From Destination Marketing to Destination Leadership, with Bill Geist

Episode 115

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Bill Geist is the Chief Instigator at DMOproZ, a firm specializing in strategic planning, governance, marketing, and legislative issues for convention and visitor bureaus, tourism-focused chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and communities. Prior to forming DMOproZ, Bill served as the President/CEO of the Greater Madison (WI) Convention & Visitors Bureau. Bill is the author of Destination Leadership and a contributor to Fundamentals in Destination Marketing. He has provided consulting services to over 200 DMOs since 1995 and is a popular speaker on marketing trends and destination development across North America. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I speak with Bill about the shifting role of the DMO. Marketing is just the tip of the iceberg. DMOs have a larger leadership role to play in the economic fortunes of the communities they serve. It starts with an attitude of service, of giving back.

What You Will Learn on this Episode:

  • Why DMOs need to speak up on economic development issues in your communities
  • The role of advocacy in DMO work
  • What DMOs can do better than the internet
  • Why understanding who you don’t appeal to is as important as understanding who you do appeal to
  • Why storytelling is only going to become more important in the work of DMOs
  • How to connect more with the community you serve as a DMO

Destination Leadership Organizations

Recently, we have begun discussing the expanding role that DMOs are playing and should play in their communities and now we’re thrilled to welcome a guest who has been promoting this conversation for a long time. Talk about great timing. Bill talks with us about the evolution of destination marketing over the past decades, and the need for destination leadership. He relates some stories of economic development missteps that could have been avoided if DMOs has raised their voice – but they thought it wasn’t their place. DMOs can be a critical conduit of information and stories that will help communities flourish and visitors fall in love and return again and again. This is a wonderful conversation on the leadership role DMOs can and should play.

It’s Not About Heads in Beds

Bill believes DMOs have often done a poor job of telling the story of their value to a community. At the end of the day, it’s not about heads in beds – what DMOs do is improve quality of life. They make their destination a better place to live. It comes down to communication. DMO directors would love to hear from you, and the community is waiting for leaders to sit down and talk about what’s happening, what they can promote and what stories they can tell on your behalf. It’s a two-way street, but Bill Geist is encouraging DMOs to take the lead!


Nicole Mahoney: 00:27 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. I am passionate about travel and tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry, and that is why I am so excited to introduce today’s guest, Bill Geist, chief instigator at Dmo pros, and I love that title bill and I can’t wait to learn more about that. So bill started in the world of destination marketing at a small suburban dmo on the south side of Chicago. He was then hired to lead the Madison, Wisconsin Cvb, where he was involved in the movement to build a Frank Lloyd Wright Convention Center just off the Capital Square. And then in 1995, Bill launched Zeke geist consulting, now known as Dmo pros, where he has worked with over 200 demos across the Americas. Thank you so much for joining me, Bill.

Bill Geist: 01:08 Oh, Nicole. Thank you so much for the invitation. We are honored,

Nicole Mahoney: 01:11 yes. I’m really excited to have you on and, and I, I appreciate that you’ve followed the show a little bit and you’ve given us some shout outs and I’m really excited to get your perspective on it. Um, before I dive in though, um, can you tell us your story in your own words and I know you’re so passionate about this, this tourism industry and kind of how did you get there, how you got to where you are today?

Bill Geist: 01:35 Honestly, it was dumb blind luck as you said. Um, you know, I started in a small suburban and it was my hometown, Kankakee, Illinois. Um, I had worked in Kankakee for the prior, I don’t know, seven or eight years in broadcast media, but we had a city grade signal. I mean we were in the Chicago ratings and as happens to almost everybody who’s ever been in radio, you get fired and I got fired and I’m looking around for the job. And the local CVB had an executive director’s position. I knew nothing about destination marketing, but it was a paycheck. I knew how to I, I was a marketer at heart. I said, how hard can this be? Well, it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, especially from a place like Kankakee, Illinois, which while it’s my hometown and I love it, had been really rock hard in the eighties by the series of recessions that, that took out a lot of manufacturing. So it was not an easy sell, but we did have Chicago is our target. I found within honestly probably four to six months that I was home, had that while I thought broadcast and radio was where I want it to be. There was nothing like destination marketing because I am my mother’s child and she always told me to give back and while I thought I was giving back as the smart morning guys, you know, making people laugh, right? I couldn’t give back like I could with a dmo where I’m helping, you know, job creation. I could really feel that opportunity. And like I said, I found that I was home almost instantly and I’ve never looked back.

Nicole Mahoney: 03:05 Wow. That’s, that’s really awesome. I, um, I love that how you talked about giving back and uh, we really are giving back in this industry, which I think, you know, a lot of folks don’t realize how important tourism is to the economy. And Bill, I know you’ve got a lot to say on that topic and I’m wondering if you could share a little bit. Yeah, with us, uh, in terms of, you know, the work that you’re doing now and uh, how you are helping deemos across the Americas as, as we said in your bio.

Bill Geist: 03:37 The way we look at it I think is that there is the traditional old school destination marketing organization model, the Convention and visitors bureau where you had a convention, salesforce even after motor coach and he did all the things that you’re supposed to do. And it was essentially, I think as, as this industry began to evolve in the seventies and eighties in mid tier and small towns, I think it was, you looked at it as playing the hand that you were dealt. There was really not a lot of, of, of engagement or advocacy for a destination marketing organization. It’s board, it’s CEO to be out there in the community trying to either connect the dots or advocate for a new development like a convention center or a arena or an arts district, whatever that may be. People weren’t talking like that in the seventies and eighties.

Bill Geist: 04:29 I found myself. Yeah. Again, serendipitously in Madison in the early nineties, swept into that conversation about how are we going to save downtown Madison, which honestly, you know, we’re on a lot of top 10 lists and have been for 20 years. But back then half of the downtown capital square was boarded up and, and the thought then was, and it played out beautifully, was if we can build a convention center that will draw people into the downtown, which will cause entrepreneurial growth and those storefronts will fill well where there were three restaurants downtown. Uh, there’s probably 53 restaurants today. I mean, and I’m not going to say a convention center is, is that okay? Secret sauce that’s going to, to renovate and, and rejuvenate every downtown. But I will say that when government gets serious and puts a stake down regardless of geographically where it is, the private sector will follow because if they see that, that that public sector is serious, they’ll do that. And so our, our role really I think is encouraging people to think bigger, to not be saddled by. Yeah, this is, this is a marketing organization and that’s all we do is to say, no, you have a voice, you can represent the voice of the visitor unlike anyone else. And we tell the story of a community that, that frankly build a convention center and a library at the same time and in absolutely opposite of where they should have been. The library is where the convention center is, should have been.

Bill Geist: 05:57 And we asked the CVP and we said, how did you let this happen? And they said, well, we didn’t think that was our role to be in public policy. And then he went to the city planner and said, what were you thinking? And he says, well, I thought the people would come to the library, check out a book, and then go for lunch downtown, how quaint. And we went, no, no, no, no. It’s experiences like that that make us really feel that there’s a larger role for destination marketing going forward and we try to, to espouse that and get people to hop on the bus with us

Nicole Mahoney: 06:28 Yeah, absolutely. That’s perfect because I’ve just started kind of exploring this whole concept of the destination marketer acting more like community manager. And I think that’s, that’s what you’re starting to describe for us here. I just started asking this question on a, the last probably three or four interviews that I’ve done for this show and it’s interesting to get everyone’s perspective on what that means to them. And I’m, I’m wondering, Bill, um, what, what does that mean to you? How are you seeing that evolution of the deemos role?

Bill Geist: 07:01 Yeah, I really do see that and I’m not alone. I mean, destinations international has now for the past couple of years, I wouldn’t say I’m suggesting, but at least giving voice to the concept that maybe we are more than a dmo. Oh, a destination marketing and management organization. We want to keep that. I think managing, uh, a destination is a tall order, but I think we could be de Ellos destination leadership organizations and have that voice. Great. Anybody who’s in the city making and city placemaking is probably familiar with Peter Kajiyama. Great Book called for love of cities and in it he talks about that every community, regardless of the signs, has entrepreneurial. He calls them cocreators. They’re individually creating parts of the bigger experience, but there has yet been anyone that coordinates or choreographs all of those disparate cocreators. And I think that that’s where deemos we’ll be more active in the future. I think we will be out trying to find those. That was unique. Wild.

Bill Geist: 08:19 One of my absolute favorite destinations in this country is one that if you’ve ever been to Pittsburgh or if you’re ever going, you have to go to a place called Randy Lane. This one man rejuvenation project and one of the honestly toughest neighborhoods in the city, or at least it was, and it’s now gentrifying because of the work that this one man did on cleaning up empty lots on painting his building. Probably 48 different colors. I mean, he’s, he’s wild. He’s eccentric. He is the most human and kindest man in the world. And yet a huge focal point of the bureaus promotion. You can find him on Youtube. You can sign to him in USA Today, but he’s just quirky enough that I think people go and yet that’s the kind of cocreators I think going forward, um, our communities can really, really get behind and uh, and you know, get that, that great piece on, on local TV and one of your target markets or, or whatever that may be.

Bill Geist: 09:27 Right? I think leading that charge and being that voice, I’m really, really becoming engaged with small business and I’m seeing that. I’m seeing one of my other favorite stories is the story in Chattanooga where they actually hired somebody to spent a lot of her evenings on the streets in the entertainment district working with the local music clubs and, and all of a sudden Chattanooga’s music scene is a sentence. I mean, it was always good, but it was never. It was never viewed as Memphis or Nashville. Well, Chattanooga’s got this amazing all roots. Okay. And she helped connect the dots. She was just what Peter Talks about in his book. She was the person who choreographed the cocreators. Hmm.

Nicole Mahoney: 10:13 I love that analogy to this idea of cocreators because I can even think of so many of my own examples where I see,

Speaker 4: 10:23 um, well in the community where I live, for example, there’s a business improvement district. So you have this business improvement district focused on the small business, right? Ended up huge part of it. I’m in the finger lakes region is the visitors that come and support those small businesses, um, and they do work with their cvb, but maybe there could be a better relationship. There are stronger

Nicole Mahoney: 10:45 no relationship there because they’re very focused on this one area. Then there’s another area half mile down the road that’s a right on the lakefront. Huge development happening there, a new hotel going up, all sorts of things.

Speaker 4: 10:57 Um, and they do feel a little siloed. Yeah.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:01 So if you were a cvb or dmo in one of these communities, okay,

Speaker 4: 11:08 how are you seeing or how would you recommend the dmo kind of take on that role?

Nicole Mahoney: 11:13 How do they

Speaker 4: 11:15 evolve into that? Like everything, it comes down to budget and so some of us, some of your smaller dmo listeners will say, well that just can’t happen here. And there’s always a way I think to find private sector revenues to support a great idea. If I had, let’s just say enough revenue, let’s say I’m a starter at $1,000,000. If I had a million dollars to play with a DMO, I would deploy at least one if not two people to be on the streets every single day looking for content, looking for opportunities to take a quick 15 second video of the chef working on the tier for tonight or getting backstage, you know, a sound check or or or, or watch the touring comedy troupe come in and set up for a show and and go into small retailers and take a couple pictures of the new line or the new whatever they’re doing and instantly start throwing that up into social media and digitally.

Speaker 4: 12:15 A couple of things will happen. One, you’re developing great content. You’re showing the power of the DMO to these entrepreneurs who oftentimes don’t have big marketing budgets who feel left out. They feel it. Oh, you know, the museum gets all the love or the baseball stadium. That’s all they talk about. This is what makes a community in my mind are the, are the entrepreneurs. The one, two, three people. Shops are being creative and I think that we need to do a better job of of developing that content, of giving voice to those those businesses because frankly a lot of what destination marketing organizations did in the seventies, eighties and nineties has been taken from us and it’s been taken from us and then this is not a shot, but tripadvisor figured out how to do it better. You figured out how to do it better.

Speaker 4: 13:01 Facebook is hasn’t quite figured out how to do it better. They will. There’s Google and so a lot of people relied on a dmo for is now available in digger platforms. What makes us relevant today? Nobody can tell a story like a DMO. None of those have been successful. Advancing the experience. I didn’t give them lists upon lists and they can even try to like tenderize for you, but nobody can talk about why this chef, you know, can, can do this amazing thing because he learned under so and so or w, whatever it may be. I think that we are the storytellers, not unlike our native American ancestors who passed down culture and history and morals. True story, I think that’s what we are, the future become the storytellers and we become the advocates, um, for uh, for great experience.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:01 Let’s talk a little bit about the advocates piece because we started down this conversation. You’re talking about the, the community that built the convention center, that center where the library should have gotten the library where the convention centers should have gone and, and the response you got from the DMO was. I didn’t think it was my place. Okay. How are you seeing deemos have success with that? Advocacy plays a piece in that place making piece.

Speaker 4: 14:28 I think it’s becoming easier because for years economic development was the, was the big kid on the playground and we were the cute little cousin, you know, it wasn’t. Tourism isn’t serious economic development, that’s fun economic development. But about three years ago, longwoods international, what are the most respected

Speaker 4: 14:46 tourism research firms in North America did a study called the halo effect. And in it they surveyed 18,000 people and their opinions of 10 different destinations and they asked them questions like, do you think this would be a good place? Live? Would it be a good place to go to school and most importantly, would it be a good place to start a business? And in every single case, the first response would be somewhere in the 20, 30 percent ratio. Okay. To that good place to live, Wisconsin. Thirty percent of Americans said, yeah, sounds like a nice place. Show them a 32nd tourism in. It went up to 45, between 10 and 15 percent growth in likability and interest simply by seeing the tourism ads. So we’ve kind of coined the phrase tourism is the first date for economic development and if you can lead with your economic development and your city council in your county board leadership and say, hey look, we make you guys love economic development and you spend a ton of money and economic development.

Speaker 4: 15:53 If you invested in what we’re doing, we plow the road for them. They’re going to be way more successful and if there’s not an image campaign out there talking about our destination and I think that more and more if you can lead with, with those facts, with the empirical research, then we be invited to the big kid’s table. Right. And I think that that’s where we see just demanding a seat. Well why? Well here’s why tourism is the first date for economic development and then, you know, taking economic and development a little further, you know, a strong economic development scene usually means higher quality of life. And so we know what we do should resonate with them every elected official because it’s exactly what they campaign. We’re gonna make this a better place. Well, nobody can do that. I like destination marketing organizations. We just haven’t told our story as well as I think we could.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:49 Are you seeing, are there examples out there of communities who are, who are doing a good job at telling that story and getting themselves at the table or what are you seeing is working?

Speaker 4: 17:02 There are a number out there who are leading conversations about what does the next 20 years of this destination look like. I’m in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Deb Archer here has really advanced the bureau that I once led into a whole different world. I mean, yeah, we were involved from the convention center, but she’s involved in and has an is involving the organization in so many different aspects of quality of life. I mean that’s in fact, I mean that they’re rolling out a new brand shortly, if not already in the past week or so. And a lot of it comes down to their mission. They view what they do as quality of life and how they do it is destination marketing. I mean, it, it, it, it may sound okay a little, you know, semantic,

Bill Geist: 17:48 but if you view what we do as

Bill Geist: 17:52 well, it’s kind of like a three or four year old who’s just everything. Why, why, why? And at some point you just throw out at, you know, and at some point most of us went, oh, it’s heads in beds now. No, no, no, no, no. That’s the result. The real reason why we do what we do is to improve the place in which we live and I think that those cmos that see it that way, see it the way that Josh and Deb and John Grow in Rockford, Illinois and interesting that we are also close. I’ve been there. There’s this unholy trinity here in the Midwest where I watched those three destinations and I think, wow, because they’re all doing things that you wouldn’t expect a dmo to do. It catches the attention of city council, media, community leaders, arts leaders out. Wow. And we’re not getting that from other organizations and that this is not a shot at chambers and it’s not a shot at economic development, but the things that destination marketing organizations are increasingly doing, um, really is we’re getting back to why we do what we do.

Bill Geist: 18:59 And that’s, you know, I’m a big Simon Sinek fan of. Start with that. Start with why and you know, I think old school we used to say, well, the what is, we got to sell a lot of hotel rooms. Okay. But if you start with why, which is we want to improve the economy, we want to improve quality of life, how we do that is stringing together great experiences and the real what is, and Oh, by the way, we have hotel rooms so you don’t have to go home tonight, you know, filling the hotel rooms is still, I guess not the prime directive. What is the primary result? Prime directive is to improve the community. And I think those of us that see that, I think I’ve had more success in getting, you know, I’m invited to the, uh, to the adult table

Nicole Mahoney: 19:44 and I couldn’t agree more. I mean in New York state where we’re located, we’re starting to see and have been seeing for several years now. Tourism, getting more of a seat at the table, more of its share of economic development funds, if you will. I’m more recognition for what it brings and I think that’s just so important. And I, and I think you’re right in that or I couldn’t agree more in that. It’s so much different than it was in the seventies, eighties and nineties. Um, you know, and there is really kind of a shifting tide happening right now.

Bill Geist: 20:17 Exactly. Yeah.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:20 So bill, I, uh, I’m loving this conversation. I do want to talk a little bit about creativity and collaboration because it’s something that we do focus on on this show and I, I like to make sure that our listeners get a little bit of that. Of course you’ve already talked about a lot of creative things already. Um, but I’m wondering if you can, um, you know, in your vast experience in all of those destinations that you’ve worked with and, and being out in the field, um, and you know, how competitive it is in this, especially when we’re vying for that visitor. And to me, I think about it this way, it’s not just the visitor, that traveler, it’s actually the person who just has so many, you know, that’s not taking the vacation because they’re choosing to work or they’re choosing to stay home and do a house project. I mean, there were also time-starved to these days. And so what have you seen really successful destinations do to kind of stand out from the crowd? And really kind of draw the interest of the visitor.

Bill Geist: 21:18 I think so many of us are sadly still mired in the live work and play. No, we have something for everyone. I think it comes down, as I said earlier, to the storytelling. I am okay. Absolutely enthralled with what Puerto Rico has been doing since the new DMO was formed their first of the year, first of last year. Uh, and Brad Dean and his team, or putting together a, I think a masterful story of rebirth and regeneration. And, and one of my favorites was honestly, it was a, it was a pretty, I’ll just say it was a pretty ballsy move. And, and, and there’s a lot of people saying you guys need to rethink this. And what they did number of months ago was took that iconic photo from the air of a neighborhood where the, where the residents had painted help. We need food, you know, in, in, in the intersection and, you know, 10 foot letters. It became kind of the iconic image of, of, of, uh, have a country that had just been decimated. And they went back and, and painted. Welcome, come on back on the same intersection and juxtapose those two. The immediate attention was, was simply amazing and I think that’s what it is, is how do you stand out in such a cluttered way with a message that says, you know, I’ll give a shout out to John Bricks in Nebraska, you know, his campaign of it’s not for everyone. Okay.

Bill Geist: 22:48 And, and you know, something, Nebraska isn’t for everyone, but there’s some great destinations throughout that state and people kind of poo poo it and okay, show me why. And no, those are same with Salt Lake City saying there’s no fun allowed. Whoa. And, and I don’t know, anybody who’s been to downtown salt knows that is a great downtown with an amazing club scene that you wouldn’t expect because of kind of a, the image that, that there is no fun allowed. Yeah know in predominantly Mormon city and that’s just not the case. And I think those are, those are the moments that I get excited when I see somebody kind of breaking the rules and saying we’re going to get noticed here.

Nicole Mahoney: 23:33 Yeah, absolutely. So breaking the rules, but also when I’m also hearing you say is really focusing on and understood, focusing in and understanding who you are to

Speaker 4: 23:46 and it may be you aren’t appealing to everyone because being appealing to everyone is very difficult to stand out. There was a community and I’m pretty sure it was grand rapids, but don’t hold me to it, but you know, when, when things were so politically unstable, they just flat out said, hey, we’re a a red state. Okay, well you’ve just got half of America to go. Really? We should check them out and you’ve walked away from half maybe of your, of your potential audience, but you know, something. I’ll take half of America. I couldn’t fit half of America in any of our destinations. And so, you know, I haven’t gone back to ask how that campaign went, but I thought it was, it was, uh, it was topical. It was. No, I mean the nation was really split as we still are. People were talking about it a lot in terms of red and blue and they took advantage of it.

Speaker 4: 24:45 And I think that’s a good point. These, these examples that you’re sharing with us are, you know, their conversation worthy, if you will, right? That they’re really instigating a. actually there’s a, there’s a book that just came out recently called talk triggers and this is making me think of that, right? It’s a talk trigger. Um, and uh, I think that’s a really great way to break through. Those are awesome. Love it. So actually I do like to talk about what the creativity that happens in the face of adversity. And it sounds like you’re Puerto Rico example actually. It was a perfect example of, you know, the creativity that can come when you’re faced with a challenge and adversity. I mean, how, you know, how they rose to the occasion and we’re able to, you know, make that statement and then start to regenerate, as you said, regenerate their tourism activity, I think is awesome.

Speaker 4: 25:40 California, California. Pardon me, but California also in the face of the fires, in the face of the landslides, in the face of all the natural disasters that have fallen, that great state, the State Office of tourism. And the individual destinations have been shifted and they’re showing compassion. They’re reaching out some of the videos that have come out of the crisis plan for visit California, pretty evocative of a large dinner table in the vineyard for first responders and we have to get together and hugging and say we’re going to get through this again, destination marketing organizations that are more than just a 32nd ad.

Speaker 4: 26:32 Yeah. And I think if it isn’t a great example of being a community manager right there where you’re, like you said, they’re showing compassion. They’re definitely trying to, you know, make a statement perhaps on the national stage, but at the same time they literally are rebuilding their own communities. Right? And being a place for people to feel good and to come together and, and um, and basically rebuild together and have that comradery. I think it’s one of the things that we saw firsthand after Katrina and we continue to see it now in Puerto Rico and in California and other places that have that have had natural or sadly manmade disasters is, is we as a people want to go and help. And there was a mad rush for meetings to conventions to go to New Orleans Post Katrina. I’m not because they were ghoulish and they wanted to see the distractions because, you know, it was a big convention if we want to put some money back in your pockets so we to get the hotel is back up and running and get the entrepreneurs back opening again. And I think that there’s, there’s, there’s, there’s something there. I don’t mean to be mercenary about it, but you know, as, as we told our friends in Puerto Rico, you know, don’t let the compassion of the traveling public and most of all meeting planners go untapped because if you show them that you’re open for business, who wouldn’t want to go back to a place that had, you know, had a horrible year and try to infuse some more money into job creation and entrepreneurs. Absolutely.

Speaker 4: 28:07 I think you’re right. And it, as an industry, we really are supportive of each other. And it kind of speaks to this, this whole idea of what would I like to call coopertition collaboration in the tourism industry? And so you could be a competing destination with in New Orleans, but something like that happens to them and, and everyone wants to go in and help because we do believe, I think as an industry that everyone benefits when everyone is strong. And I think that’s a great, a great example of that. And I’m wondering, you know, just this whole idea of being that community manager that you and I have been talking about lends itself to this whole idea of collaboration and cooperation there. Are there other examples that kind of stand out in your mind? You know, one of my favorite and sadly it has gone by the wayside, but the concept behind it was pretty magical. Back in 2000 2001, maybe even the late nineties, a band of deemos along the Gulf coast banded together in a joint project called South Coast Usa. Oddly enough, the website’s still up. They folded probably two or three years ago. But the premise was perfect funding. It was the hard part and you almost wonder if you couldn’t come back today and try it again. But, but the concept was, you know, if a hurricane or a shark attack or tornadoes take out one or two of the destinations for a period of time, as they rebuild

Bill Geist: 29:42 the weather channel, as they call it, the Jim cantore effect, the entire Gulf is closed and this, these, these 10 bureau’s got together and said, what we’re going to do is we’re going to have a message and we’re going to say, okay, this section, yeah, the oil crisis, these beaches you probably don’t want to hit, but that doesn’t mean that these other beaches aren’t absolutely sugar white sand. And the same thing for, you know, there’s a shark attack off of no one. Okay, that’s not going to happen 400 miles away. And so they agreed that they would have a message that would position all the good things that you could still do on the south coast. Even when one or two of the partners we’re busy rebuilding and, and it worked really well for awhile and then. Well no need to get into it. I, I think it was kind of one of those, a bridge too far.

Bill Geist: 30:32 I think they decided they were going to get into publications and other things and other things, but the core mission, the core message was always one for all and all for one, and we’re going to, we’re, we’re going to make sure people keep coming to the south coast because in their mind they go, I think the south coast is closed. They’re going to go over to myrtle beach and what if they like it better over at myrtle beach or Virginia Beach? We’re Sarasota. We can’t have that. We want them to know that are south coast is still where they want to come and just do different experiences. So that was. I think that’s probably my favorite example though. It no longer is in play.

Nicole Mahoney: 31:07 I think that’s a great example though because I’m, you know, I’ve seen many organizations that are like that, that are more just marketing collaboratives if you will, but this is something coming completely different. It is marketing per se, but it’s really setting themselves up and, and having a strategy in place to work together and protect basically the reputation of the entire coast. I think that’s a really great example.

Bill Geist: 31:30 Each one knew they were going to have their day, but they knew that when they did the other eight or nine had their back

Nicole Mahoney: 31:38 [inaudible] yeah. Being proactive rather than reactive. Right. Having that ready to go. I think that’s really awesome. So bill, we haven’t talked about your book yet and I wanted to be able to talk about that a little bit. Um, so can you please, you know, you talked a little bit about this idea of why tourism is the first date for economic development, but you, you have a book out called destination leadership and you talk a little bit about why you wrote the book and uh,

Bill Geist: 32:09 and how it came to be. I would love to, I appreciate it. Two things. One was the boards I was working with and we do a lot of our work with DMO boards on strategic planning and there was this quote that I heard of that and it hit me as I sat there in the, in the hall. I went a sun dial in the shade is exactly who I’m working with weekend and we count, no, I’m working with boards that are good looking, well designed, great potential, but they’re sitting under a tree and they weren’t doing anything. They weren’t doing anything to advance the organization or to advance the destination. So I originally wrote a book called Destination Leadership for boards and it really was a primer for a board just from, from start to finish of here’s how the best boards work and more and over the years people said, you know, there’s so many great tenants in this book that you don’t need to be a board member to take advantage of them.

Bill Geist: 33:05 And so I had encouragement from a number of people both in and out of the industry, um, to say make this bigger. And, and, and you know, as we look at our destinations today and we look at the fact that we can’t do this alone, we need collaboration. We need to have the folks in economic development, Chamber of Commerce, the school board, you know, the, the Arts Council, Utilities, board, government leaders. Everybody needs to be a part of the movement and so we, but the best parts of destination leadership for boards, those are still in there, but we advanced and grew the book to, to talk more to anybody who has an interest in the art and science of destination leadership. So we know, we, we do a lot of examples as we’ve been doing here with you today and thanks again for the opportunity. We think that telling stories through stories, uh, is, is really the best way to inspire people, um, to take a greater role and to be more. I’m supportive of what a destination marketing organization does and to support further investment both public and private in what it is we do because, you know, this is one of the very few organizations that is generating cash revenue for a community that government invests in. So, you know, we, we did it to try to explain in lay terms wherever possible, um, the power of the tourism industry on a community.

Nicole Mahoney: 34:30 Yeah. That sounds, uh, that sounds really great. And I’ll be ordering my coffee today because I definitely want to read a read this and learn from you and I couldn’t agree more. That’s learning from storytelling is such a great way to do it, which is really the premise of this whole podcast is really giving folks like yourself, uh, the opportunity to share your knowledge and your stories because I believe that we can all learn from each other in that way. And if there’s just one small thing that you have said on this interview that you know, resonates with somebody, I think we’ve done our job today and inspiring somebody to take action and just to be better in their field.

Bill Geist: 35:11 Thank you for that opportunity. I really appreciate it.

Nicole Mahoney: 35:13 Yeah. And they love that. So before we say goodbye, Bill, um, I don’t want to let you off the hook. Just, yeah, it’s been a great conversation. I’m sure I could keep, keep going for quite some time, but I want to be, you know, cognizant of both your time and our listeners time. Um, but I’m wondering if there are any final words of encouragement or wisdom that you can share with our listeners who might be no destination marketers themselves or they could be, I’m interested in the tourism industry or, or they could be at a museum wondering how do I fit into,

Bill Geist: 35:52 you know, this world of, of uh,

Nicole Mahoney: 35:55 tourism or destination marketing. And so I’m wondering if you have any final thoughts

Bill Geist: 35:59 wrap up our conversation that you could share a destination marketing organization. If I could offer any suggestion it is, pick up the phone or fire off an email to your dmo and say hi. In many cases, I know it’s their job to know who you are, but a lot of times they don’t. Especially in smaller communities where they’ve only got two or three people working. I mean the, the responsibilities of a small market DMO are so huge. The expectations are even bigger and they just don’t have the people power to be on the street and shaking hands and kissing babies and meeting you and hearing your story so that they can then take it and run with it. And honestly, it’s been kind of a, a closing comment. We’ve been making a lot of our presentations around the country that the deemos have asked us to say, would you on our behalf, say, call us, tell us when you’ve got something going on.

Bill Geist: 36:56 We’re not all seeing all knowing we’re thirsty for content. And if you’re not in a dmo, ah, don’t be shy. [inaudible] you’re not going to wear out your welcome. They want to hear from you. I’m from the DMO side. I think it’s just the opposite. It’s, I know you’ve got 100 zillion things to do today, but picking up the phone or popping into one of your, a destination attractions. Okay. Um, I think is, is paramount the job that we have in front of us going forward. I mean, I think that most demos are pretty good at dropping by and hanging out with the hotel, gms, directors of sales. But I’m talking about the other experiences and, and I, I just think that no, it’s all about communication. It really is. Everything comes down to that, that I think any community that’s not firing on most of their cylinders, it’s because one or both sides hasn’t been communicating and, and I think that it’s, it’s a tall order for both sides of us, but, but I think that the more we can talk about, you know, what the experience is and what the messages collaboratively I think that your destination, we’ll start to sing.

Nicole Mahoney: 38:07 That’s awesome advice and I couldn’t agree more, you know, on both sides that it really does boil down to that one on one conversation, that personal relationship and, and really the only way to, to build that is in some sort of a face to face or a phone call, actual conversation with someone to really build on those relationships that to know what, what’s going on. So what a perfect way to, uh, to round out our conversation today. Bill, I am so grateful that you’ve spent some time with us and um, we will look forward to getting in touch with you and catching up with you again. Um, and you know, I’m going to be ordering this book. So the book is on its way and best wishes for a fantastic 2019. Awesome. Thank you so much. All right,Speaker 1: 38:54 take care. It’s time to hit the road again. Visit destination on the During your travels for more podcasts, show notes and fresh ideas.

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