Build Experiences They’ll Never Forget, with Josh Collins

Episode 144

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Josh Collins has a background grounded in live entertainment and experience design. He helps brands develop better rhythms of connecting with their audiences both online and off. After 15 years of traveling the world with brands like Stevie Wonder, The Roots, John Legend and more, Josh was attracted to take over and lead the Visit Franklin brand for Franklin, Tennessee, located just south of Nashville. After five and a half years growing Franklin’s brand, developing their digital platform, and eventually increasing the visitation rate by 13.6% in 2018, Streetsense reached out to Josh and brought him on board to lead the Destination and Travel and Tourism practice. Now he’s honored to join countless other destinations and travel and tourism brands and help them grow their reach, connect with their audience, and create a healthier, more sustainable tourism product for their community. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Josh Collins about designing travel experiences that are personal and impactful and bringing together local communities to make memories for people all over the world.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How growing up around live music shaped the lens of Josh’s world
  • Josh’s affinity for digital and how he used it to help artists develop their brands
  • Different trends of personalization in travel and tourism
  • Tools that tourism boards are using to collect data that will help improve visitor experiences
  • The importance of activating local communities to create an attractive aura in the destination

Designing Experiences

Since he was six years old, Josh Collins has been on a tour bus alongside some of the most famous musicians in the world. Working with the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Roots, John Legend, and more, Josh has been exposed to destinations across the globe and been a part of numerous crowd-pleasing experiences. From this wild life, Josh learned what it takes to design memorable experiences and events for others to enjoy. Josh and his company, Streetsense, have seized on a cliche trend in travel and tourism and breathed new life into it: personalization. When it comes to creating experiences that stick with people, the smallest details can have a big impact. Josh’s team ensures that destination staff are warm, personal, and always there to attend to their guests’ needs. Technology is employed to enable users to customize their experiences at Josh’s destinations, surveying and choosing the attractions they want to see and sharing their feedback with the rest of the world. The point of it all is a connection. When trying to think of what attracts people to a destination, Josh calls to mind the little things we all might love about our hometowns: our favorite places to eat, parks to walk in, or spots to catch a breathtaking view. These are the things that connect us to locations; mimicking them can be an important tool to maximize satisfaction with experiences. Identifying those local gems and bringing them to people will satisfy the community and all of the lucky people who get to experience its hidden treasures.

Vibrant Destination and Learning From Others

On Destination On The Left, we talk a lot about collaboration and “co-opetition”. Josh Collins is a certifiable expert in these concepts, as his mission is to constantly team up with other partners to make his destinations and experiences successful. Streetsense’s “Vibrant Destination” program is the recipe for Josh’s experience architecture and design. The program is all about synergy. That may sound like a buzzword, but it’s an important concept. Josh’s team ensures that all aspects of a destination are cooperating from top to bottom and receiving an equal voice in how to build a unique experience for tourists. Local businesses, concert venues, visitor bureaus, tourism agencies and more all work hand-in-hand to build successful experiences and places for people to visit again and again. On a more personal level, Josh believes that the best way to collaborate is through mentorship and friendly conversation. A lack of conscious respect during conversation makes discourse and discussion difficult and the design process suffers as a result. If you respect someone’s work, you should take them out to coffee and ask them for help. Only through partnership and shared knowledge can we as tourism professionals continue to design experiences that will stay with people for a lifetime. I hope that Josh’s wisdom will inspire you to take the steps you need to start designing touching, impactful experiences for your tourists today.


Nicole Mahoney: 00:24 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. I am passionate about travel and tourism and love learning from the [inaudible] experiences of professionals in the industry and that is why I’m so excited to introduce today’s guest, Josh Collins. Josh’s background is grounded in live entertainment and experience design, helping brands develop better rhythms of connecting with their audiences both online and off. After 15 years of traveling the world with brands like Stevie wonder, the roots John Legend and more, Josh was attracted to take over and lead the visit Franklin brand for Franklin, Tennessee, located just south of Nashville. After five and a half years growing the brand and digital platform, driving results and visitation and astounding 13.6% in 2018 alone street sense reached out to bring Josh on board to lead the destination and travel and tourism practice. Now, Josh is honored to come alongside countless more destinations and travel and tourism brands to help them grow their reach, connect with their audience, and create a healthier, more sustainable tourism product for their community. And Josh, I’m so excited for you to join us today and I love in your bio how you say you help brands develop better rhythms of connecting with their audience.

Josh Collins: 01:34 Yeah. Well, first of all, thanks for having me. What a gift. Seriously. Thank you.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:38 Yes, I’m, I’m, I’m excited to learn from you. I know you’ve got a lot to share and a lot of experiences that our listeners will learn from, but before we dive into these questions, can you share a little bit more about yourself in your own words? I find it adds so much more context to our conversation.

Josh Collins: 01:53 Yeah, sure. So, I mean, I, I grew up in middle Tennessee. I was born in Nashville. I still live there south of, uh, you know, town and, um, and have just been surrounded by the music industry most of my life live entertainment. Um, something, you know, somewhere around there where there’s a thought leaders book, authors, uh, musicians, songwriters, you know, on and on and on and on a tour bus from the time I was six years old, you know, um, and just so just been around it, I have been around the, the live experience and it has really shaped my lens of the world, right? How I, how I understand human behavior, uh, just have a natural curiosity for human behavior and the why behind the what, you know, and, and really, really a passion. I love your, your intro to just a passion. I just have a passion for learning how to listen and learning, you know, learning from, uh, every scenario, every person, every interaction that I, that I’m around and gifted to be with.

Josh Collins: 02:52 And so that ultimately just kind of propelled me into working with the brands full time, you know, uh, entertainment brands like you mentioned, you know, Stevie wonder’s a great, great example, and others, um, traveling the world and, you know, whether it’s producing shows, designing shows, mixing shows, right? How it sounds to the audience. Um, a whole host of, uh, uh, things along the spectrum of, of the live entertainment world. And then eventually, you know, digital came around. I was an early adopter with digital. I’ve always had a natural affinity for understanding digital and technology, how things work, et cetera. And so that Kinda drove me into, you know, this, this, you know, integration of live and digital and, uh, helping a lot of my clients and, and bands that I was with. Um, learn to develop, you know, I do, I love that language. Developing better rhythms of connecting with their audience.

Josh Collins: 03:42 It just, it’s kind of a native language to me and it’s, it’s reflective of a congruence, uh, if you will. It’s, it’s not putting, uh, putting out something that’s not accurate or true to necessarily who you are. If someone were to meet you as soon across the table from you at a coffee shop, they would experience you there one way, all the way that they should experience you online should mirror that. They should be congruent, right? There should be an integrity there, right? There should be something that, uh, of course and marketing terms, we talk about delivering on the brand promise and that’s what that’s about. Right? So, um, yeah, so I started doing that with, with lots of different bands and stuff and, um, you know, I’ve got a family, got three kids. It’s scary day to day. It’s first day of school, back to school.

Josh Collins: 04:24 I’ve got a, I’ve got a freshman in high school, my daughter, she’s 14. And so that’s a, you know, stressing out a little bit as the father here, you know, but, uh, but yeah, so, you know, wanting to be home more with my family, my kids and um, started looking for other opportunities, really started to, to explore that. And then, you know, uh, it was attracted and recruited to Franklin and, and which was a perfect scenario cause it’s the community I love so much. It’s where my roots are. Um, friends, family, you know, deep, deep commitment to the community there. And so it just became a great launch pad for, uh, you know, working in the travel industry of which I had been a participant in of, you know, forever, but never really even understood it to be an actual thriving industry. So, um, yeah, I have tons of great success in Franklin and, and of course all along the way, I kind of, you know, did a lot of thought leadership and blogging and kind of personal branding around, you know, experience architecture, experience design, helping people understand how to connect with their audience and stuff like that.

Josh Collins: 05:28 And, um, yeah, so then, you know, then street sense came along and now I’m, um, really, really fortunate to get to be leading this team and, and, uh, it’s just a ton of fun and I’m really passionate about helping, you know, these destinations grow because at the end of the day, these growth, the growth of the travel and tourism product of a destination is really, really about the small business. It’s really about, uh, you know, at the end of the day, the way I see it, it’s about food on the table for, you know, small. It’s, it’s helping economies thrive, uh, in these communities and then these destinations which have a ton to offer, uh, those that are looking for the next great experience.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:07 Yeah, absolutely. Um, there is so much, uh, to kind of unpack of what you just shared with us. I, I think that’s awesome. First of all, I just want to say I’m so excited to have you on the show and we definitely have a similar passion for not just for this industry, but ultimately for those small businesses and you know, the connection that this industry has to real economic vitality for communities. And, uh, I find that really exciting. But you know, what struck me as you were talking about, you know, growing up being six, six on those tour buses, um, but I got me thinking about those live, those live shows and those entertainers and what masters they are at, connecting with an audience. And very quickly for me, I could see, you know, I could see your path so, so naturally, um, you know, going to where you are now and working with brands and helping them connect with their audiences.

Josh Collins: 07:03 Yeah. It’s fun. It really is. It’s, and it, I have found it to be a little bit of a unique Lens, right. Of the world. And just in thinking about digital technology is one layer of it, but then thinking about community relationships, right? And then thinking about partnerships and collaborative projects and things like this and, and creating synergy behind a common goal and common vision. Right. And, uh, that’s, there’s so much nuance in that, but there’s so much, um, I don’t know, there’s so much of vitality and vibrancy and just, uh, working together as a, as a town or as a community, as a destination of broader, a sense of that term destination, um, toward a common goal. And that’s a, that’s a really fun aspect of this, of this industry and of this business and certainly of, you know, the future of street sense.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:53 Yeah, absolutely. Um, and the, the other thing that I, I found interesting is as you were talking, and I, I’d like you to talk a little bit more about this. Um, you were talking about your thought leadership and experience architecture and experience design. Can you kind of dive a little bit deeper into that and share with our listeners? Um, you know, some of the work you’ve done, there are exactly what you mean when you say that. I, I think I know what I mean. Maybe our listeners think we know what you mean, but can you just kind of explain that and tear that down a little bit for us?

Josh Collins: 08:25 Absolutely. So, you know, in one sense like, let’s, let’s think about it this way. It’s, it’s a little bit of, you know, going, um, going to a dining establishment and go having a fine dining establishment or go into the place where, uh, you love and it brings you comfort. Um, they know your name. Uh, so it’s like, you know, it’s down the street or down the corner. It’s the place you frequent. If we’re looking at your credit card bill, we’re probably gonna see it in the top 10% of expenditures right? In the diamond category or something like that, right? It’s that kind of a place where you go all the time. You love it, they know your name, you walk in, you feel like you, you’ve just, you’ve come home in a sense, right? But then you end up leaving and you just go, gosh, what a great experience that was.

Josh Collins: 09:08 Right? Well, those things aren’t accidents, right? That’s not an accident that happens. It’s not an accident. How a Disney delivers their experience, right? And it’s not an accident. How, um, you know, John Legend or the roots or Stevie wonder or anybody, you know, puts together a two or three hour block of entertainment that at the end of the day you end up going, Gosh, I’m so glad. I’m so glad I had this experience. Right? And then as a matter of fact, you go on and continuing to talk about that experience to all your friends, right? It’s a, it’s something you naturally and organically share. Of course we are naturally, uh, geared towards sharing our experiences with not one another, right? I mean, this is, this is a how social media even came about and in terms of sort of connecting one another, uh, helping us share our experiences with each other.

Josh Collins: 09:59 But we naturally do that. We read a great book and we want to tell our neighbor about it or tell our friend or we see a great film and we’re like, oh, you gotta go check this film out. Like those kinds of things happen. So experience design experience architecture’s all about looking at the entire journey and go, how do we tee that up? How do we create success around that? How do we create experiences, whether it’s in person experiences, like guest experiences, customer service experiences, where it’s online digital experiences. It’s mapping that out. It’s, it’s literally thinking about it in terms of how do we weave in the surprise and delight that’s needed so that vis this minute, you know, one experience of what would be a ton of experiences for this unique one person can get amplified organically. Does that make sense? A little bit more?

Nicole Mahoney: 10:49 Yeah. Uh, absolutely. And, and the online experience, you know, I think as marketers we talk about that quite a bit and I, and I wanted, I want to dive into that a little bit deeper, but before we jump to that, can you talk a little bit more about the guest experience and the customer service experience? What types of things would a, would this fine dining establishment, um, you know, be thinking about as they’re trying to design that experience?

Josh Collins: 11:14 Yeah, that’s a great question. So think about things like, um, I, I frame this up like what are the obstacles to creating connection here? It might be that you walk in and you don’t know where the hostess is. Maybe you see something, you go, oh, well, I think this is the hostess stand, but I don’t, I don’t see anybody. And then you’re sitting there waiting and nobody, nobody says anything to you. Right. Or let’s even back up a step further. Let’s see. Let’s think you’re, let’s think about, you’ve got a interest. Somebody going, Oh, where are we going to eat tonight? Um, oh honey, let’s, let’s, let’s try this place over here. Right. Okay, cool. Well is a nice place. Do we need reservations? Right? Do we need all of these opportunities that create, um, possible disconnection, experience design is about mitigating those so that you can tee them up for connection.

Josh Collins: 12:05 So, you know, you’re walking into a restaurant, you make sure that you have a culture that values that connection. So that means you got someone at the host stand and they’re there ready to be welcoming and friendly and their wedding too. They’re ready to make eye contact or you know, you find those opportunities and you, that might create disconnection and you mitigate them. So then instead your team up and then it, and then you give surprise and delight around it. So instead of going, um, you know, instead of not knowing who the person is, Oh, you know, you’ve got your, you’ll put in place a piece of technology that can better integrate with your guest service and there’s tons of them out there. Right? But then you might go, oh great. You know, Mr and Mrs. Smith, we see this, you’ve been here last month, this is so great. You know, thanks for coming back. Actually, I’ve got the same table for you if you’d like to sit there or perhaps you to sit somewhere else tonight. Right. [inaudible] you kind of integrate some personalization into it as well. Yeah. All of that, you know, fits in and weaves in together to create this experience, that consumer, that customer goes unknown. I feel welcomed here and belong here and I’m going to keep coming back.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:10 A couple of great examples. Yeah, that’s a, that’s a great example. Thanks for walking us through that. And I love how you described, you know, it’s about mitigating the disconnection and creating those opportunities to surprise and delight because that’s really what’s going to resonate. Right. And make it that. I’m so glad I had that experience. Right. As you described it earlier.

Josh Collins: 13:32 Well, and there’s, and those experiences, right? I mean, they’re in person. This is why I talking about, you know, connecting with your audience both online and off because online is a part of it, right? I mean, especially when you think about travel, right? The, the consumers visiting, you know, over 35 websites and researching their decks destination, what they’re going to do. And so if your online experience is really poor or slow, your load time is slow or you’re not mobile friendly or even still today, you don’t invite feedback, right. You don’t invite the, a potential inbound traveler to learn more. Um, all of those are little minute moments, uh, that can create disconnection and costs you your next visitor.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:11 Yeah. I think that’s a great point. And I like how you talked about the personalization, the in-person personalization. And I know that there’s a, there’s a huge trend towards personalization in the online experience as well right now, right? Yup.

Josh Collins: 14:25 Oh, it’s continuing to be a, to be great there. Yeah.

Nicole Mahoney: 14:28 [inaudible] and I, and I think that, um, you know, it started with social media and how social media started to train us that, you know, we’d only see the things that we like or engage with. Um, but it’s so much more beyond that. And can you talk a little bit about what you’re seeing in terms of personalization and how that’s, um, you know, really evolving right now?

Josh Collins: 14:48 Well, so personalization at its core, uh, it is a Buzzword, right? It is trendy. It’s been around for awhile. Uh, and it’s still something where I think destinations, very few destinations are doing it well. Um, much less brands, right? Larger brands at scale. But uh, but personalization at the end of the day, I frame it up like this. It’s, um, it’s treating one another with dignity and respect. It’s really acknowledging that at the end of the day, uh, it’s, is humans doing business with other humans. Uh, when we lose that, when we lose the sense of dignity in our conversations and communications, obviously we see, we see that spiral, uh, two waves of the dark side, which I think we’re seeing someone in our political climate now, but, but what it’s, but personalization really, at the end of the day, it’s about understanding that I am dealing with a real life human being. And I mean there are countless number of studies out there that prove this.

Josh Collins: 15:44 But if, if I know and I feel comfortable, like I’m going to be treated like a human being, then I will be more happy. I’m more than happy to give you, um, more greater access to, to me whether that’s my data, whether that’s my, you know, first name, last name, zip code, email, right? More data points to where you can customize personalized experiences for me or I’m more likely to become an advocate for you, right? You’ll see that in terms of, uh, the amount of content I share from you or the amount of engagement you see from me online. Um, so when we can take those data points from the online world and think about how do we integrate those in, in real life and face to face, uh, I think that’s where a lot of really magic happens. And that’s where a lot of, um, you think about a visitors center, right?

Josh Collins: 16:34 And, and, and potential, uh, you know, you got an inbound tourists coming to a visitor center and they want to learn more, right? Sort of great opportunities to engage in conversation. And you may not have a, you may not know who they are, right. But through some real, you know, through some delivering great customer service, by designing some experiences around that, uh, you can get there and then you can earn the opportunity to continue to dialogue with them, not just while they’re in their trip, but then even after the trip and then after the trip you can go, you know, hey, tell us how we did. How did you enjoy our destination? Right? Uh, we, we, we, we want to know how you enjoyed x or y or, you know, whatever it is that you know, that they did because they came in and they got that information from you or whatever. You know what I mean? Things like that. Think about it in terms like that, it requires a little more depth. Um, but I’m telling you, it’s, it’s, it’s a really powerful way of connecting with your audience and the consumer.

Nicole Mahoney: 17:29 Yeah. And is it getting easier to be able to do that? Yep. I know, um, you know, data, right? There’s so much data to collect, but collecting it can be daunting, especially if I’m a smaller destination. I’m a, I’m a visitor center where, you know, I have a, I’m a tourism office of maybe two or three people. How do you, what are you seeing out there in terms of tools to be able to help, um, with some of this personalization, this data collection? That’s where I think [inaudible]

Josh Collins: 17:56 you’re seeing a real proliferation and the, and technologies like CRM technologies. Um, so much of this is meant to be, or at least the way I’ve seen is historically has been, uh, really digitally focused. It’s really been inbound focus, uh, but CRMs real shifting to be a little more holistically focused now. So, so that you can incorporate, you know, real time visits. Um, you’re seeing a ton of tech being designed that, that integrates well with a CRM so that let’s say the restaurant experience, uh, you know, the servers and the general managers and the hostesses can be, can access that data in real time much faster. Um, so you’re seeing some of that evolve, but, but it backs you, you know, the question with regards to the small team, it becomes really important to prioritize what’s going to make the most difference, right? I do think sometimes it’s easy to get distracted and what we want to do, and then in thinking well about who our audience is, obviously as a tourism bureau, um, you’re pulling in a lot of different directions, right?

Josh Collins: 19:00 You’re, you’re pulled vertically to connect with your inbound consumers and drive those inbound consumers is inbound tourists, but then you’re pulled horizontally by your partners, some political, uh, leanings here and there, you know, uh, do you get your local neighborhood associations or, you know, the communities that, uh, all help build the destination, right? So there’s a lot of tension around which audience am I going to pay attention to most, uh, which ones gets the priority today and, and that I have nothing but empathy for those environments. Obviously, you know, I, I, I lived in that and worked in that for, you know, over five years and Franklin. So I really do understand and have a compassionate approach to that. But at the end of the day, I also like to point us to the primary audience that we’re called to serve. The reason why we even exist is to serve and create incremental inbound visitation. And that takes some focus. It really does. It takes some focus, take some shifts and then we can couple, yeah, we can a couple of technologies that help with that. I mean that is the beauty of technology is that it will help us. Uh, it can hurt us too. There’s no doubt about that. But, but it can definitely help us, especially in those situations where we’re under resourced.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:11 Absolutely. Um, well this has been a great conversation so far and I knew it would be, um, I think I said to you, for listeners sake, before we get started, I said, you know, we’ll start with you, uh, telling us your story and we’ll take it from there. And, uh, I knew there’d be no lack of things for me to ask you about. And I feel like a lot of what we’ve already talked about are things that will help, um, destinations or tourism marketers be more creative and really stand out from, you know, stand out from the crowd, which is really the, the very first question that I like to ask my guests. Um, but before we kind of move on to this idea and topic of collaboration, I want to give you the opportunity to talk about a new program that street senses launching that, that I know you and I have talked about and I’m Ralph Thompson from street sense has talked to me about this as well, because I think it’ll actually naturally flow into our next topic on collaboration. And that is that program, um, vibrant destinations, I believe is what you’re launching.

Josh Collins: 21:10 Yeah. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s one of the big things that drew me to street sense, uh, in the first place is in, uh, you know, coming alongside, uh, other destinations, more destinations, certainly, and helping develop really sustainable holistic plans. Right. This isn’t, um, so many of the times you really do see tourism bureaus that the CVB or the DMO, uh, you know, the Destination Marketing Organization and the Convention and visitors bureau, you see them operate in silos and, and bubbles. Um, and you know, regardless of their size, you know, and they, they could be the small like, you know, one or two person office or they could have a, you know, actually incorporated. Now they’re a CVC, a convention and Visitors Corp and they’ve got, you know, a hundred plus people or whoever, you know, a major city, um, many times, right? They operate in a little bit of a bubble, a little bit of a silo.

Josh Collins: 22:05 Um, and there’s, there’s, uh, facets and, and really important segments of the community that, whose voices one don’t get heard. Uh, and it creates a lot of hurdles for a destination to thrive. Uh, and so I, I love the vibrant destinations model that we’ve been developing and that we’re kicking off this fall is, it’s all around bringing those people to the table and creating a big picture plan, a big picture vision that everyone buys into. And now all of a sudden, you know, we all coalesce around this. Like we understand the brand. This is because we’ve all agreed on it. This is who we are. This is who we say we are. This is who we say, you know, where we say we want to go. Uh, we do a lot of research right on the front end, uh, to understand, uh, all of these different, uh, segments, these audience of sex, you know, the consumers, right?

Josh Collins: 22:55 The inbound tourists, uh, understand what the pent up demand is going to be, right? And then we analyze the community on base of these, of these pillars, right? I mean, our research has proven, uh, there’s lots of these four pillars, pillars that create a vibrant destination. One of them, which is, you know, safety and security, right? I mean, these are really, really big, big topics that, um, the tr, the tourism brand, the tourism bureau, the destination should be leading the community in, you know, in partnership with a forward thinking government, right? And together, they need to be creating, you know, this vision, longterm commitment to that vision. And so, um, vibrant destinations model that we’ve developed is a really fun and exciting way of getting that. And then what it does is it creates so much synergy that then drives into the tactical approach that a would do, right?

Josh Collins: 23:47 You know what I mean? So many times the one or 2% a team is like, they’re going about and they get hit up by new technology, right? A new vendors cold called them or something that somebody has come to them or they’ve heard this at the conference and they’re like, oh, what a cool, new fun thing. And they go, oh, let’s try that. Well now we’ve given them a roadmap to go, you know what, it’s not time to try that because here’s where you are in your journey. Here’s where you are according to the plan. So again, it helps give a grid and a filter by which you can process these decisions and be a little quicker and be a little more agile, but then be way more effective. One with the revenue, with, you know, with the revenue and resources you have, you know, the marketing dollars are allowed there that you’ve been given to steward. Um, and it gives you really a good tool set to go. Now I know exactly what I’m doing, who I’m going after, what they look like and what the results will be. So it’s, it’s a really incredible product. And, and again, it’s, it’s one of the biggest things that drew me to street sense.

Nicole Mahoney: 24:44 Yeah. Um, I, it sounds really awesome. I love that it’s holistic and, and that you’re really trying to push the CVBs or the deemos or, um, out of their silos. Um, I’m curious who else is at that table and in particular, I’m really curious about the role of economic development. You met, you mentioned forward thinking governments, but a lot of times I’m, you know, think about vibrant destinations beyond just the visitor and it’s more about the community and what’s in the community. And economic development of course, is a big role in that. So how are you engaging through this process with, with that piece of government?

Josh Collins: 25:25 Yeah, I mean, they, they’ve got to have a seat at the table. Um, you really need to be working step and you know, uh, lockstep with your, whoever is in charge of your economic development, whether that’s, you know, the chamber and they are their own organization or if they are a department of the government, right? The municipality or the county or whatever it looks like all of those, uh, stakeholders need to be bought in and have a seat at the table here. And so when we come in and, and we sit down with the destination and we develop these plans and have these listening sessions and perform these swat analysis and, you know, uh, it’s really crucial that all of these voices, uh, are, are at the table, you know, including the hospitality sector, right. Including the small business sector. Um, all of them need to be working together.

Josh Collins: 26:11 So you’re absolutely right there. The economic development is a huge part of it because if you’re, if you’re a small destination and you realize that, um, let’s say for example, your main street doesn’t drive the visitation that you, that you needed to. And part of that is because your retail mixes on, right? Uh, well, Eh, economic development needs to see the table so that they can assist and you know, based on what we understand the foot traffic to be and the demand and the leakage and the amount of money that you’re leaving on the table, we can help you create these plans that actually attract the right retail mix, right. That to where the, the businesses that are going to be sustained, uh, and will actually become vibrant businesses themselves, uh, can come and, uh, find a home and then the entire, the entire community wins at that point. So all of that is a part of the, you know, the puzzle. All of it’s a part of the journey, if you will, um, that we take destinations through with as a part of this fiber destinations process.

Nicole Mahoney: 27:06 Yeah. I think that’s, I think that’s really awesome. And I’m, you know, so much, uh, so many times I think not only does tourism operate in a silo, but I think it’s viewed as being so separate from, yeah. The activities of economic development. Um, and, and a lot of what, uh, tourism marketers are doing is showing off the best assets, right, of this, of the community that they represent. And so have you seen places where destinations have been successful in not just resonating and focusing on the visitor, but also helping and connecting, you know, within the community and helping with that community pride that, you know, yeah,

Josh Collins: 27:49 I will say, I mean, I’m probably a little bit biased toward Franklin, Tennessee, south of Nashville, you know, the community where I really, you know, Shepard and steward did this for the last five year and half and five and a half years really. But I think they do it well. Um, I remember when I, you know, started to put some, it’s so funny, there were similar tracks here between, you mentioned Ralph earlier between Ralph, what Ralph was doing with street sense and what I was doing at in Franklin and part of which, why we make such a great team, um, at at street sense. But yeah, Franklin, I, I just remember this so clearly almost four years ago, um, really putting into play a campaign strategy that did exactly that, that was probably more local focused. But what it did was really tap into the pillars of [inaudible] why we love living where we live.

Josh Collins: 28:36 Um, why do we enjoy this community? What makes it such an amazing community that we just love and that we want, that we naturally, you know, share it with like, what, what are those things? Uh, and through that campaign, uh, I’ll never forget, I mean, as a small, you know, as a small destination in the shadow of a major metro area like Nashville, you know, it’s like a, just had started having explosive growth, not just digitally and on the platform and brand growth, but visitation, right? I mean a, then it’s showing up downstream to actual overnight incremental visitors. And you know, the average destination I think, you know, grows around 3% a year. I mean last year it dipped a little bit lower to 1.9 nationally, but every year, year after year after year, we were able to drive incredible results. Six nine, six and a half.

Josh Collins: 29:21 And then 1313 and a half, 13.6% in 2018 alone. So all of these things started working together to create that obviously, but so much of it and our, our member, I remember, you know, people going, oh, I can’t believe you’re doing this. I can’t believe you’re, why are you focusing on your locals and the community? And I’m like, this is, this is marketing one a little bit. Like it’s way easier to activate people who, who love it. Then to try to convince people who’ve never been here to love it. I mean that’s just like, that’s a no brainer to me. It really is. And [inaudible], you know, there’s such a huge important piece of the puzzle when all of that vibrancy, right? It creates something really sticky and something really attractive. And then that shows up existentially in the content that gets created in a photos that can take in and the videos that get shot in the smiles, I mean, all of that shows up downstream.

Josh Collins: 30:11 And so when you’re a consumer and you’re scrolling through your news feed and you see something and it’s really easy to make things look pretty, it really is. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s easy to take pretty photos. It’s easy to make really cinematic, compelling video content. It’s another thing for those to be in congruent. And the consumer knows that, right? I mean, at the end of the day, we just know when we’re being sold a bill of goods and nobody, right? I say this whole time, but nobody wants to become the means to your end, right? So that, that has a, that has an existential, um, reality to it that I think we ignore and marketing a lot of times, uh, and it may be more on the touchy feely side and not on the data science side, but nevertheless, it’s really powerful and really true. And so in Franklin, we started to see that and we just started to see great numbers.

Josh Collins: 30:59 Uh, obviously, you know, organic numbers on Facebook and social and web and everything else. But again, all of that work together through this really holistic strategy, creating better partnerships for their local stakeholders or economic development team and, and on and on. So as they’re attracting businesses, those businesses that are coming in and taking tours of the destination, they’re meeting people who are generally good, happy, smiling people that are loving where they live, right? That creates this really attractive culture. And, you know, back to kind of the philosophical side, here you go. We’re just attracted to that kind of stuff. Like as human beings, we are really attracted where we see life. Uh, and, and so much of the tourism products, so much of tourism marketing, destination marketing is about showcasing that. It’s elevating that and which means if you don’t have that, the real work, the needs to start locally needs to start in the community. Right? Um, so all of that just, it makes sense to me logically. Uh, but I’ve also seen it, uh, in practice, not just in Franklin, but in others, other communities as well.

Nicole Mahoney: 32:08 Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that’s a fantastic, um, example. And had you shared any other example, I would have been surprised. So I’m glad you brought up Franklin. Um, and I’m curious, um, do you have any kind of advice or best practices for, to share with our listeners for engaging with those stakeholders? How, how did you really get them interested in what you were doing and get them to the table?

Josh Collins: 32:35 Ah, that’s such a good question. You know, I have just always found that when I go to somebody and I’m honest and like, Hey, I really, I’d love to learn from you. I’d love to sit down, can I, can I take you to lunch or can I take you to coffee and can we sit down and talk? And I’d love to learn from you or pick your brain about this. Right? A lot of times we assume we make assumptions that people aren’t willing to do that with us, or we think that there’s an obstacle that isn’t, uh, that that’s it’s too great of an obstacle to overcome. Well, I think when we really just like take a risk a little, and that is a risk, you know, I mean, it’s a risk to go to somebody that you don’t know, introduce yourself and go, you know, I’m working on something and I don’t, not sure that I know what to do or I’m working on this project here and I don’t know that I have all the resources I need form it.

Josh Collins: 33:23 Can I meet with you and learn from you? Um, by doing that, it’s really incredible what we do. You know, what happens? Uh, you know, back to connection piece, uh, that really tees up connection. It really, really does. Similarly to how when you have an experienced, let’s say at a hotel or at an attraction or in your destination, or you’ve got meetings that are coming in and you’ve just hosted a meeting and the CVB on behalf of the meeting goes, Hey, will you, will you be honest with us and tell us how we did? [inaudible] we really want to know it. It really means a lot to us for us to be invited to learn where we messed up. Well, we want to know, we want to know what we did well too, but will you, will you honor us with your feedback? Those little bit of feedback loops make a ton of difference, um, to the audience and then learning how to connect with the audience.

Josh Collins: 34:14 So similarly, so when we do that with our stakeholders, it’s really powerful. Yeah, absolutely. And I think, um, I love how you pointed out that people might be hesitant because they think, oh, they’re not going to want to talk to me, or you know, they’re not interested in what I have to say. And I’ve actually talked about this on previous shows, but I call that the imposter syndrome syndrome, right? We get in our own way because you think, you know, we don’t have the idea all ironed out yet. So we better not raise our hands or not prepared enough. It’s, it is such a common experience to feel that, to feel that I’m not prepared enough. I’m figuring it all out. Like nobody can connect to the expert.

Josh Collins: 34:58 Listen, to be honest, nobody can connect to the ideal human being and that just doesn’t make sense. It’s not true. And that shows up downstream in our business, you know, shows up downstream in our, uh, in our tourism practices. And then, you know, our meetings. So let’s say for example, you’ve got, you know, you’ve had a recent election, you’ve got new councilman, you know, they’re coming in city council members and they’re coming in and it’s like, oh, we’ve heard this person is not tourism friendly. What a great opportunity to create a relationship then and go, will you help me understand your philosophy? I’d really want to know. I just, I’m just curious, right? Build a relationship. You may not agree on everything eye to eye, but I would rather fall on the side of curiosity than assumption and make somebody an enemy.

Nicole Mahoney: 35:42 [inaudible] absolutely. I love that fall on the side of curiosity. That’s a a great way to think about it. And uh, I totally, I totally agree. I think that’s awesome. Well Josh, this has been a great conversation. You, you have so much to share and I’m sure we can keep talking for quite a long time cause only we’ve only really kind of touched the surface of, of what you have been up to. Um, but I want to be respectful of your time and have our listeners time. So, um, before we say goodbye, could you just share if there’s any final things that you’d like to say, anything I didn’t ask you about and then also where our listeners might be able to connect with you?

Josh Collins: 36:20 Well, sure, absolutely. I mean you can find me personally anywhere online, uh, Twitter, Facebook, linkedin, Instagram, um, pretty consistently between all those places. My handle is six steps to six, eight, six, s. T. E p. S the number is two, six, eight. Uh, so love to have you connect with me there. Stripe could strike up a conversation or email me directly at j a the letter j, Collins, c, O, l, l, I, N s, [inaudible] street, I’d be more than happy to connect. Um, if you’re ever in the Middle Tennessee area or run across it, you know, perhaps at an event or something. I’d love to love to take you to coffee and sit down and have a conversation and learn more about you and, and figure out how we can work together and help. I mean, that’s just, that’s so much of my passion with street sense is how we can come alongside and help these communities thrive, develop vibrant communities that are, uh, you know, holistic in their strategy, right?

Josh Collins: 37:13 So it’s not, um, where we’re, you know, the tourism bureaus is run and doing their own thing or the economic development councils run and doing their own thing or whoever, but we’re all on the same page, really working together to foster and steward the great resources that we have in our communities. Um, that’s, that’s just drives so much of why I wake up and, uh, what I enjoy about these projects and in the process, right. I mean, the process really is the win. I mean, it’s great at the end of the day, like, you know, to have this success, to have the record of success that I’ve had at Franklin, that’s really great, but as end of the day, it’s the process. It’s the people, it’s the relationships. Um, and, and seeing those, uh, grow over time, that’s the, that’s just extremely, um,

Nicole Mahoney: 37:55 fruitful for me personally. Absolutely. And we can, we can hear it in your voice and then everything that you’ve shared with us today. So, um, I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule and, um, we’ll look forward to connecting with you again.

Josh Collins: 38:08 Well, thanks so much for having me. What a gift. Seriously, what an honor and, uh, can’t wait to see you down the road.Nicole Mahoney: 38:13 Sounds great. Thanks, Josh.

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