Rebranding and Other Unique Tourism Strategies, with Judi Hess

Episode 147

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Judi Hess is the Director of Visit Binghamton, a position she has held since June 2016. Prior to her promotion, Judi was the Manager of Tourism & Special Events for over 20 years. Visit Binghamton is a department of the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce that is focused on increasing tourism in Broome County. Visit Binghamton is the official tourism promotion agency for Broome County. Judi has been with Visit Binghamton since 1995. Visit Binghamton focuses on tourism promotion, consumer marketing, cooperative advertising programs and making sales calls on professional planners (sporting groups, conventions, and tour groups). Tourism is an ever-changing industry with new initiatives and opportunities, and Judi welcomes the opportunity to never stop learning and taking on new challenges. Additionally, she serves on several local committees and works closely with our elected officials and hospitality industry partners. In 2017 the new Visit Binghamton brand was unveiled, giving the CVB a new look, new direction, and new energy. The rebrand is one of Judi’s proudest accomplishments. Judi enjoys travel and experiencing new things as well as exploring the community she lives in. From great dining and craft beverages to taking in a hockey game, life is good! A lifelong resident of Broome County, she sees her work as a way to let everyone know what a great place this is to visit, live and work. On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Judi Hess about her rebrand of Visit Binghamton and the variety of partnerships and creative solutions she’s used to craft a spectacular destination.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How a rebrand revitalized Binghamton’s tourism industry and the creativity that Judi and her team put into that
  • The challenges that have brought out Judi’s creativity and how she and her team stepped up and tackled the adversity
  • Judi’s team’s usage of technology and video to promote Binghamton
  • Unique strategies Judi has used to expand Binghamton’s reach over social media
  • All of the collaborations that have helped Binghamton blossom as a tourist destination
  • Creating strong partnerships and steps you can take to help parties relate to each other
  • Engaging the local community to improve satisfaction for both visitors and people who live at your destinations

A Creative Rebrand

Binghamton is a vibrant and bustling part of New York that’s growing in popularity with each day. We can point to many factors for its success, and one of them is the fresh new take on its tourism department, Visit Binghamton. The department has its director, Judi Hess, to thank for its recent 2017 rebrand. Judi is very proud of this accomplishment, and I was happy to have her share it with me. Judi and her team saw the incredible things happening in their community and knew it was time for a change. With live music almost every night and art galleries opening up where there used to be cigar factories, Visit Binghamton brought restaurants, hotels, government officials, and university representatives to help answer one question: Who are we? This collaboration helped them realize the importance of the individual contributions of every person, whether local or visiting from across the country. Visit Binghamton came out with a fresh new tagline: “Be a Part of Our Story”. Bold colors and prints for the new brand perfectly compliment exciting new developments in Binghamton’s tourist industry. Imagine seeing Animal Adventure Park, an interactive animal exhibit with giraffes, zebras, monkeys, and more. The growing beer industry is promoted by inner tube rides down the Beer Tree River, while the hospitality section has had a drone fly through. It’s no wonder people from across the world tune in to Binghamton’s social media!

Creating Strong Partnerships

Judi’s team couldn’t have done it without the collaborations and partnerships they built along the way. One of the most important, the LUMA Projection Arts Festival, helped Binghamton break into event marketing in an awesome and special way. Connecting LUMA to I Love NY and other NY marketing brands grew the event into a huge and successful show. Using hospitality, restaurants, and travel writing partners has helped this event and partnership blossom in an incredible way. Transparency is one of the key features of partnerships with Judi’s team. By leveraging existing partnerships and introducing those people to new potential collaborators, channels of communication are opened and people begin to speak the same language. Judi’s team acts as a middle man to create strong bonds between organizations and weave a network of cooperation that has helped bring Binghamton to the forefront of New York tourism. On the individual level, Judi focuses heavily on making sure that Binghamton locals are happy and that they see their town as thriving and improving. Judi creates a positive atmosphere that leads the locals to tell their friends across the country how much they love living there. That positivity eventually spreads to Binghamton tourists and secures a future for Binghamton as a popular New York destination.


Nicole Mahoney: 00:20 Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney. Oh, sip intonation 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’m so excited to introduce today’s guest, Judy Hass. Judy is the director of visit Binghamton, a position she has held since June of 2016 prior to her promotion, Judy was the manager of tourism and special events for over 20 years. Visit Binghamton is a department of the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce that is focused on increasing tourism in Broome county visit. Binghamton is the official tourism promotion agency for Broome County and Judy has been there since 1995 is it Binghamton focuses on tourism promotion, consumer marketing, cooperative advertising programs, and making sales calls on professional planners, including sporting groups, conventions, and to our groups. Tourism is an ever changing industry with new initiatives and opportunities and Judy welcomes the opportunity to never stop learning and taking on new challenges.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:21 Additionally, she serves on several local committees and works closely with elected officials and hospitality industry partners. In 2017 the visit Binghamton brand was unveiled, giving the CVB a new look, new direction, and new energy. This is one of Judy’s proudest accomplishments. From January, 2017 through December, 2018 Judy served as the president of the central New York tourism rich region. She enjoyed leading her tourism region as well as the opportunity it provided to work more closely with. I love New York tourism officials. Judy graduated from Herkimer community college with a degree in travel and tourism and she completed her college studies with a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University. Judy enjoys travel and experiencing new things as well as exploring the community she lives in from great dining and craft beverages to taking in a hockey game. Life is good. A lifelong resident of Broome county. She sees her work as a way to let everyone know what a great place this is to visit, live and work. Thank you so much for joining me, Judy.

Judi Hess: 02:22 Oh, Nicole, thank you for having me.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:24 I just love your bio because it, um, it just kind of exudes sort of the excitement and passion that you have for this industry. So I know that this is going to be a really great conversation and our listeners are going to learn a lot from you. Um, but before we dive in, can you tell us a little bit more about your story in your own words? I find it adds so much more context to our conversation.

Judi Hess: 02:45 Oh my gosh, absolutely. I know it’s always so hard to put down in writing something and I guess sometimes I write like I talk. So yeah, when you talk about the enthusiasm, I think that my voice coming through there. Um, but no, I became a part of, um, the greater random thing, convention and visitor’s bureau in 1995. And um, to be honest, I didn’t even know that that was a career option at the time. I wasn’t sure, you know, like you see the ads for Vegas and for really big cities, but I didn’t even realize that our county did that. So when, um, when I joined the bureau, it just like everything clicked. I always knew from a young age that I wanted to be in the travel and tourism industry, but I wasn’t sure where my best fit was. Um, I’ve been at travel agent, I worked for an airline, you know, I had done all those other things, but really found the passion in the tourism promotion. And, um, I do, I love the community here, but it’s such a great way to get the word out to the rest of the world about what goes on here and the things that they can see and do that it’s, it’s fun. And, and I’ve also been blessed since day one to have amazing coworkers that we really become a team and a family. And so showing up at work everyday becomes fun.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:04 Oh yeah. And that’s so important, right? Not just to be passionate about the, uh, the industry that you work in, but also to be passionate about. You know, going to work and enjoying, you know, the people that you spend a huge portion of your time with.

Judi Hess: 04:18 True. Because I mean, it’s what we found is that the energy, we, we feed each other’s energy. You know, we’re very fortunate that we don’t have anyone that brings us down and you know, is the Naysayer. And, um, and I’m always amazed in this industry when I find people like that because it just seems so counterintuitive to what we do. Uh, but no, we’ve always been just, you know, looking forward, I am the prize and our rebranding in 2017 gave all of us like a new lease on life really, really re-ignited our passion for what we did.

Nicole Mahoney: 04:51 Oh, that’s, that’s really awesome. So what I love about what you shared with us is that, um, you know, you knew from a young age that you wanted to be in the travel industry and just weren’t sure what that would look like. Um, and then how you found your way, you know, to the Chamber of commerce and learned that there was this field such as tourism promotion or destination marketing, which I think is just, um, just really awesome that you were able to build your, you know, build your career, build on your past experiences and your degrees and, and really kind of, um, take your career for many years right down that path. Yeah,

Judi Hess: 05:28 absolutely. And, and it was such a great way to learn. Um, you know, and I know I touched on it, but one of my favorite things about the tourism industry is, no two days are ever the same. You know, you’re not doing computer programming or coding where you’re kind of coming in and doing the same thing. It’s like every day is different because something new opens up or uh, you know, a different medium opens up for us to communicate through. I mean, what social media has done for tourism promotion is, is crazy. Um, I think that’s what keeps it also fresh and something new. And you definitely have to embrace it. You can’t do things the way you used to do them and expect to get the same results, you know, so, um, I love the changing aspect of tourism.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:11 Absolutely. I think that’s great. And that’s a great point too. You know, that, that it’s not just about, you know, the new openings, you know, the, the new attraction or the new brewery or the new restaurant. But it’s also about the changing landscape of, you know, the tools that you use as a marketer, uh, that keep it. Um, I love what you called fresh and new. I think that’s awesome.

Judi Hess: 06:31 Well, the last thing I was going to say is what I also found very unique about our industry is the national contacts that you made. You know, like we’ve, we’ve got great contacts within our county and in our region and in New York state. But you know, you go to trade shows and you’re talking to people from other cities and other destinations and they face the same thing and you know, you can learn from them, you can grow. And then you also have a whole nother pool of really good peers to bounce ideas off of.

Nicole Mahoney: 06:59 Oh absolutely. And I met he huge fan of peer-to-peer, you know, networking and, and having that resource and um, you make a really good point in terms of, you know, having that connectivity and, and I hope the show actually serves in that way too. That was really kind of the premise of the show is just to give another outlet place for, you know, travel professionals to learn from one another. So

Judi Hess: 07:21 absolutely. It definitely does.

Nicole Mahoney: 07:23 Yeah. And so I’m, I want to dive into this first topic, which is creativity because I, I’m thinking we’re going to talk a little bit about your new brand cause I’d love to learn about that. Um, but you know, the first thing that we like to focus on and creativity is just how competitive this industry is and how many choices there are for people, um, of places to visit, things to do or frankly just to, you know, stay home or, or go to my kid’s soccer game. There’s so many things competing for our time right now. And so I’m wondering what you have done to, you know, help visit Binghamton really stand out from the crowd.

Judi Hess: 07:59 I think what it was, um, and the branding definitely touched us often in all of the directions that we wanted to go in. Um, we were even from my perspective of working here for all those years, it was kind of, I felt like we felt like a tire destination. Yeah. And, um, I think we were doing things a lot in the same way that we always had and not really getting the new message out cause there were amazing things happening in our community. Um, we had art galleries opening up in, um, old faces that used to be cigar factories and we had, um, you know, a music scene that there’s usic almost every single night of the year in Broome County and no one knew it. And it’s so you’re right, it’s how do you compete? How do you get that attention? Grab that person and make them say, hey, this might be a cool place that’s worth my time.

Judi Hess: 08:52 And it’s stemmed from our branding and we brought a lot of our stakeholders to the table, whether it be an elected official, because of course we’re funded through county occupancy tax. Um, we had hotel partners, we had attractions, restaurant, um, really, um, even art, like our community college and our thing in university, we have representatives from them at the table because we were like, okay, who are we and what do we want the world to see when they think of us? And um, so it started out and the exercise was so fascinating to watch because like our museum is like, well, the number one reason people visit here is my museum. And that’s what you need to focus on. And then, you know, you get the restaurant going, no, the number one reason people come here like food in my restaurant that you had what you need to focus on.

Judi Hess: 09:45 And then as the conversation started going on, people let go of that, me and mine and, and we’re really embracing the community overview. And what we realized is we’re a community that is built on the past, but that we’re taking the path in new direction. And so that’s where we, we went to. And then before a lot of people started doing it, I’m very proud of the fact that we came up with the tagline of be part of our story and we were doing it on a story basis to invite the visitor or the resident in and saying, okay, this is what we think our story is. Copy a part of it, write your own chapter in our book. And um, it was just really cool to see all of that kind of [inaudible] and uh, and come out with something I think completely strong, very different than anything we’ve ever done in the past. And, um, taking the leap of faith with does it Binghamton being a county, you know, run and funded, um, entity, it’s not always easy to drop that Broome county name. Um, but our people embraced it from every walk of life, from every corner of this county. The look, the feel and the messaging was just something that was really well overseed.

Nicole Mahoney: 11:03 That’s awesome. And can you describe for our listeners what the new brand is all about?

Judi Hess: 11:09 Absolutely. Um, we went with a very bold type, um, print for our font and, and our colors. We’ve got orange and pink and teal and blue things that really pop out at you as something that looks fun and engaging. And then, like I said, with the tagline of be part of our story, it’s saying to people, you know, come, come be a part of it. And I think that’s what we got out of that more than anything because that’s what we’re really trying to do every day in tourism as a destination is they come, please come here and see it, experience it. And we checked right. Incorporated that in our tagline thing. Yep. Come here and be a part of our story. Um, and it’s really cool because, um, in the past, you know, we were kind of dated and we would do the big on the 10, but the, we always attack the Broome county and things like that. And it just, we just needed to break free. We just needed to look forward and we were very lucky. Um, the biggest part of our logo visit Bangkok is bing, B, I. N. G, e, huge in your face, colorful. And a lot of our entities locally are embracing that as well. So being able to the universities, they go by being pride, our restaurant association in downtown is eight thing and you choose more and more seats. People embracing that as a, a fun way to represent our community.

Nicole Mahoney: 12:37 That’s awesome. I think that’s so cool when a brand that’s developed, you know, for the visitor really resonates locally and, and has legs beyond just, you know, attracting the visitors. Right,

Judi Hess: 12:48 exactly, exactly. It’s important because, you know, we need our local residents to, to feel that pride as well because, you know, they’re, they’re the people welcoming people or not welcoming,

Nicole Mahoney: 13:00 right.

Judi Hess: 13:01 The worst thing that can happen. But um, yeah. So to, to have that pride kind of thing, breading around is, is really gratifying.

Nicole Mahoney: 13:09 Yeah, that’s really, really awesome. So I, I like this next question because I, I like to ask my guests to kind of think of a time, um, that they may have faced a challenge or some sort of adversity and then share with us the creative solution that came from that. I think we’re at our creative best when we’re in that problem solving, you know, time. And I’m wondering if there’s something that you can share with us, um, you know, where you would face to challenge and, and kind of what came from that.

Judi Hess: 13:38 Um, definitely, uh, I think one of the problems, uh, that we faced is kind of the perception and it for a long time it was local perception but was definitely outside perception. It kind of like the rust belt, for lack of a better word. You know, it’s like, I don’t know, Binghamton was a place that was, um, or wow. Yeah, they were cool in the 80s, but, and it was really a thing that we’re facing with, um, the selling ourselves anywhere, whether it be to the sports market or you know, to convince your sales or even motor coach groups when we were doing targeted, um, sales calls and things like that, people were like, yeah, you know, you guys were, and so what we started doing is we incorporated video stories and, uh, we did that on an individual basis for some of our attractions. For instance, um, we have a very cool Taco Bar, a restaurant in downtown Binghamton that is called the garage Taco bar because it literally was a gas station and garage back in the early, like sixties seventies, whatever.

Judi Hess: 14:53 So it was taking that story of, of a, making a garage into something very new and cool. And we did the video asking the owner his story, share with us why you picked this place, why you’re in this community, what is it, what’s your passion, what drives you? And that video series help us tell the story. So what we found our greatest opportunity in was expanding that between telling stories from a tourism perspective to what we did for our meeting and convention market is we literally hired a company. Um, our two main conference properties are about a block and a half apart from each other. Both of them have gone through massive renovation and are very up to date, modern, clean, exactly what every meeting planners looking for. And we did a video we literally went into for the hotels into their meeting space, into their guest rooms, into every corner of the hotel. But then we took a drone and we went from the one hotel to the other to show them how close it was. So even if your hotel had to overflow, it was quick and easy connections. So it was taking that technology of the video, but adding in the drone footage, which people love and can relate to and showing the ease, the connectivity and the modernization that’s going on here.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:15 Hmm. I think that’s, uh, that’s really great. I love how you’re leveraging video, you know, to help address some of those perceptions that you talked about. And you know, I think a lot of us in upstate New York can relate to some of that rustbelt perception, right? Like, um, you know, changing academies and, and what, what our story is now. Um, and I just think that’s great. Now this garage Taco bar sounds really awesome. I think I’ve got to make sure to go to it.

Judi Hess: 16:46 Amazing. Margarita. And this tacos are really good.

Nicole Mahoney: 16:50 Yeah.

Judi Hess: 16:51 It’s so funny because you know, you talk about that and it’s true. Um, one of the things we found with a video, like again, back when I started been doing this a long time, meeting planners or sports planners or events rights holders had time or would take time to visit a community. People don’t have that time anymore. So the, you know, fam tours still happening. I’m not minimizing that. But that one on one site inspection where you can try to get somebody from, you know, a man, a meeting planning company to come into your community to see what’s going on. Those days are gone. So you need to figure out another way to give them that tour in a virtual way. And for us, like VR with the offer, but we don’t have the budget for VR. So how can we make the new technology work within our budget?

Nicole Mahoney: 17:39 [inaudible] yeah, I think that’s great. And uh, and I also love how you’re, you know, as, as a destination market or you’re looking at the tools that are out there and you’re looking something like VR and saying, yeah, this would work, but I have my, you know, I’m confined by my resources. And then coming up with a creative way to solve for that through the video and by adding in that drone footage to really kind of give the planner a feel for what it is that you’re selling.

Judi Hess: 18:06 Exactly. Yeah. And you know, we’re also very fortunate that with that video, our two downtown properties, our conference properties are along our river front. So you kind of got a little glimpse of that too. You know, you go out on a sunny day when the trees are in full bloom and everything looks pretty, so, you know.

Nicole Mahoney: 18:23 Yeah, absolutely. That’s awesome. So, Judy, I’m looking into the future. Is there a project that you’re working on that you’re really excited about?

Judi Hess: 18:34 You know, one of the things that we’re doing and we’ve been doing it for a little while, but we keep taking it in, in different directions than expanding on it. [inaudible] is what we’re doing with our social media. Um, [inaudible] we, one of my sales team, Kathy, who you had talked with, she wanted to take over doing our social media. We had outsourced it to our ad agency and she came up to me, she was like, you know, I think I can do better. I think I can make this different and I think I could make it fresh and have impact. And so I’m like, sure, I’ll give you a shot. And then after I agreed to this, she told me her big plan was to actually kind of do Facebook live with me, talking to people, interviewing people, going places, doing things, you know. And, um, I kinda hesitated cause we were always taught, you know, you take the picture of the landscape and yes, there might be people in there but you don’t really put yourself in it, you want the person to picture themselves there.

Judi Hess: 19:29 So, um, I kind of, you know, hesitated, but we did it and it’s been highly successful for us. Um, we have animal adventure park locally, um, has done some really cool marketing initiatives. He was the first one to put in the live cam when April the giraffe was giving birth in 2017 and he got garnered fans from all over the world. Like we’ve got people from England and Ireland and China that follow animal adventure because again, he invited them in. And so what we found is like I go out there and I’ll do an interview with Jordan and, and these people started following us and they were really craving that, um, that media because we, we go out there and we’re like looking at the new babies and we’re looking at what’s new and interesting. And while he and I are talking, a doggy is breaking in the background and we have to stop talking cause it’s too loud and people are laughing and it’s just so genuine.

Judi Hess: 20:30 I think that’s what we’re, we’re coming through is that it’s coming through as very genuine and people can relate to it and then they’re more curious than they’re sparked to do it. So, um, so we’re, we’re always looking at a different way of, of showing people what their experience can be like. Um, last we were having to have for the first time in awhile, uh, an event called, uh, the beer tree river float whenever our correct beverage companies and it was going from a state park via the water on the river, whether it be a canoe, a kayak, float, um, a homemade device that you’re floating down the river in any way to get from point a to point B. And what we did to promote it is our county executive and the owners of the place, we were in

Nicole Mahoney: 21:12 inner tube in the river. You two can do this, you know, and uh,

Judi Hess: 21:19 where I see the most fun in our, our expansion is by continuing to do those super fun things through social media. And again, kind of with the videos and things like that to get people engaged.

Nicole Mahoney: 21:31 Right. And I really see the thread of how your new, you know, brand be part of the story is really kind of showing through in all of these initiatives that you’re working on. I love that your county executive, you know, in the, the owner of the beer company, you are floating in the river. I mean, they really aren’t part of this story. Right,

Judi Hess: 21:49 exactly, exactly. And I think, um, you know, I know I might be jumping ahead, but that’s, that’s kind of the key of what we’ve also started doing. What we found with the new brand and with the new energy that we were generating. Our partnerships locally have flourished. Um, we have more cooperative marketing programs, advertising packages with more groups because they feel a part of what we’re doing. And um, so our collaboration is out there and the more you’re collaborating, you’re learning from people. And you’re learning about people and are our county officials or county executive in our legislature are so supportive and they love the direction we’re going in. So it’s building partnerships locally and it’s really benefited us greatly.

Nicole Mahoney: 22:38 Yeah, that’s fantastic. And that is a perfect segue into this next section on collaboration and I’d love to learn more about, um, how those local partnerships are evolving. Can you, can you talk about a specific partnership that you know has evolved in and kind of what you’re doing with that?

Judi Hess: 22:55 Yeah. Um, one of the ones that I’m going to use, it’s actually a huge event we have coming up first weekend in September, it’s called the Luma projection arts festival. And it is as amazing as it sounds, they literally project art on buildings and the buildings kind of disappear in the art takes over. And it’s an incredible experience. But when they first came to us, we had never done much event marketing in the old school. You know, it’s like, no, we have to promote our hotels and our attractions and we have to be the, the umbrella. And so the umbrella for everything. And we’ve thrown that away a little bit because you need to shine the spotlight on those events or attractions or things that make you different. And Luma is that all in one. And it started with us just kind of supporting them a little bit, dipping our toe in the pool and then we worked with them to get them connected with, I love New York in a market, New York grant and then associates.

Judi Hess: 23:55 And so they really made those in roads to the point where now like we’re one of the major sponsors of the event and we do all sorts of things with him and we’ve taken them to media nights. I love New York media night and we’ve, um, help them forge relationships with our hospitality partners because that support back and forth is important because people will come and stay overnight or stay for a weekend. And it’s how you then cross promote and get them to do other things in the community. Because by nature, the projection are, is at night. So people have time can go out during the day and see and explore and experience. And so we’ve had, you know, travel writers talk with them. They’re actually going to be one of our new videos as our be part of our story to try to get that story of how this all started out there. So it’s too, all of that has mushroomed and blossomed and help us to promote this event. And it, it also, the more people that are hopped on his bandwagon, the more of a good housekeeping seal they got. So the more support and it’s definitely been a cumulative effect.

Nicole Mahoney: 25:02 Yeah, I think, I think that’s a great example and um, it, cause there’s so, there’s so many different prongs to, you know, what you’ve been able to do, um, with that event and all of those different connections that you’ve made, um, from the funding source, you know, from the market New York grant to the state tourism office, which I love New York too, that media event. Um, and then those local hospitality partners. I think that’s a great, great example. And I’m wondering if, um, you have any, you know, best practices or thoughts on how, how to manage a partnership like that. What are some best practices that really go into making that successful?

Judi Hess: 25:38 Yeah, I think one of the things that we’ve, um, we’ve done overall is more transparency. And I know that sometimes gets a bad connotation in the world, but we’re just very open. And when we have a conversation with someone and we see that there’s a, there could be a possible connection, you know, we try to forge those relationships early. One of the things that has helped us a lot, again, it’s since the rebranding, we have a local crater, big mountain hospitality and Tourism Association. It’s, um, kind of like under the Nesta umbrella for organizationally how it’s run. So there’s, you know, a lot of hotels, but we do have attractions and restaurants and, um, you know, different people that are a part of that association. So a lot of times what we’ll do is we’ll be like, hey, let’s get Joshua from Luma to be the next monthly speaker so that he can tell you what he’s doing.

Judi Hess: 26:30 You guys can tell them. I tell him how life becomes a little bit easier, you know, if he does it this way instead of that way and really start to create, you know, forge strong partnership. So we’ve done that a lot. We’ve just invited the people to the table, maybe introductions and explained to the event person how he needs to talk in hospitality language. Like what are the hot buttons for a hotel or restaurant? How does it work for them versus how it works for you to make that. They ended up speaking kind of the same language by the time the conversation started. So I think it’s getting the partners together early, but preparing the partners for the way the other ones think it’s not a bad thing, but we all look at life differently. So if they can walk into the meeting kind of getting a glimpse of how to relate with each other, the meeting’s going to be a lot more productive.

Nicole Mahoney: 27:26 Absolutely. I think that’s a huge point that you’re making right there. And not just to bring people to the table or to make those connections, but to actually prepare both parties. Right. And setting those expectations, um, so that they can have a productive conversation.

Judi Hess: 27:44 Exactly. Exactly. And then, you know, and then sometimes you have to say that, um, the person that’s prodding them along, you know, cause they may meet and then everyone gets back to your life. So you kind of just do that touch base every so often you copy people in, you know, um, I’m not a reply all person. I find that annoying if all those not need to be included on the reply, but by including everybody and not reaching out to lumen saying, hey, how’s it going with the hotels? But by doing that opening thing, hey, Joshua, are things going great with Christine and Christine? Do you guys need anything from us? How are things going? What can we do to help? So you just came in with that, the conversations continue.

Nicole Mahoney: 28:25 Yeah, absolutely. So the follow through for sure, I’m on your end to really to really help them, um, move it along. I think that’s, that’s just a great best practice and something that our listeners can, I’m sure relate to. Yeah. So Judy, um, this last question is one that we’ve been exploring. I started to asking it just this year, um, and exploring with our guests and that it’s this whole idea about the evolution of a destination marketer. And we’ve kind of talked a little bit about it just through this whole conversation, but the idea that destination marketers are needing to take a more holistic approach to managing the destination’s brand and story, um, not just focused on the visitor, but also on that local engagement. And I know you’ve, you’ve already shared so much with us, but what do you think about when you’re thinking about the evolution of, of your role and of destination marketing?

Judi Hess: 29:21 I think you’re exactly right. I think what we found when we started to do the rebrand is that we were able to engage are locals. So how do you keep that momentum going? But how do you also increase it? Um, and one of the programs that we’re doing to try to tackle that is, um, we launched a new program called Bang Basadur, um, to be ambassadors for our community and volunteers. So it’s kind of a two prong effect if especially like for a young professional, um, that’s moved to the area that doesn’t feel a part of something. You want them to be engaged. So if we can reach these people and get them to volunteer at whatever thing that it is that they’re interested in, whether if the, okay, I love the philharmonic and they’re doing, um, pops on the river and they’re looking for volunteers.

Judi Hess: 30:10 So I get to listen to this Austin concerts for free and do a part and meet some people, you know, getting engaged, getting, um, invested in the community more beyond being engaged. We want our local residents to truly be invested in our event, in our attractions, in the thing from a tourism perspective that makes us so unique so that they feel that pride. And then we’re going beyond that to say, okay, you’re not the person that really wants to be the cheerleader out there. You know on the 18th green during the Dick’s sporting goods open. How about just learning about your community so you can speak privately about it. So that’s the other part, kind of the ambassador part of our Bang Basser program is we’re doing training to let people know about the great restaurants about the attraction because people who live here often have never written one of our carousels or gone to animal adventure or realize that our zoo is the fifth oldest zoo in the nation.

Judi Hess: 31:11 So if we can even just do like little training seminars or little orientations and get them excited about living here, then when our visitors are in town and they run into a local person somewhere, cause we all have to go to target and pick up that last minute, something you forgot. If you run into someone who feels great about the community, if you ask them question, it just increases everything. So that’s how we’re trying to do it, where we’re really going to be doing, reaching out through our rotary club, through our young professional organization, through some of our, our businesses like visions, federal credit union. They try to get their employees to, to do that, to give back. So we’re trying to give them an easy avenue to engage their employees. For us to educate your employees on everything there is to see and doing this community and make it a well rounded, um, experience and get more and more people to be our cheerleaders and helping us sell this community.

Nicole Mahoney: 32:10 That sounds like such a fantastic program and so well-rounded, right? It’s, um, it’s not, you know, lots of, uh, destinations have ambassador programs or my, you know, engage with volunteers for different events. But it sounds like you’ve really thought through the, the whole kind of experience and you know, everything from different ways to engage, uh, with the locals, but also how to reach them, you know, in thinking about how are we to reach them through the rotary clubs, the young professional organizations and even those businesses. Um, because you’re so right, right. If they, you know, if they really are excited about living there, um, that is totally going to impact, you know, your visitors and visitor experience when they’re there or get them to invite their friends and family to come visit or whatever it might be. Right. Yeah.

Judi Hess: 33:02 And we know you and I know and most of your listeners now, tourism is economic development. Absolutely. There’s no question about that. But let’s partner with the chambers of the industrial development agencies, the people working on workforce development, the people struggling to keep a young professional that may have moved to the community for a job and now feels isolated. Let’s all join hands and make those people want to live here and want to stay here and make this community even stronger.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:31 Yeah, absolutely. Those, that kind of coalition building or it goes back to sort of collaboration right. When we were talking about just in a, in a different way, so.

Judi Hess: 33:40 Exactly.

Nicole Mahoney: 33:41 Yeah. That’s awesome. Well, Judy, I knew this would be a great conversation. You, um, your enthusiasm came through throughout the whole thing, which I knew would, but, but you have such great insight and experiences to share and that, and I know a lot of our listeners, you know, I’m sure a lot of what you shared resonates with our listeners and I’m sure they have some good takeaways that they can, you know, think about for their own, um, organizations. Um, is there anything that I did not ask you that you would like to share with us or any parting words that you’d like to say before we say goodbye?

Judi Hess: 34:13 Um, I think it’s chest, you know, like reach out to two people. You know, people you don’t know. Like if one of your listeners was listening to something that I said and, and they want to learn more. Um, what I’ve found in this industry is, yeah, we all compete, but we all share. And you know, if I’ve discovered something that makes your life easier, I’m happy to share that. So give me a call, let, let’s have that conversation. Um, because we grow as a group, you know, I’m, I totally believe in, you know, the boat rising with the river and no one paddling alone. And I think that’s what we try to do every day, whether it’s promoting somebody to come this community and try a garage in an, you know, try the garage Taco Bar, [inaudible] workforce development. What can we do to make the community in our industry better and stronger? And if there’s anyone that I can help to do that, um, I’d be happy to because there’s a lot of people that I tap on their shoulders and I’m like, Hey, I need your help on this, or I need your wisdom or your guidance. And I think that the best thing about what we do.

Nicole Mahoney: 35:19 Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for spending some time with us and for sharing your insights and we’ll look forward to connecting with you again.

Judi Hess: 35:27 That sounds great. Thank you again for having me, Nicole. It’s been great.

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