Unlocking Success Through Effective Communication, with Danny Liedka

Episode 337

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President and CEO Danny Liedka is in his sixth year at the helm of Visit Syracuse, Onondaga County’s official tourism promotion agency. Visit Syracuse plays a critical role in the county’s economic development strategy through its focus to grow the area’s business of leisure tourism, meetings & conventions, sporting & special events, and film/television production.

Through his work, Danny has strengthened the organization’s ties with elected officials and community leaders to ensure resource development, overall strategic direction, and quality programming to the region. While under his leadership, the organization has successfully restructured to handle the effects of COVID-19 on the hospitality and tourism industry, moved into a new downtown office space, and brought in and expanded the Visit Syracuse Film Office. Liedka also has seen convention sales increase by nearly 85% during his tenure.

During Danny’s tenure, the Visit Syracuse organization has seen several major conventions return to the area and has undergone several marketing initiatives to better promote the region and partners, including a completely redesigned website, an increase in video production promotion, and a newly designed Visitors Guide.

Danny has several years of experience in a variety of tourism and hospitality roles, including Senior Sales Executive at Marriott International and Sales Manager at the Double Tree Hotel Syracuse. He holds several awards recognizing him for sports, sales, and marketing efforts.

Before joining Visit Syracuse, Danny was a former Onondaga County Legislator District 7 (2012-2017), having served as Chairman of the Health Committee, Budget Task Force, and Vehicle Use Review Board. In addition, he was the former mayor of the Village of East Syracuse (2007 – 2013). Danny has written award-winning legislation that addressed the quality of life in his Village. Danny is on the East Syracuse-Minoa School District Wall of Distinction for his contribution and achievements in the community. The Visit Syracuse president was also an on-air television commentator at Time Warner Cable Sports Channel, Big East Network, YES Network, and ESPNU, as well as a game radio host for Syracuse University Basketball on Clear Channel Radio. Danny is a recipient of the ACE Award, which is the cable television equivalent of an Emmy for excellence in sports broadcasting. Danny is also an ABCA Certified Professional Baseball Coach, Coaches at Sports Zone Baseball Academy, and is the current president of ESM Little League. He and his wife, Kim, and three children, Luke, Jack, and Hannah, and k9 partner Milla reside in East Syracuse.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Danny Liedka about the importance of showing the authentic experience of the destination through storytelling done by real people and how Visit Syracuse does that via their photo and video library. We also dive into how to forge tighter relationships with stakeholders and some transformational projects coming to Danny’s community right now.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How Danny went from a successful career in Politics to becoming the CEO of a destination promotion agency
  • The importance of building a mutually supportive relationship with stakeholders
  • Why learning to communicate effectively using the right language can help your organization access more opportunities
  • How Danny and his team put together proposals that helped Syracuse win recent transformational projects — the new aquarium, a road project that will change the walkability and accessibility of downtown, and a major employer choosing Syracuse as the location for their new manufacturing facility
  • Why having the right people on your team is critical to your success

Building a Great Team

Creating a solid team and fostering a positive work atmosphere has been a priority for Danny as a leader. While he recognizes that Visit Syracuse may not always be able to compete with private sector jobs in terms of financial compensation, he believes that by going the extra mile for his employees, they can minimize the importance of money in their overall job satisfaction.

One way Visit Syracuse achieves this is by offering special perks and benefits, such as the ability to work from home. Danny explains why even before the COVID-19 pandemic, they had already implemented a remote work policy, which proved valuable when the crisis happened and allowed them to hit the ground running.

Showcasing Authentic Experiences

People crave genuine experiences and prefer seeing real individuals rather than staged content. When Danny and his team realized this, they decided to invest in various initiatives, such as professional photography and partnering with an agency that could help them source a vast collection of authentic images. By showcasing real-life experiences in Syracuse, they aimed to establish an emotional connection between their audience and their brand.

Recognizing the power of video as a storytelling medium, Danny made it a priority to excel in this area. If you explore Visit Syracuse’s recently launched website, you’ll notice a strong emphasis on video content, immersive experiences, and captivating narratives. This approach has allowed them to build a dedicated following and stay ahead of the curve, ensuring they are proactive rather than playing catch up with industry trends.

Danny’s Best Practices for Collaboration

When seeking the right partners, making everything about them and creating a likable connection is important. Show them a problem they may be unaware of and position yourself as the solution. Understanding their communication styles and needs, and adapting your approach accordingly, is crucial.

Effective communication and listening skills play a significant role in establishing successful partnerships. By embracing these principles and focusing on the partner’s needs, you can build strong relationships and achieve mutual success.


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