Crafting a better, more local message

Sat, 08/13/2022 - 2:00pm

It’s been talked about more than once this summer – if you allow one or two businesses to dominate the sound waves, they end up defining the brand. The message has been repeated at one meeting after another, and this week it was at the Block Island Tourism Council’s meeting on Wednesday, August 10.
Traditionally the Tourism Council does a spring and a fall advertising “push.” But they don’t, generally speaking, advertise in Rhode Island, or even in Boston, as those areas are so close that they are more apt to make the island
appeal to day trippers, as opposed to people who might stay overnight. The council likes to put “heads in beds” as Director Jessica Willi likes to say. (It should be noted that that is where most of the funding for the Tourism Council comes from – hotel taxes.)
On Wednesday though, the members of the council decided to rethink their strategy. Willi said that in the fall they tend to target a more “mature” audience, those in the 45 to 65 years of age range as opposed to the 35 to 65 demographic targeted in the spring. She adds in images of things like birding. “We shift a little bit,” she said. “We don’t do paid advertising in Rhode Island except for in So Rhode Island and Newport Life,” instead targeting
people further away, unless it is for a specific event such as the Holiday Shopping Stroll. “Is there any interest in advertising in Rhode Island?” she asked, to “Have a voice in the local ad space?”
Member Neal Murphy said he had met a lot of people from Pennsylvania lately, one of the areas targeted by the Tourism Council, so he thought it might be effective if something was targeted in-state.
Julie Kiley also thought is might be a help to “take the stain out” after the recent events.
“Or, not let the entire ad space be dominated by a couple of businesses,” said member Thea Monje.
Willi said she could have messages crafted towards family activities and the Tourism Council’s messaging campaign of “How to love Block Island.” She added that she wouldn’t want to pull too many ad dollars from other markets, but they could try to do something for the fall.
Some wanted to do something right away, but Willi said that any advertising on television would require at least two weeks up front time.
Monje pointed out that Victory Day is a Rhode Island holiday uniquely, so that the people coming here for that day are most apt to be from Rhode Island.
“We need to have some input in the message that’s put out,” said member John Cullen.
“From all the businesses, not one venue,” said Chair David Houseman.
“Heard,” said Willi.

The Tourism Council would also like to put out a statement about what happened on Victory Day, with the fights at Ballard’s resort and on the Block Island Ferry. Willi said she had been contacted by “the press,” but could only speak for herself, and not for the Council as a whole. But even though the meeting was on Wednesday, the matter of crafting a statement on the events was not on the agenda. Meetings must be duly advertised in advance.
The Town Council is in the same boat. Open meetings laws require the agendas for the meetings be published 48 hours in advance of the meeting on the R.I. Secretary of State’s website, so while the Town Council wanted to meet on Tuesday, they couldn’t.
Both councils were to meet on Thursday, August 11, just after this paper goes to press.
The Sustainable Tourism Study commissioned last year from Megan Epler Wood of EplerWood International, an international consulting company that focuses on sustainable tourism economies has been completed. Epler Wood gave a talk about her work at the Tourism Council’s annual meeting last fall. Since then, Epler Wood and her students at Harvard University have been gathering statistics and conducting interviews of people on Block Island, including representatives from utilities, government, and business.
Willi said the report came with the recommendation that it not simply be handed over as a paper report, but as a presentation. She suggested it be presented to both the Tourism Council and the Town Council at the same time, and with permission, she would arrange it. “I have the report. It’s great. I think you’re going to be pleased with it.”