Three little words that can light up your life – or cut to the quick.
No, I’m not talking about either “I love you” or “is it in?”.
The short, sharp phrase which should actually be front of mind for anybody in business is this: word of mouth.
This was brought home to in powerful style this week by the dream woman – an attractive blonde with a gorgeous smile and the keys to the biggest collection of whisky in the world.
With those kind of credentials, Julie Trevisan-Hunter is never going to struggle to command a room.
Unsurprising then that Julie, whose full title is Whisky Expert and keeper of the Quaich at the Scotch Whisky Experience, has been chosen as one of 14 Scots to front a new tourism campaign.
VisitScotland’s new drive to drum up visitors for the recession-hit tourism marked is aimed at the European market – and it’s all about word of mouth.
Public Relations in Scotland For Hospitality Sector
Most European visitors want to meet real, passionate Scots and take home a story to tell their friends, family and colleagues about the memorable characters they met during their trip to Scotland.
Every year VisitScotland runs its European Touring Campaign and in 2009 that brought in £85 million to the Scottish economy. This year VisitScotland is delivering websites in seven languages which will offer downloadable itineraries, video clips, top tips, and accommodation and transport deals.
The websites will also introduce potential visitors to the 14 quirky, interesting and quintessentially Scottish people who have agreed to be the faces of the new, Meet The Scots campaign.
The new drive was launched this week at the Prestonfield House Hotel (whose own concierge, Derek West, is one of the faces of the campaign). Each of the 14 Scots has been beautifully photographed by Robert Pogson and huge, framed portraits were dotted around the hotel
The Power of Word of Mouth
In a highly entertaining speech Visit Scotland Chief Executive Philip Riddle pointed out the hotel’s wall-hung portrait of a sour-faced King Charles I and begged attendees not to mistake it for one of the portraits or the VisitScotland ambassadors, adding: “He’s got a face like my grandfather after he lost sixpence!”
But the best tale of all came from the aforementioned Julie Trevisan-Hunter. Ostensibly it had nothing to do with tourism in Scotland. Yet it summed up the aspirations of the Meet The Scots campaign better than anything else because it was pure word of mouth.
Julie treated guests with a story from a holiday she took in Sardinia, when she asked a gnarled old man at her hotel for advice on a day trip. Without saying a word, the auld gadgey walked outside and proceeded to give a detailed inspection of her cheap and cheerful hire car, paying particular attention to the underside.
After much humming, hawing and tut-tutting he finally seemed satisfied and grudgingly admitted: “This will do.”
In Julie’s own words she was already hooked. As soon as the old-timer started kicking the tyres she instinctively knew that day’s outing was going to be special. And so it turned out.
With insider knowledge from the colourful character, she was able to follow a suspension-busting route to a hidden gem of coastline, known as Rice Beach because the sand is like grains of rice.
Julie’s telling of the story was evocative because the entire day – from the old man’s face to the texture of the beach – is etched on her memory forever.
How Social Media is Word of Mouth on Steroids
Credit is due to VisitScotland because not only has it recognised the value of this kind of word of mouth, it is actively trying to harness it for the Scottish tourism industry.
I just hope that it has also realised how online channels can turbocharge what people say – social media channels are the equivalent of putting WOM on steroids.
Sure, a story like Julie’s is entertaining – but how much more effective would it be if it was easily findable on the internet, told in her own words with a photo of the tyre-kicking tour guide, a link to the name of the hotel and a Google Earth map showing the route to the beach?
Hopefully VisitScotland’s campaign will build in a powerful social media element encouraging (and even rewarding) visitors to share their own stories – good and bad – and to make them as laden as possible with picture, video and links to other rich content.
Social media is the key to word of mouth success for any business – and I spend much of my time meeting business people to advise on this.
Social Media Strategy and Presentations
Just two hours before attending the VisitScotland launch, I was giving a talk on this very subject to a group of businesspeople who are part of the Winning Entrepreneurs network as part of its Expert Forum series.
Next week, I will be addressing 20 more businesses as part of Holyrood PR’s own Social Media 20:20 series (the Jan 28 event was a total sell out and Mar 4 is going the same way).
It is endlessly fascinating to see and hear how businesses respond to the opportunities available to them and most are grateful for any advice, hints or tips that can be offered.
If your business could do with help developing an integrated social media and public relations strategy, I’d be delighted to assist in any way I can.
Likewise, if you and your business team would benefit from a practical, engaging and fun presentation to help explain social media and top tips on how to use the various channels, don’t hesitate to get in touch.