond better to relatable and humanized content over your average, loud marketing campaign. This technique has the ability to create an emotional connection between a destination and potential visitors — and even keep your destination at the front of their mind when considering their next trip. Here’s how to tell your destination’s stories.

A Case Study on How to Tell a Story:

Take this ad campaign from Visit Winona, Minnesota. They noticed that in the year 2019 they had visitors from every state, except for one: Vermont. So, in a [slightly unorthodox] marketing tactic to reach the residents of the state, they put out this advertisement. In this ad, the protagonist (or the main character) is Visit Winona. The Goal is to gain travelers from Vermont – but also to incite action in others and share the image with their friends in Vermont. The resolution of this story at the moment is a cliff-hanger – it could be a testimonial from someone from Vermont who visited.

Do we have your attention? We’ll start with diving into why story telling is so important, and then go over how to tell your own.

Why is Storytelling Important to Destination Marketing Organizations?

  • Engages Emotion: When hearing a story, a part of your brain becomes activated and more engaged – your brain can’t actually tell the different between you reading a story versus actually experiencing it. It makes sense that stories raises personal connections and deeply emotional attachments better than just taglines or facts
    • What Should You Do?  Share a visitor testimonial that can resonate emotionally with your audience.
  • Promotes Action: It’s more than just emotional. Stories can actually promote action from readers. A series of experiments by a Neuroeconomist found a higher level of oxytocin in a test subjects’ brains after showing them an emotional video – causing them to become more generous in their next actions.
    • What Should You Do?  Share a feel-good story about what how destination affected a visitor.
  • Creates Value: The most asked question by potential visitors to destinations is “What makes this destination so special?” Use storytelling to create value for your brand and get your viewers to connect with your travel spot to ensure they find the answer.
    • What Should You Do?: Tell a story about your biggest attraction.
  • Stays in Our Memory: Storytelling is embedded in our culture, engraved in our hearts, and thus, has a connection with our long-term memory.We often find ourselves recalling movies watched a decade ago but forgetting meetings from last week. It’s no coincidence that there’s a “The Story Method” of memorization.
    • What Should You Do? Share a story about an experience that’s sure to stick in a viewer’s mind.

What to Avoid when Storytelling:

The goal of using storytelling as a brand strategy is not to sell viewers on products, hotels, bookings, etc. – but it is to facilitate and generate positive brand recognition.  Customers don’t like to feel pressured into buying a product or service. When storytelling comes off as pushy rather than telling an actual story it can actually give the opposite result than what was intended. Instead, be sure to make sure your story is compelling, believable, and relatable.

How to Write a Good Story:

We have all have a favorite story. Whether it be that feel-good movie that we watched as a kid, or our favorite book, it all starts with “Once Upon a Time” and ends with “The End.”  Every book and movie are structured the same – the beginning, the climax, and then the resolution. Storytelling within digital marketing is relatively the same. There are three key components that make up the story:

1.) The Protagonist:

Just like how there is a main character portray more so often as the hero in our favorite movies, in social media storytelling your brand is the center of the story. It’s important that your destination have a personality and not just be another boring social media channel looking for users. Instead, you should indulge in your strengths and flaws.

  • Example: A post made by Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula shared a story about a man, Daniel, who visited the area from Nigeria in the dead of winter. Temperatures rarely fall below ‘hot’ in West Africa — the complete opposite than the Upper Peninsula in winter. In this case, the destination is using a real-life hero to showcase their strengths – which just so happens to be the warmness of the community, despite cool temperatures and snow.
2.) The Goal:

In the movies, the protagonist, or main character, has an end goal. As a DMO, of course your internal goal is to promote travel to your destination.. However, consumers resonate more with the experiences that await them at your travel destination and is appealing to their interests.

  • Example: The Goal of the story of Daniel is simple – to show the hospitality that awaits anyone upon visiting the Keweenaw Peninsula.
3.) The Resolution:

As they say, all good things must come to an end – as should your story. When storytelling on social media, this is the part when it all comes together. Your hero or main character achieves or exceeds their goal – insert feel good moment here!

  • Example: Daniel’s story concludes with the main character learning the definition a common term used in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – Yooper. And the kind people that helped him along the way.

The Storytelling Process

  1. Target your audience
    • Who are you trying to reach with this certain message?
  2. Define your primary message
    • What do you want to portray to the customer?
  3. Build a sense of Community
    • Make sure your message will promote viewers to share it to their friends, family, online presences.
  4. Establish your Call to Action
    • What are you hoping to benefit from this message? Or – what do you want your readers to do with the message?
  5. Choose the correct medium to share the story
    • Written Stories are best shared through blog posts or articles, social media posts, testimonial pages on your website, and email newsletters.
    • Visual Stories are best shared on streaming channels like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.
    • Image Stories are best shared, well anywhere. Post that picture!
    • Experience Burnsville is running a campaign entitled: Locally Strong. What the campaign is set out to do is to promote a local business within their destination each month. Each Locally Strong blog post interviews and tells the story behind the business. This would be an external goal that can be portrayed to the customer.

Storytelling on social media and through advertisements is a rarely utilized digital marketing tool. However, when done correctly it can have a great payoff for your DMO. From the start of your storytelling creation process, make sure to be utilizing relatable narrative as well and creative imagery to showcase the experiences that your destination offers.

As always, check back here weekly to see what informative blogs we’re posting on our blog. Don’t forget to also sign up for our e-newsletter to make sure you keep up-to-date on all things TwoSix Digital!