Why We Use Raleigh, N.C.
Sunday, January 21, 2018, 9am by Karen DeSollar
If you were to observe those of us in the Bureau’s Marketing and Communications Department at work, you might notice that the decisions we make as we promote the area to visitors are not necessarily arbitrary ones. That is, they’re not based on our own sensibilities or “hunches,” but on data, marketing research, industry trends and developments, communication theory and a few key, guiding principles.
One of the most important of those principles is why we use the term (and consistent styling of) “Raleigh, N.C.” as our destination (product) name.
You may recall in mid-2015, we unveiled the results of the destination brand tune-up project we'd conducted with leading economic development and place marketing consultancy Development Counsellors International (DCI). (The resulting Destination Brand Strategy Manual and Marketing Blueprint are available here.)
Resulting from DCI’s research was a recommendation that we focus brand communications on “Raleigh, N.C.,” as the area’s key identifier. Here’s an abbreviated version of what DCI said (in the Brand Strategy Manual on p. 11).
A Focus on Raleigh, N.C.
- The usage of “Raleigh, N.C.,” as a destination brand name and identifier allows the GRCVB to concentrate and focus destination awareness, leveraging Raleigh’s status as the largest city in Wake County, as North Carolina’s capital city and seat of state government.
- The usage of the N.C. abbreviation defines the destination’s geographic location for those who may be unsure....
- Providing a strong anchor and harnessing the energy of the entire area will strengthen awareness, drive interest, convert visitation and grow Greater Raleigh’s tourism sector.
- Audiences further removed from the Southeastern United States can [thus] easily identify Raleigh in a state with other North Carolina destinations, such as Charlotte....
- Attracting visitors outside of the drive markets is important because it often translates to longer stays that result in greater economic impact.
In the two-and-a-half years since, we have consistently used "Raleigh, N.C." at the forefront (but only at the forefront, specifying other place names in more detailed copy) of all marketing communications—in the Official Visitors Guide, on the official tourism website, in email marketing and on visitRaleigh-brand social media accounts.
In fact, the visitRaleigh.com redesign, launched in Dec. 2017, features a graphic on the homepage which clearly illustrates the concept that "Raleigh, N.C.," is comprised of the City of Raleigh and the 11 municipalities in the county. This is a tactic in our ongoing strategy to educate and persuade the end-user (visiting customer/travel purchaser) to see, do and spend more (throughout the county) on his or her next trip. Giving out-of-town visitors (especially those arriving from long distances/by air) a persuasive, geographic education is also a tactic made prominent annually in the front matter of the Visitors Guide and on its insert map.
Do you want to know how that principle translates to measurable goals?
One example is search engine optimization (SEO), which (combined with usage analytics) is driving decision-making about content we’re creating to promote the county. Potential visitors, more often than not, are searching for Raleigh, N.C.
Case in point—our best performing blogs over the past year have been the monthly “Things to Do in Raleigh, N.C.,” because that’s exactly what people are looking for to get initial travel inspiration.
We know that’s not always what some locally want to hear. There is a great deal of resident pride about the individual places making up the Raleigh area... and rightly so! But we have a few suggestions about how you can help us promote your corner of the county to outside visitors who are unaware:
- Share new developments, hospitality-sector business openings and other story ideas with us from around the towns. We try to make sure we know about such things, but please don't assume that we've heard. We may be able to use your leads for the articles section of the visitRaleigh.com website or add listings to build new tourism-focused relationships with individual business owners. (If you take a look at visitRaleigh.com, you will notice that it’s now a fresh-content-driven website.)
- Here’s a suggestion from my area of responsibility as keeper of GRCVB's photo library. As many public affairs teams are now doing, think about hiring a professional photographer to get high-quality photos of your town’s strongest points (i.e., your downtown, attractions, etc.). Because of Instagram and other similar sites, viewers are used to stellar photography. Photos taken on a phone (unless they are extraordinary) aren’t going to help very much. If you need more information or recommendations for photographers, let me know, and I’ll send you a list of some of the photogs we use.)
Back to the conceptual brand issues for a minute, here are a couple of points to ponder:
- Borrow from Raleigh, N.C.'s brand equity. If you haven’t seen the accolades that we have collected recently for city/town/county/metro achievements, you can see them at a glance here. We live in a booming area (increasingly distinct from the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area), and rather than maintain silos, take advantage of the unifying regionalism. (As with one's personal life and brand, it's possible to maintain an individual identity and sense of self yet still be part of a family recognizable by its family name.)
- Develop your own niche within the market. If I was in one of our municipalities whose downtown has retained its "quaint, charming, Main Street of America" qualities, in this day of Chip and Joanna Gaines, I’d be shouting about it from my shiplap-covered office... while researching and defining some of its unique selling propositions for tourists that distinguish its own unique feel from other area towns'.
It tickles me when a question comes to us in Marketing, and one of our CVB colleagues says something like, ”We know you guys always have a reason for what you do.”
As a matter of fact, we do. In the CVB industry, it usually ties back to customer service, dollars-and-cents or destination marketing research, as we always have to keep the business mission of increasing visitation and customer/visitor spending top of mind.
Author: Karen DeSollar
Karen DeSollar is creative director at the Greater Raleigh CVB and has worked for almost 10 years in the tourism sector. She started her career as an editor and earned a bachelor's degree in speech communications and English and a master's in journalism. She added graphic design to her bag of tricks when she spent 13 years as director of communications at a university in San Diego.