Creating Year-Round Demand with Storytelling & Strategy

How this Case Study may be relevant to you: The Haunted History Trail is a shining example of a multi-stakeholder project, as it is a state-wide initiative with over 30 county participants and 85 individual locations, managed by Genesee County Tourism Marketing Director Kelly Rapone.

In the 2017-18 season we earned 178 million media impressions. 64% of Trail Partners attributed an increase in attendance in 2017 to the Haunted History Trail program.

Batcheller Mansion Inn, Photo credit: Amity Photos
Batcheller Mansion Inn, Photo credit: Amity Photos

The Haunted History Trail of New York State is a collection of over 90 creepy, spooky, and downright haunted locations that offer experiences for visitors interested in the paranormal.

Situational Analysis

While most people consider “haunted” to be a fall or October activity, the Haunted History Trail has a unique shoulder season of winter, spring and even summer.

The Challenge

Give the trail a year-round presence to promote trail awareness and inspire travel in drive-to markets of NYS. Also, visitors don’t always know how to travel a trail with hundreds of stops spread across the state.

Mount Hope Cemetery
Mount Hope Cemetery


  • Inspire travel and drive visitation among leisure travelers to haunted attractions, inns and restaurants.
  • Promote trail awareness – both online and in print. Increase awareness of the Haunted History Trail’s attractions and events.
  • Create year-round demand for the Haunted History Trail product.
  • Promote statewide travel within participating NYS vacation regions.
  • Generate interest in events and new offerings on the trail.

Strategic Insight

The Haunted History Trail has a unique product and needs to promote it to visitors interested in spooky travel year-round. Travelers interested in this “taboo tourism” are looking for a thrill, and not necessarily just in the fall.

Focus on the experiences and tell the trail’s story.

Photo: Dr. Best House
Photo credit: Amity Photos

Strategic Approach

  • Position Haunted History Trail stops as year-round destinations.
  • Create themes and develop content that inspires travel
  • Highlight destinations and experiences on the trail.
  • Explain to visitors how they can travel the trail.
  • Position NYS as an industry leader in the creation of cultural trails.
  • Manage trail partners and assets and keep abreast of new and current trail offerings.





  • Public relations: generating earned articles and influencer engagements.
  • Social media: strategic posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Facebook advertising: executing campaigns to drive attendance at events and encourage requests of the trail’s printed brochure.
  • Content marketing: regularly updating content on the trail’s website such as blog posts, and managing the annual print brochure including writing copy and overseeing the design.
  • Developed a photo library to support all initiatives. Planned photo FAMs for a photographer to capture stops along the trail. Created a photo library using Zenfolio for storage and as a sharing tool for media, stakeholders and internal use.
  • Asset management/stakeholder communications: staying on top of new trail offerings and keeping partners well-informed.
Museum of Wayne County, Photo credit: Amity Photos
Museum of Wayne County, Photo credit: Amity Photos
Genesee Falls Inn, Photo credit: Amity Photos
Genesee Falls Inn, Photo credit: Amity Photos


According to a 2017 Economic Impact study conducted by Young Strategies, the Haunted History Trail partners reported an increase in year-over-year attendance with two-thirds (64%) attributing the increase in attendance to the Haunted History Trail program.

Photo: Wing's Castle
Photo credit: Amity Photos

Result Highlights

  • 82 media placements and over 178,000,000 media impressions.
  • Inclusion in (11.3M) roundup, with mention of both the trail and a trail partner.
  • Two feature pieces (online and in print) by Time Out New York that mentioned 14 individual trail partners.
  • Facebook page grew by 40% in 2017 and 23.6% in 2018. Twitter saw 22% growth in 2017 and 8.9% in 2018, and Instagram saw 90.4% growth in engagement year over year.
  • Won Silver Davey Award and PRSA PRism Award for the 2018 social media campaign.
  • Promoted Facebook posts reached 207,384 unique users across two years for events and drove conversions on the website. Many events sold out, pointing to paid social as an indicator of the success.
  • Facebook advertising generated 61,586 brochure requests in 2017 and 85,123 in 2018.
  • Reimagined 36-page printed guide with narrative copy and increased visuals.
  • Won PRSA Award of Excellence and MarCom Award Honorable Mention for the 2018 printed brochure.