In marketing destinations, stories may be real or realistic fiction. In this respect, it is advisable that the author states at some point whether the story is or not real, no matter whether the character names are changed to protect their privacy. Apart from these two categories, there may be as many kinds of stories as our minds can imagine. However, there are some prototypes of stories that are more often told, and that illustrate the various types of narratives that may be used for our destination stories:
- Challenge and achievement stories are those focused on the struggles of characters having to strive against many difficulties and overcome many obstacles to survive, to restore balance in their lives or in their community, or just to achieve an important dream that is worth all these efforts. This could be the case of new entrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid who start up a tourism related business in the destination and tell their story of struggle and achievement to inspire others to follow their example.
- Connection and love stories are those that relate to two or more people usually coming from different walks of life, who meet and share many experiences that break some of their mental barriers and open their minds and their hearts to some realities towards which they had a rather negative attitude due to some misconception or cultural taboo. They are stories to foster cross-cultural understanding and challenge the human spirit to overcome cultural barriers and taboos for a better conviviality and cooperation among cultural communities.
- Healing stories tell the experience of recovery from a serious disease or health challenge. Challenging recovery processes are usually a matter of mental strength and discovery of both the power of our minds and the power of our emotions. Learning meditation techniques and other personal development tools is an issue of growing interest that is also the object of many travel experiences.
- Adventure stories are among the most typical travel related experiences. These may encompass many kinds of adventures related to sporting challenges and also entailing some dangers or unexpected results. These adventure stories may have a strong component of human spirit and personal transformation, as long as adventures not only pose physical challenges but mostly mental ones and sometimes have the power of awakening people’s human spirit, hence becoming a deep life-changing experience.
- Transformational stories would be all those entailing an important self-discovery or self-improvement as a result of a process of reflection and personal development work. The storytelling training itself provides a valuable tool for self-reflection and discovery, acting sometimes as a healing therapy. This kind of story may match with the life-changing experiences of destinations 3.0, as long as they tell a story of personal transformation, most usually facing personal fears or weaknesses rather than external obstacles.
- Creativity & cooperation stories may tell the challenges of volunteers or contributors who struggle to find innovative solutions and ideas to solve problems or to create more value for the destination. These stories are to show the power of human imagination to tackle almost any challenge with less effort than usual when thinking out of the box, or to create new opportunities for entrepreneurs by developing innovative experiences. These kinds of stories are to encourage stakeholders to challenge their imagination and join the pool of contributors to enhance the destination competitiveness. These stories are the key to building the new culture that destinations 3.0 need to develop.
- Change leadership stories tell how community leaders or stakeholders take the role of brand ambassadors and not only through their speeches but mostly through example they manage to awaken other community member’s human spirit to cooperate in working for the destination’s mission accomplishment. These stories are to tell how change leadership works, and so provide an example for future leaders in the same or in other communities addressing similar challenges.
What other types of stories would you add to this list?
In the case of stories related to organizational change, apart from the aforementioned points, there are some specific key success factors to take into consideration:
- A strong sense of a plot to convince the listeners that the organization is heading to an exciting end for them all.
- Meaning that drives action to help the organization’s members understand what their role is, what they have to do to play their role and which are the expected results.
- Inclusive multiple versions to motivate all kinds of organization’s members to take action according to their role. Each member should see him or herself as a story character.
- Simplicity helps in better understanding the plot and the logic of the sequence. This applies not only to the plot but also to the language used in the story.
- Context is usually necessary for listeners to understand why everything happens, and so to be fully convinced that whatever happens is because it had to happen this way.
Beyond the story itself, skilled storytellers have the ability to connect with the audience and convey the emotions embedded in the story. How the message is delivered is as equally important as the content of the message itself. By telling the story with passion, enthusiasm and expression, the audience is more likely to get engaged.
Besides, great storytellers have the ability to turn “me” into a “we”, by telling stories that shine the light on a concern that both the teller and the audience share. This connection creates empathy and opens people’s hearts, hence appealing to their human spirit and enhancing commitment to taking action.
Do you think of any other key success factor?
In adding depth to the story plot, according to the master storyteller Joe Lambert, there may be distinguished seven stages through which the story flows:
- The story begins describing the ordinary life of the characters, enjoying stability and peace. The images and sensations of this stage are to be kept in the main character’s mind as references of the expected rejoice upon restoring balance at the end of the story.
- All of a sudden the antagonist appears and the challenge turns the story into an action driven sequence of struggles that puts the audience in a suspense mood until the end of the story. The main character decides to take action to tackle the challenge.
- Sometimes, there is a moment when the main character stops to consider if the decision made is the most appropriate. Surrendering or taking an easier way may lead to living the rest of his or her life sacrificing the set of their own values for a set of untested and probably undesirable ones.
- When the main character decides to keep on struggling challenging the limits of his or her capacities and suffering in the darkness and loneliness. But soon after, the main character starts to succeed and gains a sense of new power and a new way of seeing the life going forward. This is a moment of change, as the character is redefining his identity.
- The main character starts developing a new identity, driven by a mission. As a result of survival and resiliency, the new hero is able to guide others in their way to healing and self-improvement towards a better version of themselves.
- Despite the emergence of the hero with renewed strength, the antagonist strikes back to challenge the hero’s weaknesses again as a test to raise his awareness about his vulnerability and need for humility despite the significant improvements achieved.
- At the end of the journey the hero comes back home as a model of resilience and success. The story of struggles has nurtured the hero and his community with renewed knowledge, confidence and hope in the chances of overcoming future challenges.
Would you consider adding any other stage?
Compelling stories are those that not only move people to share and take action but also engage the audience in a way that they are willing to follow the story with more chapters. Such kinds of stories are like the marketing gold all marketers dream of, because they not only boost conversions, but also virality and customer loyalty.
There are many factors that contribute to make a story compelling:
- Honesty and transparency are essential in brand stories, so marketers and storytellers should never cross the border of truth. Confusion, deception and disappointment are very likely to damage the brand reputation with as much or more strength and virality as good stories building the brand’s reputation. Consumer communities control the brand integrity in such a way that it is impossible for fake stories to succeed.
- Characters are the key elements to create the emotional connection with the audience. So long as these characters share some of the challenges and values with the audience, the listeners are likely to feel identified with them and thus connect emotionally with the character. In brand storytelling, the main character has to be like a hero to the audience, because the hero overcomes the challenges or satisfies the aspirations that listeners have in their real lives, and the destination is just the scenario where the story takes place.
- The plot is the structure of the story that includes a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning sets the stage showing the hero’s life before the challenge appears. In the middle part, the main character struggles to overcome the challenge. Struggles should be told in all their nastiness to make the story sound real and engage the audience. After many ups and downs, the story reaches its end usually when the hero overcomes the challenge and somehow becomes a better version of him or herself.
- The goal or challenge is a crucial element of the story. It can be a personal weakness or fear to overcome, it can be a skill to develop, a mystery to understand or a transformation to experience. This challenge also entails a series of obstacles and difficulties to struggle with that set the gap between the initial stage and the desired end of the story.
- The mentor is the one who helps the hero in overcoming the obstacles and attaining the desired goal. The mentor of the brand story is to be the destination’s life-changing experience that somehow guides the tourist in his or her transformational journey of personal development.
- The moral is the final message or lesson that listeners should learn through the story. In brand stories, this should be synthesized into a mantra that works like a brand slogan. This mantra should be the first idea that comes to the listener’s minds when they hear the brand name. The moral is what gives value to the story, and thereby one of the main reasons why the listeners are likely to share it.
- Multiple chapters are a key strategy to engage the audience and create loyalty. Instead of giving away the whole story at once, delivering it chapter by chapter generates conversation about the story in an ongoing way, and provides the brand with compelling content for a much longer period of time.
- Suspense is what sets the audience in a state of continuous uncertainty that keeps them engaged and attentive to know how the story eventually triggers. Suspense may be created by adding more antagonists or by explicitly leaving unanswered questions that suggest different possible triggers.
- Realism helps people engage with the story so long as they are more likely to feel identified with stories similar to those in their life rather than science fiction or fantasy ones. Realism is shown with the skepticism of the main character’s way of thinking, and by showing the dark side of life and the nastiness of the struggle to overcome the challenge.
To sum it up, as Aristoteles said, compelling stories need to have ethical appeal, emotional appeal and logical appeal to connect with the mind, heart and human spirit of the audience.
Would you add other key success factors to make stories compelling?
Beyond the marketing purposes, storytelling is also useful as a leadership skill to motivate employees or other stakeholders to become engaged with the destination’s mission purpose. So long as the destination needs to engage a large network of stakeholders and build a new culture of cooperation and innovation, storytelling is a key strategy to sell the vision and convince stakeholders of the need for a culture change to accomplish the mission.
Stories can change our way of thinking and influence our feelings. They can drive an organizational culture change by opening people’s minds and building capacity of mutual understanding to enhance cooperation. They also have the power to make people envision a better future and how to overcome all the obstacles. Stories are pull strategy, as they allow people to decide by themselves, which is a key success factor of effective influence.
The art of persuasion consists of uniting ideas with emotions, and emotions are best conveyed through the form of a compelling story. Arousing the audience’s emotions spurs energy in them and moves them to take action. This is the power of storytelling.
Do you remember any story that moved you to change your attitude on a certain issue?
A destination becomes a brand when it evokes emotions and when people talk about how the destination experience has changed their lives rather than about the specific features of the tourism services and the facilities.
When the story is really compelling and provides value to the audience, they are willing to read more chapters and continue living the experience thus becoming loyal followers and customers. To do so, the brand has to continue on weaving offline experiences to nurture the story creation, for it is crucial to work with an innovative mindset to keep on creating brand new experiences.
When we romanticize a travel experience, we move beyond the logical thinking into a mythical and emotional realm. This is the passion that more powerfully drives the travelers to visit a destination. Stories are to break through logic to desire, where the value of the experience exceeds the price and discomforts in overcoming. In that respect, film shooting in destinations has proved to be a very effective marketing, especially for first time visitors.
Did you ever visit a destination as a result of a book based or film based story?
Why do we like stories? We like them because they provide answers to our lives and a mechanism to shape our identity by connecting with the story characters. We connect emotionally with the story characters as long as they have similar challenges and values, and thus we regard them as a representation of ourselves.
They respond to the human need to find idols and role models with whom we can identify ourselves. Stories not only help us in building our identity but also work like social glue, as they help us in connecting with others and building relationships. Stories are the most effective way to create an emotional connection between brands and consumers.
When assessing brands, consumers evaluate first the brands with which they have some emotional connection. Then, depending on the importance of the purchase, they search for more or less information to support the final decision. Furthermore, humans process information more efficiently when this is delivered through a story, and therefore this information is more likely to be remembered in the form of a story.
The travel industry is not an exception to this consumer behavior; rather, the emotions play a more important role than in many other industries. In fact, destinations developing marketing 3.0 hold one of their main competitive advantages in appealing not only to the consumers’ emotions but also to their human spirit, outshining other destinations that have incorporated storytelling in their marketing strategy.
What stories about travel experiences do you remember that were really memorable?
As introduced in the posts and Whitepapers on destination marketing 3.0, the new consumer behavior becomes more active and community based, trusting their relatives, friends or other consumers rather than advertisements, and so they consider social media contents as the most trustable source of information because they are controlled by other consumers.
This new reality shifts the marketing paradigm giving all the power to the consumers and turning communication flows into a conversation among consumers in which the Brand Managers are listeners rather than speakers. Actually, the role of the Marketing departments shifts its focus to provoking and facilitating conversations among consumers. These conversations are about brand related stories created by consumers or reputable influencers. Their authorship –and not the brand manager’s- is what makes them truly credible and therefore far more engaging than the traditional branded advertisements.
Moreover, as it is further explained in upcoming posts, stories make the audience take an active role in the communication experience, becoming active participants by having the chance to make their own and also becoming storytellers. But the great power of stories is their capacity to create emotional connections between the brand and the audience. Such emotional connections and the active role played by the audience members are the key factor to generate effective engagement and ultimately bring good marketing results to the brand.
What kind of experiences do you think are more likely to inspire compelling stories?
Implementation entails tracking the metrics to monitor the performance of every strategy. The development of Destination Marketing 3.0 entails a progressive change in the marketing activities, which are to be deployed when the key indicators reach the established turning points, for the accuracy and reliability of these indicators is crucial to the deployment of the Marketing Plan.
When drafting the KPI section of the Implementation Plan, it is necessary to state for each KPI the frequency when it needs to be checked and the priority level or importance within the scorecard. The KPI scorecard is to be checked in regular meetings according to the established frequency for each indicator, to evaluate results, learn from them and make strategic adjustments. The social media platforms offer a growing variety of monitoring tools, from which a sample is hereby shown.
| Positioning metrics
· Attributes and values related to the destination, according to tourist’s surveys
· Mission statement awareness
· Perceived value proposition
| Targeting metrics
· Follower base growth in every target group
· Reach in the target markets and languages: number of content views
· Tourism arrivals and expenditure corresponding to each target group
| Communication standard metrics
· Unique visitors: visitors to the website during a given period. Each visitor is counted once
· Search engine traffic: amount of traffic being referred to the website by search engines
· Social media traffic: amount of traffic being referred to the website through social media
| Content metrics
· Content delivery frequency for every type of content
· Content engagement (like, share, comment and conversion) rate per type of content
· Content impression (viewership, appearance in online searches) rate per type of content
| Social media metrics
· Engagement of targeted updates (number of likes, time spent with the content, etc.)
· Conversational growth (shares, comments etc.) considering share or retweet resonation
· Media coverage and impressions (mentions on media multiplied by the audience size)
| Network engagement & development
· New contact rate: number of new leads in the database for every category
· Levels of engagement for every target group (% each role)
· Evolution of social media adoption within the local community
| Sales metrics
· Sales and growth for every product in every channel
· Profitability of each product in every channel, considering the associated marketing costs
· Sales and growth for every retail store and travel agency
| Product metrics
· Number and quality of creative reviews bringing in useful ideas. Overall satisfaction
· New tourism products launched and improvements made. Product profitability
· New merchandise products launched. Product profitability
What other key metrics do you think of for every category?
The implementation of the new marketing system is to require some new hires to execute the new marketing activities. The key new hires needed to implement the Plan are the following:
- Managing editor: experienced professional capable of developing a content strategy, marshaling and managing all the resources necessary to execute it and measure its success. He or she should possess a combination of deep editorial and project management expertise as well as a firm grasp of online marketing. He or she is responsible for overseeing and optimizing the destination content creation and distribution, as well as ensuring the quality and timely publication of all content.
- Professional content creators: either as permanent employees or freelancers it is highly recommendable to have a pool of professional writers and video editors to create content during the initial period of the content system development, until there’s already a significant pool of trained contributors who bring in sufficient content on a regular basis. They would be in charge of researching existing stories and creating the first series of content in different formats.
- Social media manager: a key permanent position is that of the person who has to implement the social media strategy and tactics, managing content distribution through the website, blog and social media platform pages and accounts, and tracking the results of all social media related activities. As the new marketing system develops, more social media platforms are used and more activities are carried out through these platforms it is likely to be necessary to expand the social media team.
- Community manager: to be in charge of implementing the network engagement and development strategy in the online platforms, building and managing the stakeholders’ online communities, working with industry influencers to help create and promote content. There should be a growing team of community managers as long as the stakeholder community grows and more target profiles are incorporated. Should have both social media and public relations skills.
- Product managers: the new product lines –both tourism and merchandise products- require their correspondent managers. These are to be in charge of all the product cycle: from the product design in the contests and workshops till their market launch and performance monitoring. They should be capable of organizing and leading the aforementioned events, training participants, selecting and developing the presented ideas to create a viable product, and then manage and improve.
Other positions such as Trade marketing, booking manager, etc. will also be necessary.
What other relevant positions would you consider?