As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention. With travel brought largely to a stop across the globe, DMOs are quickly pivoting to find meaningful, appropriate ways to engage their audiences, and deliver value to their local partners—all while working remotely with rapidly changing situations. It’s no small task, and one of the most impressive case studies we’ve found that’s leading on this effort is Experience Columbus.

This week on The Layover Live we were joined by Joe Vargo, Director of Interactive Marketing at Experience Columbus. who oversees all digital media, social media, web sites, and internal marketing strategy who was able to share more.

It all started with shutting down a major event. Three days out from it, they shifted to being a source of information and support to their local audience, many of whom were now in the area without the event to attend. This brings us to a couple critical questions you’ll want to ask as you adjust your DMO’s strategy in the days and weeks ahead:

What audiences are you speaking to?

For Experience Columbus, one critical audience segment at first was attendees who were already in-market (letting them know what they could do while they were in the destination). Later, after more lockdown protocols came through, this focus has shifted much more to local business owners as well as their general consumer audience. It’s becoming increasingly clear that some of the first travel to return in recovery down the line will be drivable trips and other leisure travel with friends and relatives, so priming that audience shifted more into focus.

What mechanisms do you have to get information out quickly?

Fortunately, one major avenue for this was Experience Columbus’ Facebook group for partner businesses, which gave them a great platform for constant communication with this key audience. They also have a weekly email that comes from their partnership team. Aside from that, they extensively rely on partners to update their operating hours and other business information which they are able to access and pull through on the Simpleview CRM. This particular power of the CRM is even more critical now that DMOs are facing staffing shortages and organizational changes.

What kind of content does your audience need?

For Columbus, this content falls into one or more of these three categories: information, utility, and entertainment. They are balancing a shift from active marketing to more general support of their local partners to help bolster their business among their local audience. Social media launches are replacing live events. And entertainment is key! Virtual events are on the rise and live content is a great alternative, but as Joe notes, keep in mind that these platforms are also working to catch up with demand so avoiding peak times will help you to dodge technical snafus.

How is your DMO working to evolve your strategy? How can we help? Get in touch with me at we can talk more.