Helping DMOs Recover from COVID-19: Part One

The pandemic has impacted DMOs and the people in their destinations who rely on tourism for their livelihoods. Because of COVID-19, these people are suffering and they will look to their DMOs for solutions as we move out of quarantine and seek “normalcy.”

Continual change is the only constant we see as a destination marketing agency. Never has the need for our Agile and adaptable marketing planning been more clear than in the time of COVID-19. Our dynamic approach to marketing plans will provide flexibility to adapt our tactics in real-time to the changing world around us.

As travelers consider booking trips, it’s important that destinations stay top of mind while showcasing safety measures that are in place. Check out some work that we’ve been doing with our clients as we begin the road to recovery. 

Traverse City Tourism

While many DMOs worried about future budgeting, the Traverse City team saw an opportunity to double-down with an aggressive recovery campaign. In a time where travelers dreamed of getting out of their homes and searched for positivity in the content they consumed, Madden promoted Traverse City’s “My Happy Place” campaign, starting in May 2020.


A custom logo, display ads, video vignettes, and other creative assets were developed to showcase fun and safe activities people could do in the Traverse City area, including enjoying sunsets at the beach, golf, paddleboarding, and other outdoor adventures. We utilized Connected TV and Samsung Smart TV video ads in addition to display ads on Google and Online Travel Agency sites such as Expedia and Priceline.

Ads included a Conversant pixel which allowed us to track credit card transactions and tie visitors and their in-market spending dollars to our advertising efforts. We used credit card transaction data to reach past visitors to Traverse City from the last two years and invite them to return to the idyllic destination. 

Another targeting tactic included consumers within the drive market who had purchased cruise packages or international flights that had been canceled and invited them to stay closer to home and visit Traverse City instead.

Throughout the campaign, it has been crucial to be responsible marketers and encourage a safe reopening. COVID-related content was added to their website to help visitors learn about what to expect on their trip, what businesses are open, and where they can find handwashing stations to maintain good hygiene habits. Traverse City Tourism also ran a contest through Instagram that encouraged travelers to take selfies with their masks on and use the hashtag #staysafetc to enter to win gift cards.

The Results

Across Display & Video tactics, over 332k clicks and 51.5M impressions were delivered. These numbers translated to 5,700 room nights, totaling $1.2M in gross revenue. 

Explore St. Louis

The team at Explore St. Louis looked at their COVID-19 Recovery efforts in a three-tiered process— modeling after much of the country’s approach to reopening. Each phase lasted for approximately two weeks with the target audience expanding each week. 

The Creative

When it came time to decide what imagery would be represented across media campaigns, the team opted to showcase mask-wearing as responsible and safe travel was a main goal of the campaign. This set the destination at the forefront of promoting safety, solidifying to prospective visitors that St. Louis was taking active precautions and following social distancing measures. 

In addition to staged photo shoots for use across media, user-generated content was collected to showcase real people masking up while out exploring St. Louis. The team also created “Yes We’re Open” signs that attractions, shops, restaurants, and hotels could utilize in their promotions. 

The Results

The main goal of this recovery campaign was to drive traffic to, generating awareness of their “Passport to STL” offerings. Within the first week of the campaign, over a million impressions were delivered to the site, and it only increased from there. In Phase 2, the team saw an average of 5.5M impressions in the first week, skyrocketing to nearly 7M impressions in week two. 

In the first three weeks of the COVID-19 recovery efforts, traffic to the site that was directed from the campaign made up 15% of total site traffic. In Phase 3, that breakdown has grown to more than 60% of total site traffic.

Ask the Expert: Official Visitors Guides

The Madden team is no stranger to producing visitor guides. In fact, that’s how we got our start in 1982. Over the 38 years we’ve been in business, we’ve finessed our ability to tell and showcase brand stories that inspire travelers to explore, work, and live in new destinations. We’ve produced more than 200 city, state, and regional guides for DMOs across the United States, including some pieces that have been in production with Madden for 25+ years.

Recently, two of our experts joined Solimar International’s Chris Seek to chat about the role of visitor guides for destinations. You can check out the full interview with Ronda Thiem, SVP of Business Development, and Katy Spining, Content Strategist, HERE.

A few key takeaways from Ronda and Katy’s session:

  • A good visitor guide uses authentic destination experiences to inspire travel amongst readers. You want the reader to feel as if he or she is there, in the destination, with the writer—using descriptive text and colorful imagery can help paint a more full picture. 
  • It’s very important that information is accurate and data-driven, pulling from what you know visitors want or need to know about your destination. Successful content plans are informed by digital analytics, building off of themes that perform well in other settings and responding to frequently asked questions and search terms.
  • Avoid filling your pages with blatant branding or marketing material. A good visitor guide should look like a component of your marketing materials, but it should not feel like a 40-page advertisement for your destination.
  • Typically, guides can be funded in three ways: advertising support, budget pays outright, or via sponsorship or grant funding. Our team has extensive experience working in all three situations and can help discuss which option is best for your destination.
  • The success of a visitor guide is often gauged through total distribution numbers, awards for content or creative, website visits, and economic impact.

Creating Purposeful Print

With budgets being watched closer than ever, it’s vital that your organization is making smart decisions when it comes to print. We like to consider this purposeful print—ensuring that content is created and fine-tuned specifically for consumption in this medium. But that doesn’t mean that a story created for your visitor guide should only be used in one format. 

When transitioning your visitor guide content to digital, successful pieces do more than just a simple flipbook. Consider our content hubs, for example. With this digital integration, users find an interactive experience that is filled with engaging imagery and designed specifically for a website or mobile interaction. 

The data analytics from your website can also help you understand how your viewers are using the guide: how long they interact with it and which pages are the most popular. When all is said and done, the goal should always be to reach the right visitor at the right time on the platform that is best suited for their current position in the consumer journey.

Madden Voyage: Solving Reporting & Data Challenges

Responsible marketing within the tourism industry includes proving the impact of your promotion. Your campaigns must drive visitation and positively impact your community. Now more than ever, DMOs have a fiduciary duty to report on the success of campaigns to community members, stakeholders, board members, and partners. Voyage, Madden’s business intelligence platform, is a solution designed to support these efforts through transparent, data-driven reporting.

Solution 1: Data Aggregation

One of the reporting and data challenges our clients face is having an overwhelming amount of data to sort through. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some DMOs don’t have enough data and struggle to communicate ROI. No matter which problem you encounter, the core challenge is not having actionable insights to guide your campaign strategy. Voyage is a complete solution to gather, integrate, and analyze your data—increasing your ability to share, innovate, and collaborate. Using Voyage, we can connect to over 1,000+ data connectors, including: 

  • Google Analytics and Microsoft Advertising
  • Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter
  • UberMedia
  • HubSpot, Salesforce, and Basecamp
  • AirDNA, Adara, Arrivalist, Conversant, Sojern, and STR

Solution 2: Visualization of Impact

If analytics don’t make sense or tell a story, is your data truly valuable? Ensuring you and your stakeholders can easily understand, interpret, and communicate the value and success of your marketing efforts is crucial. As a solution for this problem, our data scientists create customized reporting dashboards. Partnering with Madden means you’ll never have to dig for the data you need the most. We ensure the KPIs you’re most interested in are front and center in your reporting dashboard. However, we don’t just show you what’s going on with your data. Madden’s solution provides actionable insights to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your campaign to maximize your budget. The best part? Your data is delivered on-demand—no more waiting for a monthly report to measure your campaign’s performance.

Key Takeaway: Voyage is a Solution for Reporting and Data Challenges

Voyage allows you to view every element of your campaign in one place. This means we can eliminate media duplication, make strategic recommendations, and get a fuller picture of how each marketing piece is working together to positively impact your community. This powerful platform is a solution for reporting and data challenges DMOs and CVBs face year after year.

A Commitment to Inclusion for the Travel Industry

As an industry, we have led initiatives to make travel for those with disabilities more accessible, we have led inclusion efforts for LGBTQ+ travelers, and we have one of the most diverse workforces when compared to almost any sector.

We all know discrimination has no place in our industry, and we should not accept it in the form of racism, sexism, and beyond. We also believe it is our responsibility as leaders in the industry to not be silent. We must provide a voice to others, and we must take action to stand up for inclusion.

From a leadership standpoint, our actions and the representation on our industry boards do not necessarily match who we are as an industry. We can do better, and we as industry partners, sponsors, corporations, and members are asking others to stand with us. Together, we must do more than state our support for inclusion. We hope to inspire the silent majority to not only serve as allies but as advocates for inclusion.

As organizations, many of us are looking inwardly at how we can be more inclusive within our own policies, hiring practices, board representation, and many other activities. We all find ourselves at various points in our own efforts and actions that we hope will lead to positive, systemic change.

Many corporations and individuals are providing charitable contributions to support underrepresented communities and equality initiatives. While these actions are one step of social responsibility, there are larger budget line items that we can use to affect change. Specifically, our sponsorship and marketing efforts.

We believe those organizations we sponsor should have views that align with not just our industry, but our values towards inclusion. Together, we are asking all organizations that receive sponsorships from our organizations to make their board composition more inclusive. Generally, we would like boards to be composed of 50% females and 20% from minority groups. We know this is not something that can be done overnight, so, we would ask those that do not meet these levels to craft objectives that will make meaningful improvements towards improving the diversity of their qualified board members.

Our industry has the ability to not just make travel more inclusive, we have the opportunity to make the work and the leadership of our industry more inclusive. We would ask corporate partners, vendors, and DMOs to join us in making this commitment.


Dan Janes, CEO, Madden Media
Ryan George, CEO, Simpleview
Santiago C. Corrada, President and CEO, Visit Tampa Bay
Brent DeRaad, President and CEO, Visit Tucson
Andrew Fischer, CEO, Choozle
Marc Garcia, President and CEO, Visit Mesa
Nelson Gumm, CEO, AJR Media Group
Patrick Kaler, President and CEO, Visit Buffalo Niagara
Gladys Kong, CEO, UberMedia
Cree Lawson, CEO, Arrivalist
Sarah Lehman, CEO, Entrada Insights
Anand Patel, President and CEO, Visit Fairfield

If you are an organizational leader that would like to add your organization, please reach out to Dan Janes, CEO,

Industry Supporters for this Initiative

Name Company

Please show your support for inclusion by adding your name here

We will not use your contact information provided here for any marketing purposes, nor will we sell or redistribute this information to any third parties.

Race, Media, and Allyship

Standing United Webinar Recording HERE and Presentation Deck HERE

How often do you publicly talk about Love? Compassion? Failure? Race? It always seems so much easier to talk about “emotions” without getting to the part where there is real emotion and feeling. When we think about the workplace, it is often thought of as a place without such emotion.

As a company, Madden has begun having difficult, vulnerable discussions to determine where we have failed, where we have succeeded, and determine how we will become a better company, partner, and ally. 

Madden is using this moment to reflect on our values as a company and as individuals, to have difficult discussions, and to evolve ourselves as allies in our community and the communities we serve. As we start this conversation, we invite our partners, friends, and allies to both join us and keep us accountable.

Read our recent blog post with Destinations International regarding the importance of growing more inclusive boards.

Continued, Sustained Progress

We can proudly say that half of Madden’s creative directors and managers are female, compared to 11% of the national average. We have been vocal and active to support inclusive travel, especially within the LGBTQ+ community. However, when it comes to being inclusive of all races and backgrounds in employment and management roles, we fall short. We must improve.

It’s not enough to verbalize support. Madden and others across our industry, communities, and beyond need to make commitments and implement actions for consistent, meaningful change. Our first commitment is to craft intentional plans and goals that we will be incorporating into company policies, culture, and marketing efforts. 

If we seek perfection, we will never get started. We can, however, make consistent, sustained action to move forward together. We want to be transparent about this to give others confidence to act and to provide a public, transparent way to be held accountable by our current and future employees and partners. Madden is taking action by:

  • Leading an Industry Effort to increase Board diversity: We have drafted and asked many of our colleagues in the industry to join us in calling for greater diversity on boards whom we provide sponsorship. See the letter and provide your support here
  • Continued Education and Discussions: Madden has begun inviting guest speakers to discuss diversity and inclusion not less than once a month. Our employee engagement team (HR) and all managers will undergo bias training by the end of Q3 in addition to the work they are already doing personally and professionally.
  • Creating a Diversity Review Panel: The panel will assess major campaigns and creative investments by our partners to help review and improve the inclusion of underrepresented groups in media, visitor guides, websites, etc.
  • Increasing Diverse Talent Recruitment: We are expanding our job postings to gather a more diverse population of candidates.
  • Eliminating Our Referral Bonus Program: We will continue to ask our team to refer people to the company, but we also want to ensure we are not only looking at candidates that look and act like us. We will reallocate this budget to the creation of the internship program below.
  • Strengthening Diverse Internship Programs: For the past three years we have participated in various internship programs, including TIMESTEP, that focus on providing relevant industry experience to minority engineers. We will be adding additional internship programs focused towards underrepresented populations. 
  • Growing Through Reading: Madden’s book club will shift focus by allowing every employee in the company to select a book that can help us all grow and be more culturally responsive through study and discussion. Some books you may want to consider are on this list.
  • Continued Salary Audits for Our Team: We completed a diversity wages audit across the company and found that salaries are very much based on experience. We looked at the combinations of gender (male/female), ethnicity (white/non-white), and experience. Across all combinations of those groups, except one, experience was the predominant factor in each group with the exception of Creative where age was nominally different and salaries were higher for non-white employees. As we look at the averages globally, 40% of the departments’ women make more than men and 60% of the departments’ non-white salaries exceed those of white employees. We will continue to monitor this, but the overall view looks to align towards experience where we would expect.

How Will Your Team Take Action?

It can be difficult knowing where to get started. Here are a few quick ways DMOs can start becoming better ally organizations today:

  • Audit Content, Photo Assets, & UGC: Take an open-minded look at the content used in your marketing. Look for opportunities to showcase a wider variety of people in your imagery. Evaluate your website content, blog, and social media efforts and audit for staff bias.
  • Talk About Inclusion With Your Partners: Your teams know your destination best. Brainstorm ways you can work together to be more inclusive and hold one another accountable.
  • Review Partner Listings: Are you featuring Black-owned business in your partner listings? Are there ways to highlight diverse businesses in a way you haven’t done before? Help your partners update their Google My Business listings.

Taking actions today, this week, this month, this year, and every year after will help us evolve and elevate ourselves to be a better company and better individuals. Madden is committed to transforming the way we think and act as a company and as individuals to improve the world around us.

2020 STS Marketing College Scholarships

Take your career to the next level with #STSMC20!

Madden is now accepting applications for two scholarships to attend the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College®. Two scholarships will be awarded to tourism industry professionals working in one of the 14 STS member regions (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, Missouri, and Washington DC).  The deadline to apply for this scholarship is June 30, 2020 at 5pm EST.  Please click HERE to apply. 

STS Marketing College® provides this unique continuing education program for travel and tourism professionals annually. Students participate in an in-depth one-week curriculum designed to teach marketing techniques from all facets of the tourism industry.

Marketing College® professors are highly experienced and industry-related professionals from across the U.S. They are viewed as experts in their field who bring a working-knowledge of current trends, data, and implementation for tourism and travel straight to the classroom. These courses will be held at Mercer University in Macon, GA.

During the week at #STSMC20, students will attend lectures, be part of discussion groups, and have one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Courses are designed for all levels of professionals and cover a variety of industry specific topics such as research, economic impact, advocacy, branding, and more. Watch this video if you need a little more convincing!

Not only will students be immersed in learning and having a great time with other travel professionals, but those who complete all three years of Marketing College® will receive and be presented with a Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification at a special graduation ceremony at the STS annual meeting, STS Connections.The scholarship covers tuition, dorm room accommodations, and course materials. Applications are due by June 30, 2020, at 5pm EST, and recipients will be announced by Friday, July 3, 2020. Applications can be submitted HERE.

Meetings Recovery Plan

Road trips, drive markets, and previous visitors are all good targets for the leisure travel market, but what about business travel and meetings? We know leisure travel accounts for over 70% of the total travel spending with business travel accounting for the other 30%. For some destinations, this balance shifts significantly one way or another. (U.S. Travel)

As we look at the 30% of travel for business, specifically the meetings and events industry in a post-COVID world, destinations need to start planning now to ensure their pipelines are full in 6-12 months. We are already seeing several destinations leaning into booking for strength into 2021 and 2022. 

For those that are actively working their meetings pipeline, there is success with 1 in 3 planners sourcing and booking future business. For those that are not actively booking, about 40% are researching for the future. Note, fewer than 10% are not planning events for the future. (Pulse Report, Northstar

Meetings planners are currently scheduling new meetings starting in September with most looking into Q1/Q2 of 2021. With meetings being scheduled about 180 days into the future, destinations need to ensure they are providing the resources needed for planners, especially as many DMOs and hotels have reduced their sales staff. We have provided some recommendations on how destinations should consider moving forward with planning for future meetings.

What do planners see when they come to your website?

While citywide festivals and massive trade shows are going to occur again in the future, planners expect to see fewer of them. The first groups they expect to see return include Association, Government, SMERF (Social, Military, Education, Religious, Fraternal), and Sports. Our first recommendation: ensure you have a landing page that speaks to each of these audiences you want to recruit to your destination. 

We know segmentation works across all spectrums of marketing—people need to be able to envision themselves in a destination. For these smaller groups, they often do not have a professional meeting planner assisting them and need additional help to envision their event in a specific venue. With DMO sales staff and hotel sales teams also being reduced, providing these pages with a variety of imagery of events and not just empty rooms will be fundamental to a good user experience. While you cannot show all venues in your destination, we recommend prioritizing resorts, boutique hotels, flat-field sports, and your major brands ahead of conference and convention centers, gaming facilities, and large sports facilities.

What action do you want planners to take?

As your planners engage with your content, we must think about what happens next—do you want them to pick up the phone to call your team, submit a RFP, reserve space immediately? While any option is available, we recommend a strong CTA to have them submit a RFP or provide a guided request for information about their event. This allows you to capture key information and share it with your respective hotel partners. 

Just requesting information is not always enough. Destinations need to lead consumers to make a decision, and in a time of uncertainty they will be looking to the DMO for answers. This provides an opportunity for you to work with your partners to create a “safe” planning experience offering cancellation or postponement windows for 2020, technology solutions for added value, packages for attendees, or other creative solutions. 

While six months ago planners wanted to see all of the fun activities they could do outside of the event, today they will be incredibly focused on the attendees’ experience at a post-pandemic event. They will want to mitigate risk and ensure their attendees have a healthy experience as well. Consider having your partners make commitments like Connect has provided in their Safe Space 2020 plan

How are you nurturing your existing relationships?

Keep in mind that many more planners will be working independently, have fewer resources, and will be seeking more assistance from DMOs and partners. With fewer staff members, DMOs need to make CRMs and MarTech solutions work for them. Those long-hated CRMs that “got in the way of relationships” are going to be gold for DMOs who have maintained them and understand how they can help, especially with those third-party planners who have a consistent pipeline. Here is where we recommend you activate MarTech solutions to bring your existing relationships back for in-person and virtual fam tours.

We know in the near future, fam tours may be difficult to do. In the meantime, work with your partners to capture photos, video, 360-degree experiences. If you do not have those, schedule virtual meetings, grab a phone or iPad and FaceTime them or have yet another Zoom meeting walking around your properties. It is that kind of commitment to planners that is going to land a single contract for an extra 100, 200, 500 room nights.

If you are looking for a more tangible touch-point for planners, we recommend looking into IP-mapping technologies that allow for sending direct mail pieces, hand written notes, or custom “planner kits” to planners who you know have been engaged with your content or your destination in the past.

What’s next?

So, you’ve built your landing pages, optimized a great user experience and connected it to your MarTech solutions—so now you’re done, right? Maybe. 

Those organic tools are the bread and butter of DMOs and are built on years of personal relationships and experience of planners with your destination. If your pipeline looks a bit light then it’s time to work through putting together marketing assets to improve prospecting and growing that audience of meetings planners. With your newly optimized website experience, you can measure the cost of each RFP or RFI submission through conversion tracking and innovative marketing solutions. 

As you look at your marketing plans, recent research shows that smaller local and regional events will thrive before national and international groups gather. Much like your leisure marketing, look at industries and potential targets in your region ahead of looking towards the larger and more national or international events. (PCMA) You know how to attract visitors to your destination—make sure you share those best practices with your meetings planners who need to monetize attendees. Also, look at best practices from others that improve the user experience. You have built tremendous relationships with your partners, now is a great time to translate those relationships into Attendee Passports that can be a value-add for attendees and also brings revenue into your local partners.

In summary, our recommendations include:

  • Ensure you have a landing page that speaks to each of the meeting planner audiences you want to recruit to your destination. 
  • Create strong CTAs to have planners submit a RFP or provide a guided request for information about their event
  • Activate your MarTech solutions to bring your existing relationships with planners back for in-person and virtual fam tours
  • Create marketing assets to improve prospecting and grow that audience of meetings planners for your destination

At Madden, we are committed to the recovery and growth of the travel industry. For nearly 40 years, we have created and delivered innovative solutions for our partners in the best of times and the most challenging of times. Our team stands with the tourism industry to help lead the recovery alongside our amazing partners. 

Destination Marketing & Small Business

Locally-owned businesses have long been the lifeblood of travel and tourism. Recently, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have brought hard times for industries that rely on tourism dollars, causing local businesses to suffer inequitably. The crisis has served as a reminder of how vital small businesses are to our communities’ economic health and well-being. Locally-owned mom and pop shops enrich our beloved neighborhoods in both wealth and culture—attracting residents and travelers alike. As destination marketers, in conjunction with our DMO partners, we can ensure that local businesses reap the benefits of tourism while providing visitors an unforgettably authentic experience.

How Destination Marketing Can Support Local Economies

As marketers in the travel vertical, we can nourish the small business economies of towns across the US through thoughtful advertising. In collaboration with our partners, we start by identifying what makes your destination unique. Is it the quaint and colorful downtown shopping area or perhaps the mouth-watering “down-home country” Cajun restaurants that make your city stand out? By providing local treasures a platform, we can illuminate and uplift these small businesses.

Through authentic content and a thoughtful digital media strategy, we are able to amplify your destination’s eccentricities, creating a healthier and more robust local economy.

Authentic Content 

A high-performing marketing campaign always starts with exceptional content. At Madden, our Content Team embodies an authoritative “insider’s perspective” view, unique to your destination. Through first-person narrative storytelling and the activation of in-market writers and influencers, we guarantee genuine and bona fide content. Information about local attractions imbued with relevant keywords on your website provides our Digital Team with excellent landing pages to drive visitors to while boosting your SEO value.

Awe-Inspiring Video

Leveraging our professional production team, we can create on-site video content featuring small businesses. These videos serve as a visual representation of your destination’s local community. Our So-Fi Videos utilize User Generated Content to give visitors an authentic view of the destination, from travelers who have actually experienced it. In today’s visual world, videos are absolutely key to your online advertising strategy. They give travelers a sneak peek into your destination and can be housed on your DMO website or utilized as advertisements on Facebook, YouTube, or elsewhere.

Thoughtful Digital Marketing

Our Digital Media Team develops an all-encompassing online advertising strategy for your destination that includes keyword bidding and targeting. By focusing on search queries and custom audience segments for local businesses, we can reach travelers lower in the marketing funnel who are searching for the things that make your destination unique. Conversely, we can reach visitors at the awareness stage of the funnel by bidding for keywords that include “local,” “family-owned,” etc., and tying them to your location through geo-modifiers and targeting. Our Digital Media Team is equipped to share your city’s local attractions with the world by meeting travelers online with information about your destination.

Travelers are inspired not by homogeneity and chains, but by the family-owned bakeries and unique vintage boutiques that light up a town.

The vast digital landscape is enhancing and expanding the ways in which we can influence travelers from near and far to experience the unique zest of your destination. By directing visitors to local attractions and businesses, Madden can help foster a thriving economy that gives cities financial autonomy while producing meaningful jobs for locals. Providing a platform to the small, local, and irreplaceable businesses in your community has never been more critical. It is just one of the ways in which Madden is focused on growing communities through tourism and economic development.

2020 Hermes Award Winners!

Madden is proud to announce five wins for our clients’ campaigns in the 2020 Hermes Creative Awards! Congratulations to Galena Country Tourism on their Platinum Hermes Award for their Integrated Marketing Campaign and to Lubbock Economic Development Alliance for their Digital Marketing Campaign. Gold Hermes Award winners for the electronic media category are Lake Havasu City’s “Find Your Element” Campaign and in the print publications category Missouri Official Travel Guide and DISCOVER South Carolina. Read on to learn more about these successful programs:

Galena Country Tourism

Platinum Hermes Award:
Integrated Marketing Campaign

Galena Country and Madden Media built an entire print and digital campaign around the Marketing Initiatives that were put in place for 2019. The Official Visitors Guide and complementary digital campaigns showcased the following themes through creative and paid media:

  • History (Historically Amazing) 
  • Events in Galena Country 
  • Adventure Awaits 
  • Get to Galena Country 

The omni-channel approach tied print and digital efforts together to form a tourism marketing campaign that used research to define the messaging shared across all media. The success of each tactic and element came together to support prospective travelers (and ultimately visitors) at each stage of their consumer journey—awareness, inspiration, consideration/conversion, in-market, and advocacy.

The success of Galena Country’s Tourism Marketing Campaign was measured at granular levels to create a full picture. At the top level, Galena Country and Madden were able to implement the guide into more channels and incorporate guide requests and downloads into year-round ads. Data informed all decisions about the campaign, including research, analysis of components, and continuous optimization.

Learn more about Galena Country Tourism’s campaign here.

Lubbock Economic Development Alliance

Platinum Hermes Award:
Digital Campaign – Interactive & Social Media

In 2019, LEDA wanted to spur economic growth by targeting professionals to return to Lubbock to fill needed professional vacancies, encourage college and high school graduates to remain in Lubbock and build community awareness and pride. There were several campaigns as part of this effort, including Return2LBK, StayNLBK, and Here By Choice. Return2LBK’s focus was targeting individuals who had previously attended a west Texas college or university and encouraging them to relocate to Lubbock. StayNLBK’s focus was reaching recent high school graduates and college students who were nearing their final year to encourage them to get a job in Lubbock after graduation. The strategy for this campaign was to focus on tying efforts to Lubbock culture and nightlife. The Here By Choice campaign focused on telling the stories of entrepreneurs who work in Lubbock as a way of using advocacy to encourage others to relocate to the area. Lubbock Economic Development Alliance worked with
Madden Media to create and execute these campaigns.

Learn more about Lubbock Economic Development Alliance’s campaign here.

Go Lake Havasu “Find Your Element” Campaign

Gold Hermes Award:
Electronic Media – Audio & Video

Go Lake Havasu’s branded campaign, “Say Yes to Adventure,” had run its course, and it was time for a little refresh. The aspirational “Find Your Element” campaign was developed in collaboration with Madden Media. The goal was to inspire visitors to “be in their element” and find “greater happiness” while visiting Lake Havasu City. We took a fun twist on the universe’s elements with “water, earth, air, and fun” to represent what makes up an epic Lake Havasu experience. Strategically, these campaign elements showcase the unique pillars and things to do, while the integrated brand campaign targets high-intent consumers and invites them to find their element in Lake Havasu City.

Learn more about Go Lake Havasu’s campaign here.

DISCOVER South Carolina Vacation Guide

Gold Hermes Award:
Print Publication; Magazine

In a world where video and digital storytelling become more popular year after year, DMOs are challenged to innovate with their print products—Madden and South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT) have done just that. For the latest rendition of DISCOVER, big inspiration was the number one goal; informative content can be found online. SCPRT and Madden focused on creating a printed guide that moved away from the traditional in-market usage and encouraged consumers to cherish the guide as a keepsake. Our strategy to take the Vacation Guide to a whole new level of inspiration included four key tactics:

  • Featuring a local celebrity on the cover 
  • Crafting a horizontal guide with quality paper stock 
  • Investing in stunning imagery and design 
  • Sections separated by story topic

Learn more about the campaign here, check out the digital edition here, or immerse yourself in the Content Hub here.

Missouri Official Travel Guide

Gold Hermes Award:
Print Publication; Magazine

The 2020 Missouri Official Travel Guide draws prospective travelers in from the moment they see the intriguing Bridal Caves on the wrap-around cover. The artistry of illustrations used throughout the guide—particularly in the “Kidding Around” feature that showcases family fun activities across the state—make readers pause to take a closer look. The design provides a multitude of visual entry points that keep the reader engaged. The Show-Me State’s guide lives up to its nickname.

The guide includes stories that appeal to a variety of interests. One of our favorites is “Made by Hand in Missouri.” The designer was given freedom by the client to express their personal style, and threw in some hand-drawn elements throughout the feature. Texture, grain, and intentionally imperfect illustrations round out the photos and create an interesting reading experience. The great photography— combined with the other elements—really showcased Missouri’s maker movement in a way that feels authentic

Read more about the guide here, or check out the digital edition here.

Keeping Your Audience Engaged

While folks can’t travel, give them something they can use: information, inspiration, and humor.

The past month has been devastating to many. The effect the COVID-19 crisis has had—on people, families, businesses, industries, and the world economy—has been far and wide. The travel and tourism industry has physically screeched to a halt during this time. But virtually, it is alive and well. Many of our tourism industry partners have continued their messaging but tailored their message to respond to the situation. During times of crisis, the key is not to go silent, but approach your audience with empathy, and deliver sincere, genuine, compassionate communication. 

Think of others and help out where you can

While the shutdown has impacted DMOs and their partners, the compound effect of the loss of travel and forced closure of restaurants and bars has caused the loss of millions of jobs worldwide. DMOs can help by getting involved in their communities. In Michigan, Travel Marquette established a food pantry in that community, with food and gift cards to help out workers in the hospitality industry. 

Be a source of information

While folks are stuck at home, they are getting plenty of screentime. Make your website a place they can turn to for information. For example, Visit Tampa Bay established a Dining at a Distance page where residents can easily see—in both map view and list view—which restaurants are offering take out with pick up or delivery. Restaurant owners and individuals can also easily submit changes as the hospitality landscape rapidly shifts. Travel Marquette has also done something similar. They created a page with a list of restaurants, their hours, and whether they are offering take out, delivery, or both. 

Make it fun

To encourage residents to support their local restaurants, Tampa Bay created Takeout Bingo where residents can select from a variety of bingo cards pre-filled out with various restaurants, and fill it up by ordering from those establishments. Once they submit their completed card, they’ll be entered to win a host of restaurant gift certificates. So not only can locals feel good about supporting your local community by ordering takeout, they may even be rewarded for their efforts. 

Offer inspiration through virtual experiences and livestreams

Life can get pretty boring being stuck inside looking at the same four walls. Take people outdoors—or indoors—to entertain and engage them with virtual experiences. It didn’t take long for this video of rockhopper penguins exploring the other animal exhibits at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium to go viral. 

Using this viral video as a use-case example, we recommend creating similar opportunities for your destination. Some of the ways our partners are doing this include:

  • Visit Tampa Bay created a Virtual Experiences page with links to livestreams at several of their local attractions, such as the Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa, Busch Gardens, as well as museums, theaters, and symphonies. 
  • Visit Idaho and Visit Tampa Bay also designed online jigsaw puzzles, word searches, and coloring books featuring their local attractions. 
  • Visit Tampa Bay also created this Discover Tampa from a Distance page, with user-generated content showing ways residents are finding their zen at home, and remembering time spent in their favorite local places. 

Use humor

The Director of Security at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is the latest media sensation. 

After taking over the museum’s social media from “Seth from Marketing” while the museum is closed, the museum has seen its social media following explode from thousands to hundreds of thousands. This is all thanks to Tim’s down-to-earth style, which has resonated with users. 

Be sincere

Viewers can tell when you’re not, and no one benefits when you put profits over people. Ease up on urgency. Now is not the time for early-bird promotions. Take the opposite approach. Visit Idaho, Visit Independence, Missouri, and Grand Canyon West have all encouraged visitors to stay home—for now—with videos and digital ads (Idaho See You Soon, Keep Dreaming Idaho and Idaho Stay Home, Stay Healthy animated).

While the impact of this crisis is expected to be long-lasting—and we will likely all be changed in some way—we know people will begin to travel again. Because travel is in our DNA. It’s part of human nature. We are curious, social creatures. Travel exposes us to other cultures, food, surroundings. It builds compassion and expands our worldview. It brings us closer together as we come to realize we are all more alike than different. And that alone can help make the world a better place. For all of us. 

Be well. And start planning your next adventure.