Capturing clicks tops agenda for Walla Walla tourism org

Originally published by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, by Vicki Hillhouse, January 17, 2019

How best to leverage digital media wasn’t just a timely topic for attendees at Visit Walla Walla’s annual meeting Thursday.

It’s also been an ongoing endeavor for the destination marketing organization that had one of its best years for media exposure in 2018.

Creating content that takes followers behind the scenes of business is key to engaging customers in a social media landscape that is far beyond collecting “likes,” said Will Gryna, senior digital strategist for marketing firm DVA Advertising & Public Relations.

Gryna told the standing room only crowd gathered at Reid Campus Center at Whitman College to think of what they would like to see from business when planning their own digital content.

How-to’s, offers and unique stories were among the suggestions for content development at a time when engagement is more important than ever in translating to investment.

The presentation comes just a little over a month after Visit Walla Walla rolled out a new website that includes a direct-booking feature for lodging.

Visitors who land on the site no longer have to book their lodging through a separate search, Visit Walla Walla CEO Ron Williams explained.

The feature helps streamline the marketing service that ties in things to see and do, and now where to stay when you’re catching it all.

Visit Walla Walla, he said, does not get a cut for the service, but does potentially get the benefit of keeping visitors to the site on its platform a bit longer.

More attention for the town is the overall mission of the marketing organization. Its annual report included a breakdown of marketing recaps from public relations, print and digital exposure, plus traction and resulting impressions and clicks from the agency’s array of Facebook campaigns.

Outgoing board President Chris Garratt said the organization had about $1.6 million in what is known in the industry as “earned media.” That means attention from editorial coverage that wasn’t purchased.

In what he characterized as a “fantastic year for media,” stories in a regional, national and international platform brought attention to the community from all over the globe.

That includes April coverage in fashion magazine Vogue, which captured about 6.6 million eyeballs, Garratt said. After that, Sunset named Walla Walla the best wine region.

A wine bloggers conference last fall brought 222 writers to town and has so far resulted in at least 209 posts.

How to translate that into more weekday group and conference visits will be the focus of 2019, tourism officials said.

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