Integrating Branded Content into Your DMO's Media Strategy

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<span>Integrating Branded Content into Your DMO's Media Strategy</span>

In today's dynamic and competitive landscape, Destination Marketing Organizations are continuously evolving their strategies to stay ahead of the game. Owned, branded content has emerged as a critical tool in a DMO's arsenal to engage, inspire and influence travelers. Owned media is content that your organization has complete ownership and control over, like blogs, podcasts and video series. Owned media is instrumental in creating a destination’s brand and fostering a loyal and engaged audience.

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the power of owned media with Stuart Butler, Chief Marketing Officer of Visit Myrtle Beach in a six-part series on the Destination Marketing Podcast. Visit Myrtle Beach has recently seen success in its owned projects like the Life’s a Beach Podcast and Myrtle Beach Beats. These shows use content marketing to cultivate a devoted audience to Myrtle Beach without directly selling the destination. In this blog post, I want to explore how a DMO can successfully implement owned media content within its media strategy, focusing on key aspects that can make the difference between success and mediocrity.

Plan Your Budget Thoughtfully

The first step in implementing owned media content effectively is to allocate a budget specifically for this purpose. This budget should be separate from paid media and earned media, allowing you to dedicate resources to the creation, promotion and optimization of your owned content. Don’t be afraid to start small here. To give an example, Myrtle Beach allocated 10% of its budget to owned media in 2023. Once the strategy proved successful, destination leadership expanded their owned media budget for the next calendar year.

Stakeholder engagement is essential at this stage. Communicate your plan to local businesses, tourism operators and community organizations. Involving them in the process can not only help with budget allocation but also lead to valuable contributions in terms of content and resources. For example, you could co-create content with local businesses or leverage their social media reach for promotion.

Collaboration with stakeholders also fosters a sense of ownership and mutual benefit. By working together, you ensure that your owned media content resonates with the community and accurately portrays the destination's unique features and offerings.

Set Long-Term Goals

Owned media content is not a short-term endeavor. To make it a sustainable and valuable part of your media strategy, set long-term goals that align with your DMO's mission and objectives. These goals could include increasing your off-season visitation, reducing your reliance on paid ads, or expanding your destination’s reach to new audiences. Start with the big picture in mind, these goals will guide your entire content strategy.

When defining these goals, ensure they are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. This approach will help you stay focused and track your progress accurately.

Understand Each Individual Content Piece

Every piece of owned media content should have a well-defined purpose and audience. To implement owned media content effectively, you must understand the unique value of each content piece you create. Some smaller destinations may only want to start with one new piece of owned media content. Whether it's a blog post, a video series or a podcast, consider how it fits into your overall strategy.

Your owned media series doesn’t necessarily need to be about the specifics of your destination. For example, if you’re looking to reach an audience of foodies, consider creating a podcast on cooking, while also highlighting local chefs throughout the series. This will draw interest in your destination, without your series feeling like a multi-part commercial.

Understanding the purpose of each content piece helps you create a cohesive and effective content strategy. It also allows you to leverage content across multiple platforms and tailor it to different audience segments.

Work Gradually Through Your Marketing Funnel

Implementing owned media content should be a step-by-step process that aligns with your marketing funnel. Begin with the top of the funnel, where you create awareness about your destination and capture the attention of potential travelers. At this stage, your content should be more inspirational and less promotional. There's a very small percentage of people who are in the market to book a trip at any given time. Because of this, these top-of-funnel content pieces should showcase what makes your destination great, without requiring too much of a commitment from your audience.

As you move down the funnel, your content can become more specific and persuasive, focusing on showcasing the unique experiences and attractions your destination offers. This is the stage where you can start highlighting specific businesses, activities and events within your destination.

It's better to have a few pieces of owned content that are well-researched, engaging and shareable, rather than producing a large volume of subpar content. Quality over quantity is the mantra here. Once you see success in owned media, you can scale your outputs accordingly.

Build an Audience, Create a Community

One of the primary advantages of owned media content is that it allows you to not only build an audience but to cultivate a loyal community. Your owned media channels are the perfect platforms to nurture this audience.

To build this community, focus on providing consistent, valuable and relevant content that caters to the interests and needs of your target travelers. Encourage engagement through comments, social media discussions and feedback. Respond to comments promptly and professionally, fostering a sense of community and connection.

As your audience grows, consider showcasing or promoting user-generated content on your owned media channels. This can be as simple as resharing a post of your destination’s scenery or responding to listener questions on your podcast. Building this sense of community closeness can strengthen the bond between your DMO and your audience.

Incorporating owned media content into your DMO's media strategy is a powerful way to shape the narrative of your destination, engage with travelers and build a loyal community within and outside of your destination. Remember that consistency, quality and engagement are key. In the ever-evolving world of destination marketing, owned media content can be your DMO's secret weapon for standing out and making a lasting impact. So, start small, but think big, and watch your owned media strategy transform how travelers perceive and engage with your destination.

About the Author

Adam Stoker

President & CEO

Adam Stoker is President/CEO of Relic. He's been working with destinations for nine years, consulting with leisure travel, stakeholder engagement, destination branding and convention/meetings marketing. He has been featured in the Utah Business and Utah Valley Business Magazines' 40 Under 40 issues. He now speaks on different industry subjects at tourism conferences across the country, most recently including Utah Tourism Conference, and the Texas Travel Summit. As one of the up-and-coming industry thought leaders, Adam's impact on the industry is just beginning.

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