To engage new brand ambassadors consider some guidelines for an advocacy strategy:
- Formulate specific goals for the advocacy program
- Maintain transparency to prove integrity
- Develop tools to track and measure success
- Consider that blogs, forums and networks are the most valued information sources
- Asking their opinion from the initial stages and letting them know how valuable their contribution has been builds a sense of ownership and emotional connection.
- The way to cultivate influential advocates is to interact, listen and respond in conversations
- Using customer or stakeholder feedback to improve the destination’s services also strengthens the potential for advocacy as long as you let them know how useful their feedback has been.
- Consider that there are five types of advocates when drafting the advocacy strategy:
- Connectors are active participants in broad social networks
- Communities are groups of people with a common interest
- Mavens are enthusiasts who rate and review products and services in a specific category
- Experts are people with credentials and technical knowledge in a specific field.
- Endorsers are celebrities whose charisma enhances the brand reputation and awareness
Would you consider other guidelines for the advocacy strategy?
Apart from the specific strategies to engage each type of target, consider generic strategies and tactics to foster engagement throughout the whole stakeholder community:
- Polls asking the stakeholders’ opinion, thanking them with some reward, and letting them know how their opinion is useful to improve the destination performance. Further, it is a way to spur discussion.
- Reward top content sharers as well as those who bring in new followers and engage them to register for contests or workshops to become contributors or for volunteering programs.
- Asking about what types of rewards each target appreciates and designing an incentive system considering many kinds of prizes to satisfy all targets, and also to reward all valuable contributions.
- Letting contest participants invite their friends to vote for their content as a way to expand the brand awareness, and the network of followers and potential contributors.
- Building an emotional connection with tourists with the life-changing experiences and showcasing how their contributions have powered the destination towards the mission accomplishment.
- Offering something valuable to users when they leave their personal contact data in the landing page is to further encourage them in registering for certain activities.
Would you consider other tips to engage the stakeholder community?
The last group of stakeholders to be engaged in contribution, content delivery and brand advocacy are the local community members and value-driven communities and individuals. This is the group with the highest potential in terms of dimension and geographical scope, as they encompass all the consumer communities, and value-driven communities led by the creative activists. As explained in the targeting strategy section, they are the main targets to attract as tourists, but to engage them as contributors and brand ambassadors the following tips should be considered:
- Develop many communication tools to convey the kinds of contribution they can make, the rewards and the ultimate purpose of their contribution.
- Train them with storytelling, graphic design and product co-creation workshops to empower them in creating valuable contributions.
- Monitor their conversations in the social media to find out possible mistakes or pain points in the communication strategy or tactics.
- Identify community leaders to focus the communication efforts and prioritize attention and support. Allow them to control the brand integrity by being transparent in all activities.
- Ask them about the prizes or recognition they are motivated by in order to develop an effective incentive system for their contributions.
- Explain to them how to develop their personal brands with their content and build thought leadership to communicate and to be convincing of their visions and ideas.
Would you consider other tips to engage community members and value-driven communities?
A key group of stakeholders to be engaged are the destination partners, all those associated businesses and organizations with whom the destination will establish a long-term business deal including also a co-marketing agreement. These should encompass all the needed business partners along with other value driven institutions which may contribute as brand ambassadors or in other roles (channel partners, NGOs, suppliers, educational institutions, cultural institutions, etc.). To search and engage the most appropriate partners, consider the following tips:
- Assess their technical capabilities, but also their scope of influence within their community to evaluate their potential audience for delivering contents.
- Assess their reputation and their current practices and values to prevent them from spoiling the destination’s brand integrity.
- Sense their concern for the issues that the mission intends to address, to evaluate their potential engagement. You may do this when calling participants for the mission definition.
- Elaborate a shortlist of reputable partners to be engaged first in order to use their name when trying to engage other partners.
- Invite potential partners to a business oriented presentation of the new marketing model to let them know and assess the partnership potential of business development.
- Design at least two partnership formulas, like “Premium partner” and “Official partner” offering co-branding agreements in exchange for delivering content, where the Premium partner has an exclusivity deal within their sector but have to comply with more obligations than the Official ones.
Would you consider other tips to engage partners?
In the network development process, one of the targets to engage at the outset are the employees outside of the marketing team, who should convey the idea that content creation and storytelling is a shared responsibility beyond the marketing department. Along with the shared values as institutional standards of behavior, employees have to become community change agents leading by example in the local community. To encourage employees outside of the marketing team in creating content, consider the following tips:
- Explain them the value of content marketing for the destination and mission pursuit
- Train them at the beginning in creating their pieces of content until they start enjoying it and feel confident to do it by themselves
- Ask the CEO and the top executives to include content creation in the annual goals and to lead by example by giving ideas and co-creating content with the marketing team.
- Explain them how they can build their personal brands and become thought leaders
- Create in-company contests to stimulate employee contribution, offering some symbolic but significant prize for the winners in many categories, so many can win.
- Encourage them to share their content within their circle of influence and spread the word about the mission driven purpose, the new content creation and storytelling system.
Would you consider other tips to engage employees outside of the marketing team?
When trying to engage the stakeholder community it is convenient to segment them according to how critical their contribution is, how they may be selected and engaged, as well as depending on their expected contribution. Further, the network development strategy should depict the sequential phases of this development and the targets to engage in each phase. In this case, the suggested target groups ranked according to their sequential priority would be the following:
- Leaders and influencers
- Employees outside of the marketing team
- Local community members and value driven communities and individuals
The most strategic stakeholders to engage from the early beginning are the community and industry leaders. These are the ones who are likely to become the most influential brand advocates within the community members and stakeholders, as they hold trust and their opinion is listened to and well considered within their circle of influence.
As explained previously, they are to be engaged in the project from the earliest stage when defining the mission of the Plan. By engaging them from the outset and telling them how their contribution has been useful to the mission definition, they establish an emotional connection with the project as they feel as co-creators and are more willing to keep on collaborating as contributors in the open innovation system and brand ambassadors to eventually tell a story of success in which they had a significant role. When searching and trying to engage with leaders and influencers, take into account the following tips:
- Determine who influences your target audiences and evaluate the likelihood of their engagement researching on their interests and concerns to figure out if there is any connection with the project.
- Evaluate their reach in the social media, their relevance in community or industry events, how often they deliver content or participate in discussions, etc. Then, prioritize accordingly.
- Develop a relationship with them by following them in the social media, leaving thoughtful comments on their blog, engaging in their discussions, sharing their content, etc.
- Introduce yourself formally by email or through social media and explain briefly what the project is about and what kind of contributions we would like to obtain from him or her.
- Understand that they are very busy people and so it is mandatory to be patient with them and make things the easiest possible for them to collaborate. Agree upon little contributions.
- Thank them for their contribution and ask them to share the content to the audience in the case where their contribution is about creating content. After a while, let them know the results of the contribution.
Would you consider other tips to engage leaders and influencers?
To build and engage a large community network is a challenging venture, for it will be necessary to design and follow a thoughtful strategy to optimize the chances of success. Such a pathway should be built upon the following principles:
- Concentrate efforts: start with one social media platform and extend presence in other channels progressively. Build an engaged community first in one platform –Facebook is likely to be the best choice- and then leverage this network to the other platforms one by one, considering which target audiences you are most likely to engage with in every platform.
- Be relevant and honest: building a network is about net giving and building trust, so be selective and set high standards for the quality of your content, making sure it is interesting to the target audience. Show transparency about who are you and what you do, allowing community members to research and test on what you are claiming for.
- Foster interactivity: posing questions, organizing contests and generating discussion is the way to create buzz for the destination brand and ultimately engage the community members. Further, promptly answer the questions and try to build personal relationship with members, and especially with the community leaders. Let them take the initiative to further engage them as active members.
- Show your face: beyond the online connection, personal relationships need an offline experience to build trust and cooperation. Start by showing pictures or videos of the team members to show the human side of the destination brand, and then organize offline events to let everybody know each other personally.
- Take it easy: building a network requires time and patience, so track the evolution of the network growth but do not expect great results in the short term. Set high objectives but be prudent in your expectations. Prioritize consistency by engaging the right targets rather than intending to grow fast disregarding the kind of people you are engaging.
Do you think of other key principles to be considered?
When introducing and trying to engage employees and community stakeholders in social media platforms, there may be many barriers, fears, concerns and attitudes that pose a cultural change challenge. Therefore, it is necessary to research and listen to these employees and community stakeholders on their opinions, visions and attitudes about engaging in social media to assess the need for a specific culture change and internal marketing strategy to deal with these obstacles. For instance, some of the barriers may be:
- Fear of negative reaction from customers
- Lack of time or internal resources
- Fear of extra workload for the employees
- Lack of knowledge and expertise
- Not convinced about its profitability
- Fear of losing privacy
Once all the barriers are well known, there has to be design and implementation of a Change Strategy to overcome them based on the following sequential patterns:
|1. Create a guiding coalition
||· Identify and engage change agents as social media catalysts
· Assemble a coherent group to lead the change
· Integrate this team into the affected groups
· Bring in champions in each group dedicated to social media success
|2. Develop a clear vision
||· Create a catalyzing vision for the social media effort
· Develop strategy in line with the overall vision
|3. Share the vision
||· Communicate the vision in every possible way to the community
· Commit executive and community leadership to supporting the vision
· Coalition members should be role models for the community
|1. 4. Empower people and remove obstacles
||· Organize training courses on storytelling and content creation
· Organize training courses on social media adapted to all audiences
· Change structures, systems, compensation and any factors that obstruct the social media effort
|5. Secure consistent short-term wins
||· Make public and visible performance improvements
· Celebrate victories in line with the overall program vision
· Reward and recognize those securing the wins
· Publicize the progress of the project together with the contests
|6. Consolidate and keep moving
||· Use momentum to gradually change all systems and processes that don’t support the program’s success
· Enable change agents throughout the organization and community
· Energize the project with consistent flow of new content of all types
|7. Anchor the program in the organization and the community
||· New approach should be anchored in the culture of the community
· Real key to social media success is in transforming the organization and community to the culture of a social enterprise
· Maintain consistent action to further embed behaviors and discipline
Do you think of other barriers or necessary steps to overcome the stated ones?
The development of the Marketing Plan 3.0 may present two cultural challenges:
- The need for developing a new set of values as organizational standards of behavior, as a key success factor of the new values driven marketing
- The need to overcome barriers in the adoption of the social media and content marketing engagement by the employees and the local community
Beyond the life-changing experiences and the related stories, to keep the brand integrity and ensure the success of the new marketing endeavor it is necessary that the employees and partners’ behaviors faithfully reflect the preached values. Therefore, it is probably necessary to develop a culture change program, at least to harmonize certain critical behaviors throughout the destination stakeholder community.
Designed upon consensus among the key stakeholders and community leaders, there has to be a set of values underlying the behaviors to be promoted throughout the community. Such values should be cooperation, innovation and openness to new ideas, integrity and transparency, initiative, sustainability, solidarity, common good, etc. To convince stakeholders of assuming the new set of values, it is recommendable to elaborate a Case for Change, which contains the following pieces:
- Context: why changes are needed now, stating opportunities and threats that justify it.
- Changes: what has to change, who is to be affected and what does not have to change
- Process: how the proposed changes are to be implemented and expected timing
- Benefits: who benefits from the changes (destination, community, individuals, etc.)
- Consequences: what would happen if these changes are delayed
- Expectations: the role every stakeholder has to play
- Commitment: leaders have to present the Case for Change to the community, stating their explicit commitments that ultimately make them accountable to the community.
Once the Case for Change has been defined, it’s time to implement it following five principles:
- Train employees, partners and community members on how to apply the new set of values on a daily basis, with especial emphasis on their relationships with tourists.
- Putting the new values into practice by changing behaviors
- Leaders have to preach by example, becoming the key role models that inspire everybody
- Ensure that everyone is aligned with the new values and behaviors, and correct if necessary
- Celebrate results achieved by any employee or community member to encourage others
The key ideas of driving culture change to understand are that this has to be started from the leadership positions, well communicated to convince their organization or community while listening, understanding and addressing their possible resistance, preaching by example, achieving and celebrating results, and benefiting all stakeholders to prevent further resistance.
The Whitepaper on “Building a culture of collaboration and innovation” is to develop in detail the key factors to a successful cultural change into developing the desired attitudes.
Would you consider other points in designing and implementing the Case for change?
Whenever the new tourism development requires some significant investments, it may be convenient to attract investors instead of asking for credit loans. To do so, it is also necessary to prepare specific contents and presentations. In this case, it is convenient to present the business oriented Marketing Plan with the investment projects and their feasibility study.
In some cases it may be that there are some clearly profitable investments and others which are strategic or profitable in a less quantifiable way, because they affect all local businesses or they are just “socially profitable”. In these cases it is recommended to offer the first kind of investment projects to private investors and try to engage the government for the socially profitable or general interest project. However, in some cases the government may not be able to assume the investment or only a part of it, and then it is necessary to find imaginative models and formulas to make the project profitable for a private investor and calculate its estimated profitability.
Even if there may be these needs for external funding at the early stage of the project, in expecting a successful development of the project it is desirable that local stakeholders assume the ownership of these investments over time, to better guarantee a long term commitment to the destination and the business’ engagement with the mission accomplishment.
What other points would you consider when marketing the vision to investors?