Wednesday 12 September 2012

Socially charged Scotland: top tips for managing social media campaigns internally

This interview with VisitScotland's Social media manager was published by Eye for Travel

Too many brands still think being ‘social’ is about putting a campaign on Facebook but it is much more than that.

VisitScotland’s social media manager, Simone Kurtzke, talks to Pamela Whitby about how this tourism organisation is tackling the challenges.

VisitScotland’s aim is to ensure the entire business becomes more ‘natively’ social. “This requires quite a different way of thinking,” says Simone Kurtzke, the tourist body’s only social media manager, who has implemented an integrated model to help her manage the task of putting social media at the centre of the business. This involves training staff members from across different departments on social media so that it corresponds to their own business objectives, she explains.

As an example, the PR team is trained on how to effectively use Twitter to achieve their PR objectives, while marketing teams,work closely with Kurtzke to integrate social channels in the overall communication strategy. At the same time, lunchtime learning sessions are open to all staff so they can learn about social media basics. Of course central to this is training and support as well as involving staff and making it their responsibility. “I always end up my sessions with a slide on next steps and it just says ‘YOU’,” she stresses.

Creative campaigns

Earlier this year the agency ran its first ever ‘native’ social media campaign. The brief was to create a socially charged consumer campaign that engaged creatively while raising awareness of the ‘Year of Creative Scotland’ - a Scottish Government initiative. “The big idea was that everyone loves Scotland’s inspirational landscapes and nature, its quirks, festivals and its people,” says Kurtzke. And the growth in easy digital photography in this social and digitally connected world made that fairly easy to achieve. “There is a wealth of beautiful photos of Scotland out there!”

VisitScotland used social media as the main engagement driver, reusing user-generated photos – an increasingly popular social theme - throughout the campaign period on social media channels. Facebook was the main channel used to reactivate engagement with the campaign and the ‘Year of Creative’ message. “User photos and their stories were at the heart of campaign,” explains Kurtzke. For example, credited photos on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter were used throughout campaign period, giving exposure to amateur photographers and artists. Photographers were also invited to engage with discussions about their photo on VisitScotland’s Facebook page.

“The results smashed all expectations,” says Kurtzke, explaining that the “we ended up 1,200% above target - and even gained our very first CIPR Pride award nomination, for Best Use of Social Media, in the process. And all this happened in our first year!”

I spy ROI

For Kurtzke, one of the most important things is that any social activity has clear deliverables for return on investment. “Why would anyone do any social activity without (a) objectives (b) KPIs and (c) evaluation or ROI?” she asks. “It’s strange that in the ‘social media world’ people seem to be able to think ROI isn’t needed. “

So what are the biggest challenges? The biggest issue right now is time and resource, something that affects most other brands out there. Scotland seems to inspire fierce advocacy and passion so getting people to engage is not really an issue. In fact VisitScotland has a really good crowd of Twitter followers, and Facebook fans who regularly post stunning photos, but Kurtzke admits it is not always possible to properly nurture those relationships by giving people the attention they deserve.

Challenges aside, Kurtze runs a tight ship. Here are her Five Top Tips for managing a social media campaign internally.

1. Create a social media policy - this was the first thing I did when taking up the job. Work with your HR team to ensure that all employees are aware and agree with the policy - similar to an IT policy, a social media policy is an absolute must-have these days. There are tools such as the Policy tool if you don’t know how to start ( - however I would strongly recommend to only use this as a pointer. Your Policy must be right for your business and can’t be generic.

2. Make it everyone’s job - don’t let stakeholders regard you as the person that will execute all their social activity. This will only hinder the fundamental changes required to make a business ‘social media fit’.

3. Investigate tools - there are some awesome tools that help with collaboration. For instance, GroupTweet will allow stakeholders from different business areas to tweet from the same account and it’s also got a neat premoderation option so that the Social Media Manager can retain editorial control - after all, it’s still your job to be the guardian of your businesses’ social media efforts. Conversocial is another one we use and it makes our Facebook activity so much more effective and efficient.

4. Put training into practice quickly. Don’t just keep it theoretical and don’t get in external companies who may not understand your specific business needs. Since a change in thinking is required to make social successful, always use practical exercises and then encourage stakeholders to use the new knowledge immediately, i.e. with current activity

5. Be patient. It takes time, and not everyone is equally eager, ready, or able. This is normal and, while it can be frustrating, it’s so much more satisfactory when you see the results. Both in real-time from your social communities, but also, nothing puts a smile on my face like seeing a senior stakeholder suddenly pop up on my Twitter feed!

Source: EyeforTravel

Monday 10 September 2012

Aberdeen Gatwick Flight To Go in October

According to press releases this morning Flybe is to stop flying between Aberdeen and London Gatwick from next month. It took over the route in March 2008 when British Airways dropped the service.

Flybe said the route would finish on October 28 "after much consideration".

Rival low-cost airline easyJet quickly issued a statement saying it remained committed to Aberdeen.

It operates up to 23 weekly flights to London from Aberdeen and claims to have delivered over 50% growth in the last year after introducing a service to Gatwick.

In the week that Tourism leaders are being grilled about aspirations for Scottish tourism it is another little piece of bad news that will have very direct impacts on access (and costs) to visiting not only the north east but the Highland gateway that Aberdeen is too many.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Tourism Committee Discusses Strategy

Tourism Matters we keep saying. Not just us but the political elite, the business leaders and for sure all of us who are involved in it on a daily basis.

But apparently this "driver of our economy" matters not enough to either of The Scotsman or Herald on line editions to warrant any coverage.

Yesterday saw the first of two sessions at Holyrood examining the strategy embarked upon by VisitScotland and The Scottish Government titled The Winning Years. (Okay Nicola and Ec will say it's nothing to do with them but we all know really the 2014 political undertones guys!)

Yet I've searched and searched and no reporting of the comments even though there is little doubt that the honesty revealed some serious issues about the current state of business and the knock on impacts on future investment.

So big congratulations first to The Daily Record for bothering to cover it, for it is they who were found in Google when searching for a report on the day's questioning.

Second big congratulations must go to Stephen Leckie of the Scottish Tourism Alliance. Okay, I haven't had access to transcripts of his answers but the ones reported indicated a refreshing public honesty about the state of the tourism nation.

Stephen Leckie, the current chair of the Tourism Leadership Group representing members from B&Bs, self-catering and tourist attractions, told the committee "that half of its members experienced worse results in 2012 compared with 2011, partly due to weather and partly due to the economic crisis. Only one in five (21%) were up on the previous year. Cities are "level-pegging with last year"while parts of the north and west performed "much worse", he said.

"We're not in great shape actually," Mr Leckie concluded.

There someone has said it! We're not in great shape actually. 

Willie Macleod, former VisitScotland Director and now executive director for Scotland with the British Hospitality Association also concurred saying, "I think the weather undoubtedly has had an impact on the season overall. Certainly in the early part of the year there were concerns that 2012 wasn't going to be a materially improved year on 2011. While hotels are broadly maintaining their occupancy levels, many struggle to achieve industry targets for average rates per room, Mr Macleod told MSPs. The second and third holidays are not as high on people's agendas as there is still pressure on consumer spending," he said.
There he said it too. The Staycation boom is over - if f course you ever believed it actually existed.
The flip side? Yes, but please note it came from the Director of Communcaitions and Marketing whose remit probably includes the development of a postive profile for The Commonwealth Games. I know I'm going to be called cynical again...
Gordon Arthur, of Glasgow 2014, said: "We have already seen a massive bounce from the Olympic Games in terms of interest, in ticket buying, volunteering, and getting involved. Almost by necessity, we've kept fairly below the radar while the Olympic Games were building up. We are now about to step out and become much, much more high profile in the coming weeks."

Fortunately Stephen Mr Leckie was a little more circumspect when he said what the rest of us beleive by being "unconvinced that London 2012 boosted Scottish tourism. I'm not sure how good the Olympics has been for Scotland, the jury is out on that. Lots of BHA members and others around England and Scotland just weren't very busy during the Olympics. The worry is that, is something similar going to happen during the Commonwealth Games?"

There it was said. Marquee events do not necessarily impact positively on tourism. In particular one off events that move on can often leave very little behind. See Ryder Cup K Club or  Celtic Manor.

And is it time to bin one more of the myths that we are all sick and tired of having peddled at us?

"People do not come to Scotland for the weather" - used by successions of tourism bosses, marketing gurus and the like. And yes it is a true statement.

Change a couple of words however and it can take on an entirely different meaning.

"People do not come to Scotland because of the weather" is a reality for much of our market place and a reality that everyone of us in the sector recognises. Weather has both positive and negative impacts. This idea that we should just treat it as a neutral is quite ridiculous. It needs to be built into tourism future planning, economic estimates and growth forecasts. Fore example a sustainable outdoor Festival calendar is less likely to be feasible if grounds are flooded eight years out of ten.

The mythical Brave like view and vision of Scotland is fine when pixelated but in real life small and medium sized hospitality businesses have to plan under increasingly heavy meteorological and financial clouds.

It is time for a proper balancing of flag waving and the more stark economic realities facing us.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

£300,000 Public Spend to Sponsor Ryder Cup Coverage

According to today's Scotsman published on Wednesday 5 September "The Scottish Government’s tourism agency is using £300,000 of taxpayer’s cash to sponsor Sky TV’s coverage of the Ryder Cup in the United States this month. VisitScotland is paying the money in exchange for advertising access to Sky, owned by the BSkyB group.

A VisitScotland spokesman said: “In addition to print, digital and events the latest campaign promoting Scotland The Home of Golf, running until March 2013, includes a TV spend of £300,000.”

The Scotsman also pointedly, and without any political bias clearly, note that "A government spokeswoman said no ministers were involved in the discussions with Sky."

Previously I may have been one of those that actually would have applauded this expenditure as a good way of promoting Scotland as a golfing destination but the reality would now be a little different and I'd at least question the value of the expenditure and whether indeed it was at all necessary.

£300K is a lot of money and if it was part of a co-ordinated marketing spend tied in with proactive support from the private sector it could be seen to be providing some potential but once again it sits in splendid isolation with apparently no communication to the golf industry (neither in Scotland nor abroad) that the sponsorship campaign is taking place and therefore no partnership marketing campaigns have as far as we can identify been set up to take advantage of any traffic generated to tourist board websites or similar.

Now there may be plans afoot to relaunch the Home of Golf website hosted on VisitScotland's own platform but there is certainly no evidence of it and as members ourselves of Golf Tourism Scotland there has been no advice from that body regarding opportunities.

Golf is just a reflection of the fragmented nature of the tourism and hospitality sector in this country. There is today a committee at the Scottish Parliament looking at these headline events and their benefits but the answers will come back from those industry leaders "We're making progress", "We can't keep looking back", "There is greater collaboration", "Clear strategic objectives are emerging", "We recognise we've made mistakes but...", "We couldn't have foreseen the depth of the economic challenges" (Well yes actually we could!).

And then the committee will nod knowingly produce a report and nothing changes.

And public money will continue to be spent on trophy marketing ideas that just go nowhere. Generating awareness and interest has to have product producers ready to convert this desire to action. Clearly VisitScotland's sponsorship campaign on Rupert Murdoch's Sky has no such call to action in place.

For example, where is the Ryder Cup Promotional Toolkit that has been rolled out so aggressively for the industry for the launch of a bloody Cartoon? These are the things that could and should be within the remit of a national tourism organisation not bland disassociated sponsorship deals on UK satellite channels.

Can anyway tell us why it has to be this way?

It's not all the fault of the public sector for sure. The golf industry should be mature enough to be able to identify the opportunities and make demands of their own. They consistently fail to call publicly for real answers.

PS - There is Another Solution... Yes More Golf Strategy Workshops!

What we do know however is that even if they can't gain from the sponsorship deal, the golf sector can "look forward" to another series of strategy meetings hosted and developed by Scottish Enterprise to identify opportunities for the golf sector to maximise its potential.

Well way back in 1999 when The Ryder Cup bid was first mooted that was the key objective. To use the Ryder Cup as a catalyst for golf development at grass roots, for tourism development at all levels, for product development and to create a "golfing legacy".

Can anyone explain to me why after thirteen years of planning the golf tourism sector still doesn't have a co-ordinated public private golf structure and marketing delivery mechanism in place?

Who's to blame?

You know what we as an industry have sat back and accepted it. We are to blame.