Getting Ready for the 2024 Solar Eclipse, with Debra Ross & Angela Speck

Episode 338

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Since 2001, Debra Ross has been publisher of, America’s online resource for families who want to know about all of the opportunities for kids in their local area, and (since 2016) of, for grownups who want to know about arts, culture, and recreation where they live. This web network has regional sites in 45 cities in the US and Canada, with (as of Feb 2023) 15 million visitors per year (85% parents, 15% grandparents, 82% women) and 750,000 recipients of a free weekly e-newsletter telling recipients what’s happening locally for kids, teens, and families.

Debra’s expertise is in community visibility and cheerleading, data analytics, and information resource management. She is Co-Chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse Task Force for the 2023 annular and 2024 solar eclipses and Chair of the Rochester Eclipse Task Force 2024.

Named after the iconic Angela Davis, Angela Speck likes bright colors, is a nerd at heart, and has wanted to be an astronaut since she was five years old. Originally from Yorkshire (England), she went to college in London, where she was able to pursue her childhood dreams by majoring in astrophysics. After a brief stint as an r&d technician in a Lancashire company run by crazy new-age hippies, she returned to London and completed a Ph.D. in astronomy. After a postdoc at the University of Illinois and 17 years on the faculty at the University of Missouri, she is now the Chair of the Physics & Astronomy Department at UT San Antonio. She has also been the co-chair of a national task force on solar eclipses since 2014. Throughout her career, she has pursued research and teaching of astrophysics and continues to share her passion for all things extra-terrestrial.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Angela Speck and Debra Ross about how they are preparing for the 2024 solar eclipse. We discuss how destination marketers can share information about eclipse events locally and nationally, and we cover lessons learned from the 2017 eclipse visitor data.


What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How the upcoming eclipse can help create a sense of unity and connection within a community
  • Key marketing lessons learned from the 2017 eclipse and what DMOs can do differently in 2024
  • What communities can do to maximize the experience for locals and visitors
  • The importance of targeted outreach and educating people about the significance of the eclipse path, which is much more populated in 2024 than it was in 2017
  • How DMOs can leverage pre-existing stories and experiences to communicate the value of participating in the 2024 eclipse

Sharing Your Community Values

During her interview on the Destination on the Left podcast, Debra Ross shared a powerful anecdote about the town of Kingswood and their approach to the solar eclipse. With a strong sense of community, the town sent teenagers on bicycles to distribute eclipse glasses to residents and visitors, ensuring everyone could safely experience the event. This initiative showcased their commitment to inclusivity and creating a shared experience.

This highlighted how communities can demonstrate their true essence and foster a stronger sense of unity through how they present themselves to visitors. Debra is looking to convey a similar sense of unity and connection within her own community and has since been involved in helping other communities make their messaging fun, clever, and authentic in preparation for the 2024 eclipse.

Telling the Eclipse Story in 2024

On the podcast, Angela emphasizes the importance of targeted outreach and educating people about the significance of the eclipse path. So many people missed out on being within the path of the 2017 eclipse, and the upcoming 2024 eclipse is already a hot topic of conversation amongst the general population, not just the scientific community.

To help engage as many people as possible, DMOs should build upon pre-existing stories and experiences. By reinforcing the message that they are not starting from scratch, marketers can more effectively communicate the importance of being within the eclipse path and ensure that people understand the value of participating in the 2024 eclipse.


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