Over 30 years, WPR has developed a number of relationships with influencers in the travel and tourism industry. One of those was Laura Bly, travel editor for USA Today. When editors at USA Today decided to poll readers to vote for their favorite lake in America, Bly emailed Phil Weidinger and asked us to post a Lake Tahoe photo on Twitter or Facebook to generate interest -- we did a lot more than that: we engaged our fans at a whole new level.
Since the voting deadline was in a week, action of a crisis communications scenario was immediately launched. Social media audiences were identified: current Facebook Fans, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority blog; area partners: lodging, gaming, recreational, dining; area media, and strategies were put into place for the most effective outreach. A calendar of Facebook posts and email outreach was organized and scheduled for area partners; and interviews were arranged with local media.
Utilizing social and traditional media contacts and partners throughout the area, we mobilized the troops to generate momentum for Lake Tahoe. Employing the Tahoe Chamber of Commerce we were able to reach
over 800 chamber members and business owners to boost voting and to share contest details through their social media channels. Local media jumped on board and encouraged readers to vote via their blog and social media channels.
Votes flooded the newspaper and pushed Lake Tahoe to the top of the list, resulting in a personal visit by Laura Bly to research and write a 1,200-word USA Today feature story that named Lake Tahoe as America’s favorite lake. A Weidinger PR representative had dinner with Laura to provide her with various story ideas, recommendations, talking points and newsworthy updates as well as history of the area, many of which appeared in the story’s sidebar.
From an exposure standpoint, USAToday.com has 18 million monthly unique visitors and the print edition has a daily circulation of 1.8 million. The initial Facebook engagement (likes, shares and comments) was over 43,000. The article generated nearly 2,000 Facebook posts and more than 100 tweets. The article was subsequently picked up in scores of media outlets, further leveraging the national distinction. From an earned media stand point, the print article would have cost $54,063 to place.