Digital Ambassador Workshop in the Prince George Visitor Information Centre - "HelloPG" Community Ambassador Program.

On June 6th 2016 I hosted the first Digital Ambassador Workshop in the Prince George Visitor Information Centre as part of our new "HelloPG" Community Ambassador Program. The turn-out was much more than I expected and very encouraging: the enthusiasm of our digital content creators is remarkable.

What is the Community Ambassador program?

With support from Destination British Columbia's Visitor Services Innovation Fund, Tourism PG has been able to take a new initiative for engaging more visitors outside of the Visitor Information Centre (VIC). The HelloPG Community Ambassador Program operates on three fronts: 1) Providing keen locals, especially customer service employees and event volunteers, with bi-weekly information packages about events, exhibits, shows and tours; 2) Attending events and visitor hot-spots with a Pop-Up VIC (tent, table, guidebooks, maps, etc.); 3) Engaging the community's digital ambassadors to help fill in online-content gaps, and to foster regular communications so that our team doesn't miss important new digital content.

So, what is a digital ambassador? Our community is rich with content creators already doing ambassador tasks: blogging, posting journals and guides, publishing videos and photos, making maps, writing reviews, answering questions on forums, travel sites, and social media.  The HelloPG program provides digital ambassadors with ideas for taking their activities further, though these self-starters rarely need much guidance; even more important is to formally recognize our digital community and give them a convenient venue to collaborate and share ideas with the Tourism PG team.

The Look and Feel of BC Tourism Media

I knew that most of the attendees were already seasoned content creators and didn't need tips on SEO or photography basics, so I wanted to talk about the style of tourism media in BC.

This is an obvious departure from established tourism video tropes: gone are perfect blue skies, studio lighting, contrived composition, smiling models, sappy sentiment and twangy stock music. Instead, the style of the video rests on mist, darkness, dappled light, slow-motion close-ups, and golden hour shooting.  

Moving on from the provincial overview, I thought it was important to show a regional video too. BC is organized into six tourism regions: Northern BC, Cariboo Chilcotin, Kootenay Rockies, Thompson Okanagan, Vancouver Coast & Mountains, and Vancouver Islands. Destination BC has recently released a video for each region, but in the interest of time I only showed our Northern BC video.

 

If you were to watch all the regional clips, the Northern BC story would immediately be set apart by the narrator's solitary journey, where as the narrators in the other regions are travelling as couples or groups.

Travellers in Northern British Columbia aren't necessarily characterized by travelling alone, but are remarkably independent and free spirited. The opening line of the narration, "Travelling, for me, is coming in without a plan," resonates with me as a traveller, and I think hits home for most of the RV and camping road-trippers that flock to Northern BC every summer.

To complete the series of video examples, I showed Tourism PG's new outdoor adventure clip.

The video took approximately one year to shoot and edit. With a focus on adventure recreation and action sports, our clip doesn't fully match the ponderous pacing of Destination BC's videos; however, we did adhere to the visual style wherever possible.

Destination BC's previous flagship video, The Wild Within, prompted travellers to reassess questions about nature: "What is big? What is power?" Our clip further asks visitors to question their experience of nature: "What is real?" Those who travel to Northern BC seek genuine, authentic, experiences with spontaneous local connections and discoveries that stem from their own agency as self-sufficient road-trippers.

Tourism Media and Visitor Services

Sublime nature and freedom to roam is the big appeal of Northern BC, but with media that hinges on seemingly endless wilderness, travellers get the impression that Northern BC is far less developed than it is. They are often surprised by the size of Prince George and the services offered here. We get some surprising questions: Are the roads paved? Are there sidewalks? Is the city open in the winter? Therefore, it is important for us to represent our City with fresh, high quality visuals and look for opportunities to add more content; for example, locations on Google Maps that unexpectedly don't have an image uploaded. It's also important to have a vibrant and welcoming social media presence: not just from corporate accounts, but from locals as well.

Digital Ambassador Activities

With knowledge of our visual/editorial style (being "on-brand") and the type of travellers in our region, Digital Ambassadors can undertake some specifics to promote their favourite areas and activities, and engage with travellers on social media. Most attendees at my presentation are doing a combination of these activities already:

  • Share inspiring photos with media outlets that reach general travellers; commonly:
    • Destination BC, @hellobc, #explorebc
    • Global BC, @GlobalBC, #globalbc
    • Northern BC Tourism (@Northern British Columbia on Facebook), @travelnorthernbc #travelnorthernbc
    • CKPG News (for the close region), #CKPGsnapshot
  • Share/create content for industry or interest specific sites: e.g., mountain biking articles and videos for Pinkbike.
  • Keep us at Tourism PG in the loop! We're always happy to hear about your activities as a content creator. Specifically, tag your photos with #takeonPG on Twitter. We're able to share those posts directly to our new Tourismpg.com website: not just on the #takeonPG page, but also on the pages for specific locations or activities.
  • Get involved with relevant conversations, encourage travellers to post more, and answer questions where you can on social media channels like
    • TripAdvisor
    • YouTube
    • Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
    • Questions & Answers of P.G. (Facebook)
    • Hell Yeah Prince George (Facebook)
  • Make contributions to Google Maps/Apple Maps (photos, reviews, new locations)
  • Finally, join my group of Digital Ambassadors: we will have bi-weekly informal meetings at a local hangout to collaborate on new ideas, present recent contributions, and track the success of our efforts. This is a volunteer commitment of up to 2 hours per week; you are supplied with an ambassador information pack, cutting edge new TPG merch, and training in any of the above tasks.

The HelloPG program, and becoming a Digital Ambassador, is a great way to collaborate with your peers, engage with visitors, and most likely learn a few new things about your area. If you're interested, please email me, stanyer@tourismpg.com, and simply let me know you would like to join HelloPG as a Digital Ambassador.

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