Influencer Marketing and Community Engagement, with Kevney Dugan

Episode 352

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Born and raised in Michigan, Kevney Dugan grew up playing any sport he could make time for. In the long run, trail running, mountain biking, and fly fishing were the sports that stuck. Fly fishing was the one that offered a working opportunity out of college and took him to Livingston, Montana; San Jose, California; Jackson, Wyoming; and eventually to Bend. Having the opportunity to be the President/CEO of Visit Bend is a dream come true. Rarely does one have the opportunity to take their passions and provide them on such a grand stage to such a wonderful community.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Kevney Dugan and discuss how Visit Bend is leveraging influencer marketing to help build awareness and encourage visitation during off-peak times. We also dig into how his team balances the visitors’ needs with those of residents by concentrating on workforce development and prioritizing sustainability.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Kevney’s unconventional path into destination marketing
  • How Visit Bend has used influencer marketing and why it works so well for them
  • Why they’ve honed their marketing to concentrate on fall, winter, and spring as a great time to visit Bend
  • The importance of bringing the community on board when creating a marketing and PR strategy
  • How Visit Bend is working hard to solve the workforce issue and help young people see travel and tourism as a viable career path
  • Why they created the Bend Sustainability Fund, projects it contributes to, including riverbank restoration and creating new trails, and why it will change the future of the destination

How Visit Bend is telling the Authentic Story of their Destination

Kevney joins us on the podcast to discuss the evolving landscape of consumer engagement and the power of trusted voices in marketing. We discuss why today’s consumers are drawn to information from sources they trust, which means that strategies like influencer marketing are an important consideration for DMOs.

He highlights that collaborating with influencers helps his team share the destination with target demographics. These influencers, using their authentic voices, share their experiences in Bend, leading to significant engagement and even influencing travel decisions based on their experiences.

Creativity in the Face of Challenges

Our discussion sheds light on the importance of adaptability and creative problem-solving, in the wake of unprecedented challenges like those the travel industry faced in 2020. Kevney shares how challenges often spur creativity and innovation, and why, instead of dwelling on the negatives during tough times, it’s crucial to use such moments as learning opportunities, aiming to emerge stronger.

Workforce Development

We also talk about how Visit Bend is engaging middle school and high school-age students and helping them to think about travel and hospitality as a viable career path. He discusses how they hope it’s going to help with the labor shortages they’re currently seeing. Kevney emphasizes that workforce development is all about planting that seed early on and that this industry has some amazing opportunities.


I am so excited to announce that my first book, Stronger Together: Building World-Changing Collaborations that Succeed, has been released! Help me celebrate this milestone and expand your knowledge about collaboration. Find out more information here:

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