AHA Team Heading to New Zealand for Social Media Campaign

AHA Creative Strategies is the PR agency of record for Tourism New Zealand (TNZ).  As many of our regular blog readers know, TNZ is one of our favourite clients and not just because they are fun and hilarious people. The North American team at TNZ (based in Los Angeles) works with AHA in a partnership and that approach creates positive results. We have had some of Canada’s best travel writers visit New Zealand as a part of the International Media Program and have worked with them to see coverage generated in the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, AOL Canada, Sympatico.ca, MSN.ca, ReadersDigest.ca, Canoe.ca, and the list goes on and on.

Paul and I will be heading to New Zealand on Friday to produce TRENZblog.com. TRENZblog is a social media campaign that is a great example of identifying and targeting a specific audience in a defined time frame.

When we started TRENZblog in 2009, social media was starting to become prevalent. It wasn’t where it is today, however. As an organization, TNZ saw the value in investing in this social media campaign as a pilot project. Since then, the world has become more and more active on social media networking sites and online in general and TRENZblog has benefited from that. TRENZblog was initially created to connect with travel media (both trade and consumer) and travel industry professionals (travel agents, tour operators, wholesalers, etc.) who might not be able to travel to New Zealand for TRENZ, New Zealand’s largest travel trade show. While this is the largest audience for TRENZblog, we have found as we have gone along that quite a few travellers – people that don’t work in the travel industry, but are interested in travelling to New Zealand – began to follow TRENZblog. This secondary audience is also an important group for us – the traveller interested in New Zealand.

AHA - Zorb ImageWe are now entering our 3rd year of TRENZblog. Each year, we have seen strong growth – up to 30% in audience figures. I think for this specific campaign, there were several key factors that provided a foundation for this success. They are:

  • TNZ saw this as a pilot project – they (and we) were open to taking a risk and to experimenting and seeing what worked and what didn’t. It was an opportunity to learn, along with our stakeholder group, as we all moved more deeply into the use of social media and online tools.
  • This campaign had a clearly identified community that it was targeting. Our blog readership and Twitter followers are solid – in context of the target market we want to connect with. We don’t have a million followers – but we have a strong following of travel media and travel professionals along with some non-travel professionals who are interested specifically in New Zealand as a travel destination. This campaign targets an audience that has it’s own audience. For every one person we have that follows us, they may have their community of 100, 500 or 25,000 people. So if we tell them about New Zealand and they tell others, the reach builds.
  • The campaign was given enough time (now three years) to build a community and to create momentum. Social media engagement takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen over night.
  • This campaign was also given a specific life span – we start a week before TRENZ (May 22-25, 2011) and we end about a week after. TRENZblog and @TRENZblog on Twitter, with few exceptions, is quiet for the rest of the year. Our community knows that – it’s a little like we’re a friend that visits via social media once a year. We are always welcomed back – and we’re always sad to say goodbye!

For the week prior to TRENZ, Paul and I will travel on New Zealand’s North Island and experience some of the fabulous tourism products offered – from wine tours on a bike, to cruising Lake Taupo, to golfing, to experiencing authentic Maori culture. Then we head to Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital, where we will ZipTrek, tour Milford Sound, check out more wineries (I know, it’s a tough job!) and even skydive!

Then we report live from TRENZ on all the news from New Zealand’s tourism sector. We’ll interview tourism operators (and are happy to interview specific operators on request!). We’ll be tweeting live, almost live-blogging and providing all kinds of photos and video clips. If you can’t be in New Zealand for TRENZ, this is the next best thing to being there!

Our blogs for the next two weeks will focus on this campaign – we want to showcase a real, live campaign – it’s challenges and successes – so that our blog readers who are interested can get a real sense of what can be done, when you do it right!

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