Before the start of this summer season we struck a deal with our biggest tourist attractions to do something to help promote Northumberland as a destination and give something back to local people.
We wanted to create a weekend of free or discounted events that would let our residents access some of the best attractions on their doorsteps and celebrate the fantastic county they live in.
Tourism is worth about £650m to our local economy, supporting more than 13,000 jobs so it’s vital that we keep attracting more tourists into Northumberland and ensure that people from the North East also keep coming.
So our residents’ festival, which we called ‘our people, our places’ had three key objectives:
- Rewarding local people with free or discounted trips to the best venues.
- Promoting Northumberland by getting positive coverage of our key tourist sites.
- Creating more footfall, business and profile for our venues across the county.
We designed the weekend to be a unique offering for Northumberland people and created an individual brand that stood out and helped create an online/media buzz.
Downloadable (and hardcopy) vouchers helped to theme the event as something special and made sure our brand was visible at the 21 venues taking part. The central theme of our work was ‘a special day out for the people of Northumberland, organised by a giving, can-do council’.
Social media was key to promoting the vouchers to local people but so were our other channels and we threw everything at it: PR, posters, our residents’ magazine, word of mouth and a dedicated website.
Basically if you lived within our county you could download (or collect hardcopy) free tickets that would give you access to some top attractions such as Bamburgh castle or Holy island on the weekend of the festival.
In the end the sun shone (remember that?) and we attracted a large number of visitors, with some really positive results from the weekend. More importantly everyone seemed to have a good time, the venues enjoyed booming trade & PR and this was reflected online.
For me the key results were:
- More than 5,000 families came to the event and had a great day (for free or at a discount like 2 for 1).
- 22,448 people looked at the dedicated website and read about Northumberland and our key attractions.
- Hundreds of positive comments on Facebook and Twitter.
- Thanks to the publicity around the festival we attracted an extra 2,800 new twitter followers and facebook friends.
- 340 supportive tweets on our #resfes12 twitter hashtag.
- Major local media coverage before and after the event.
- Word spread way beyond the county as people told friends and family (both online and in the real world) about the great day they had at some diverse attractions.
- Increased recognition of our role in the local economy and gained goodwill.
It’s definitely something we’ll look to again next year but the key thing that stood out to me was the growing power of social media in these sorts of events. Even in a rural area like ours it’s growing a speed and velocity that’s both frightening and awe-inspiring.
For more see: www.northumberland.gov.uk