With a new year comes a chance to look back at the challenges and success of the previous – and what a year it was in Ontario and around the world.
In spite of the changing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, when summer came and lockdowns were lifted, the marketing team at the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) was ready to hit the ground running with a brand-new marketing campaign with a goal of community building and developing brand messaging through local storytelling.
This campaign was carefully crafted using a mix of research and experience, all of which told us that a large trend in destination marketing was community building and authentic connections through the local experience. With this information, OHTO’s marketing team brainstormed how to create a campaign that was pandemic proof and could be rolled out despite shifts in COVID restrictions.
The solution was the ‘Our Connections’ campaign, a content series featuring the stories of seven inspiring locals and their unique connections to the region, anchored by mini docu-series and content shared via social media.
The Connections docu-series introduced the concept of connections to the water, the land, the people, and more, and invited locals to relate to, rediscover, and support everything that’s truly special about Ontario’s Highlands. The series launched in July 2021 and ends in March 2022.
Did you see one of these stories in your newsfeed and were inspired by the stories of people who live and work near you? If you missed one or more, you can find all Connections content here: https://ourconnections.ca/
The stories we shared were inspiring, exciting, and 100 percent local! Here is a list of storytellers featured through this series:
- Episode 1: Connected to Water featuring Stefi Van Wijk, from Madawaska Kanu Centre in Hastings County
- Episode 2: Connected to Music featuring Nick and Benton, musicians from Haliburton Highlands
- Episode 3: Connected to Land featuring Amber Hein, an Indigenous traditional hide tanner in the Ottawa Valley
- Episode 4: Connected to Food featuring Ian Carswell, owner of Black Tartan Kitchen in Lanark County
- Episode 5: Connected to People featuring Ro Nowsu, owner of Wild Roga in the Ottawa Valley
- Episode 6: Connected to Winter featuring Andrew Twigg, owner of Cruising Canoes from North Frontenac
- Episode 7: Connected to Wild Places featuring Lorne Foisy, ice climber and owner of Elements Guiding from Haliburton Highlands *not yet released
By the Numbers: Connections Successes
The biggest success from the Connections campaign came from the increased knowledge of the people and stories that help shape Ontario’s Highlands and the connections that were created with the audience. It has built community and got locals feeling a heightened sense of pride in place, they engaged with that message, and they shared that message. These stories and videos were shared far and wide, across the province, and beyond.
The metrics from the campaign exceeded expectations and are a reflection of the interest locals have in connecting to their communities, and the interesting people who live and work there.
Here are a few highlights of the campaign’s successes:
Other Marketing Stats
Beyond the Connections campaign, Ontario’s Highlands stories and advertising reached far and wide in 2021.
- There were 104 stories created and distributed through social media and marketing campaigns in 2021.
- Stories generated 277,440 page views between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021.
- There were more than 34,000 clicks to operators in 2021, which means direct referrals to operators by customers interested in the experiences they are offering.
Meet the Champions
Also in 2021, OHTO created a Community Champions program to recognize the efforts of locals in the community. Through this program, Ontario’s Highlands’ residents nominated local groups or organizations that had gone above and beyond over the past year to strengthen the local community, advocate for the environment, or help preserve the natural wonders of Ontario’s Highlands.
Following the nomination period, the public voted on the finalists to determine which organizations would receive $3,000 in support to continue their initiatives. OHTO received nearly 30 nominations for 20 organizations or businesses in the region.
And the winners were….
Each of the award-winning organizations received $3,000 to continue the work they do for their communities.
Here’s to looking ahead to an even more amazing 2022!