Hello West Michigan Attracts Talent with Smart, Strategic Campaign

One of the main talent attraction goals in West Michigan is helping out-of-state talent realize that the state of Michigan offers more than just the city of Detroit.

That’s the story leaders in West Michigan began working to tell in 2007, as a way of building success for the entire state and alleviating some of the talent shortages the state faced when the Great Recession hit.

Eventually, Hello West Michigan was born, and is now a stand-alone organization that’s funded through its members – which range from small businesses such as realtors and moving companies, to large companies that include some of the 14 headquarters companies that call West Michigan home.

The organization – which represents 13 counties – has created a synergistic relationship that is beneficial for all employers. And it’s generating big-time success. From March 2013 to March 2014, the campaign site has had 25,000 unique monthly visitors. The average user spends 2 minutes, 7 seconds per visit, and 69 percent are new visitors.

DCI spoke with Hello West Michigan Executive Director Cindy Brown to learn more about the campaign.

Launch Date: January 2010

Cost/Budget: Hello West Michigan has 51 members, and the talent initiative is funded solely through those members, who pay a sliding scale fee depending on company size. The organization also regularly applies for and obtains a variety of grants.

What DCI loves about the campaign:

Hello West Michigan website

Major success with “trailing significant others” program: Hello West Michigan created a program that caters specifically to the significant others of people recruited to work in the region. Research shows that if after six months, a trailing family member does not feel acclimated, they’ll probably leave, and Hello West Michigan aims to make sure that doesn’t happen. On average, about 10 to 12 trailing significant others contact Hello West Michigan weekly, and a team member talks with them to find out what they’re looking for and connects them with potential employers. Hello West Michigan also assists by sending trailing significant others’ resumes to recruiters and workforce development agencies. Numbers show the program is working. From March 2013 to March 2014, Hello West Michigan sent 400 resumes for trailing significant others and additional people who were looking to relocate, and about 100 of those people found jobs.

Hello WMI

Campaign’s use of microsite to build content, market to talent outside of West Michigan: Hello West Michigan knows that everyone living in the region has a reason for staying – whether it’s the sunsets, the lake, the beaches or the snow. So the organization created a microsite called Mireason.com which allows community members to share their reasons for living in West Michigan. That content is used to market to talent outside of the region to help build connections and encourage potential talent to take a closer look at what West Michigan has to offer. The goal this year is to increase content, and Hello West Michigan is targeting young professionals groups to encourage them to write content.

Smart marketing reaches target audience, leads to results: Hello West Michigan created an event to take advantage of the biggest bar night of the year – the night before Thanksgiving – as an opportunity to target young talent, including those returning home for holiday visits. They host an event in a cool atmosphere – think nightclub – and invite about a dozen employers to mingle with potential talent. Last year, about 86 people attended, and five people have been hired and are now living in West Michigan. Additionally, two people who attended have since started their own business and stayed in the region.

Hello West Michigan cities map

Stand-alone talent initiative includes broad array of cities and companies: Hello West Michigan is one of the more unique talent attraction campaigns in that it doesn’t fall under a larger economic development organization. Rather, it was formed by local business leaders and employers to raise awareness of what West Michigan offers. The group works closely with local chambers of commerce, and the main office is housed at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. But the “home” office doesn’t mean team members stay put in one city. Executive Director Cindy Brown travels to the 13 counties represented as much as possible, and has the ability to work remotely from chambers of commerce offices in various cities.

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Top Travel Twitter Chats For DMOs

A successful DMO today needs to have an established presence on social media. The art of developing creative content, high click tweets, Instagram filters and Facebook albums is being mastered by destination marketers globally. So, what’s next? What are other ways to increase engagement and make your social channels buzz with activity?

Hosting, sponsoring or participating in a travel Twitter chat allows destinations to re-purpose evergreen content, stunning imagery and spotlight signature events. According to Simply Measured:

  • There are approximately 550 million registered users on Twitter, and 241 million monthly active users (a great pool to draw from if you’re looking to expand your follower base).
  • 34% of marketers use Twitter to successfully generate leads (and live chats can provide you with micro market research on what your followers think, want, and wonder about).

There are more than 300 existing Twitter chats and we’ve selected our top travel and tourism chats below.


Host: Travel+ Leisure Magazine @TravlandLeisure

Time/Date: Each Tuesday from 2-3 pm (EST).

Details: Each week is a different theme. Past themes include how to book vacation rentals, road trips, pet-friendly travel, California getaways and eating like a local.


Host: @travelgogirl

Time/Date: Each Monday – 6-6:30pm GMT

Details: First-ever travel chat for women. Empowering and connecting women with @WITSummit and a weekly travel chat. Each chat has a theme such as travel + moms, cultural celebrations, rural travel and guilty pleasures.


Host: @FoodTravelist

Time/Date: Each Wednesday 8pm EST.

Details: Connect with food travelers from around the world to discover unique experiences, tastes, cafes, restaurants and delicacies.


Hosts: @cjmcginnis and @JohnnyJet

Time/Date: Each Friday 12-1pm EST.

Details: Great travel tips, destination inspiration and recommendations from where to find cheap airfare and get the best hotel room to insider scoops on the best promotions. Chat questions include summer travel pain points, transportation tips and exotic trips.



Sponsor: Travel Squire @travelsquire

Time/Date: Each Wednesday – 5-5:30 PM EST

Details: A digital magazine and travel therapist trip consulting service. Founder of #TRAVEX


Sponsor: @Foodiechats worldwide online foodie community https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSYdp7WLTgk&feature=youtu.be

Time/Date: Each Monday 8pm ET

Details: Common hashtag that foodies, bloggers, consumers and influencers use on Twitter. Great way to promote local food and specialty restaurants.



Sponsor: Chat moderated by @LuxuryPRGal

Time/Date: Each Wednesday – 2:30 pm PST

Details: #luxchat is a live, interactive Twitter discussion about luxury brands, travel, hotels and food. Currently on hiatus until fall 2014

#TRLT2#TRLT (The Road Less Travelled)

Hosts: @TheTravelCamel, @Sihpromatum and @PointChaser

Time/Date: Each Tuesday 1-2pm EST

Details: International destinations that are often overlooked such as Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Central America. Past topics include solo travel, aquatic adventures, travel oddities, adrenalin and spooky places.



Host: @TheCultureur a luxury travel, culture and lifestyle website and managed by @NyssaPC

Time/Date: First Wednesday of the month at 12pPST/3pEST

Details: A weekly Twitter Chat discussing all things related to travel, food, lifestyle, and culture, with a new destination every week.


Sponsor: @TripIt

Time/Date: Third Thursdays of each month.

Details: Tripit discusses travel websites and search engines, planning tips and advice. The company has itinerary templates online and sample itineraries to destinations in Europe, the US, Australia and South Africa.

Website: http://www.tripit.com/destinations/




Sponsor and Host: @Pravassa

Time/Date: The first and third Wednesday of the month at 4:30PM EST.

Details: Each week has a new theme related to wellness such as staycations, yoga in Thailand, new hotels and healthy food.


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Four Destinations With the Secret Sauce to Culinary Marketing

Fine cuisine and travel now go hand-in-hand. Gourmet culinary experiences have become a popular motivator for visitors of all ages. In a recent study by the World Food Travel Association and Mandala Research, LLC., one third of travelers now choose destinations based on the food and drink activities available and two-thirds consider good dining options an important factor.  For destination marketers, highlighting your destination’s unique dining and imbibing opportunities is the perfect recipe to drive incremental visitor arrivals.

Here are four destinations that have done an exceptional job adding zest to their place by implementing  culinary marketing campaigns:

culinary blog4


Tourism Australia recognized there was a gap in global consumer perceptions of Australia’s food and wine offerings. To counteract this, the “Restaurant Australia” campaign was launched earlier in 2014. It offers the interesting idea that the entire country is the world’s greatest restaurant.  Tourism Australia has created a dedicated online hub for Australian food and wine businesses to share their experiences using #restaurantaustralia on social media. The destination also brought together 80 key media and online influencers who travelled to all corners of the country to share their food and wine experiences.

Photo courtesy of Monterey Restaurant Week

Photo courtesy of Monterey Restaurant Week


The Golden State has long been associated with world-renowned wine and food. Each January, Visit California hosts the annual California Restaurant Month (CRM), providing an umbrella campaign for DMO partners to place their own restaurant week(s) promotions under. Visitors and locals alike can savor the Golden State’s bounty, enjoy  special deals on wine tastings, chef demonstrations and pre-fixe dining options, all using the freshest local produce.


Photo courtesy of http://eater.com featuring a vendor at Mistura and her anticuchos

Photo courtesy of http://eater.com featuring a vendor at Mistura and her anticuchos


Peru has quickly become South America’s culinary darling. However, the destination’s delicious offerings did not become a hit overnight.  To increase awareness of its food experiences, The Peruvian Gastronomic Society created the now annual La Mistura, a gastronomic festival each September that attracts travelers looking for a taste of local culture.  The country has also formed partnerships with its producers and culinary experts to offer authentic tourism experiences through combined culinary and adventure treks, farmer’s market tours and hands-on cooking classes with local chefs.

Photo courtesy of http://www.365daysofdining.com featuring Steveston Pizza

Photo courtesy of http://www.365daysofdining.com featuring Steveston Pizza

Richmond, BC

Located within the Greater Vancouver, BC area, the DMO for Richmond showcased its diverse restaurant offerings through its 365daysofdining blogger contest.  The promotion encouraged travelers as well as locals to create compelling content about restaurants within the city.  More than 1,500 gourmands entered, including the winner who posted daily during the promotion. The blog posts, images and videos generated, continue to be leveraged as evergreen content by Discover Richmond, BC through its social media channels.

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Inc. Highlights One State’s Economic Development Plan as a Model for Others

Massachusetts Governor Patrick

Governor Patrick signed an economic development plan that will help Massachusetts’ many small businesses.

Inc.’s recent article, “Why Massachusetts’ Plans for Economic Development Could (And Should) Blaze a Trail for Other States,” takes an in-depth look at the recently-signed $80 million economic development bill aimed at supporting the state’s small businesses. The article goes as far as saying that this plan “could serve as a model for those looking to give small businesses a boost.”

While Massachusetts’ plan mirrors some national efforts to support small businesses, the article highlights the state’s unique efforts, including: $12 million for a skills and job training grant fund; $2 million for a Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund; $1 million to create a ‘talent pipeline’ program; and $1 million for a startup mentoring program. In addition, Massachusetts is considering overturning its non-compete laws, so talent can accept new jobs more freely while also increasing the competitiveness of venture-supported businesses.

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The Rising Importance of Video in Economic Development: Why Moving Images Should be in Your Next Marketing Strategy

You’ve tried print ads, direct mail, e-newsletters and social media, but what about moving images? Last year, Forbes told us why online video is vital for marketing campaigns. This year, it seems that big consumer brands are finally taking note, with companies like MasterCard, Procter & Gamble, Honda, Mondolez and Verizon Wireless slowly transitioning their […]

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This Just In: AdWeek Highlights DMOs That Partner With Social Influencers for Big Results

Unlike regular consumer products, selling travel is the art of converting sales for an intangible collection of experiences. What’s more, these targeted consumers need to journey away from their home to obtain the value of their purchase, providing an added challenge for destination marketers to overcome. Social media has allowed destination marketers an engaging channel […]

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Social Media Challenges in Destination Marketing

This article was re-posted from the Business 2 Community blog on August 2, 2014. Earlier this year, we celebrated Facebook’s 10th anniversary, LinkedIn boasted more than 300 million active users while TripAdvisor now has more than 175 million reviews. We have come to expect seeing travel & hospitality stakeholders managing accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or […]

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Millennial Boomtowns: The Metro Areas That Are Magnets for Millennials

Joel Kotkin’s most recent article in Forbes, “Millennial Boomtowns: Where The Generation Is Clustering (It’s Not Downtown),” suggests that while much of the writing about millennials focuses on their preference to live in “car-free” major urban cores, an in-depth analysis of where these individuals actually reside paints a different picture. Contrary to what’s been commonly […]

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Creative PR Stunts for Destinations

Consumers need to see your brand an average of 56 times between inspiration and transaction. Also, according to the late Jay Conrad Levinson who penned the direct-to-consumer marketing bible “Guerrilla Marketing,” only one in nine impressions get through to customers—and that was before social media! So creating memorable touch points for consumers is crucial. Due […]

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Corporate Travel, and Safety Concerns, On the Rise

Corporate travel is on the rise. According to the Global Business Travel Association, spending on business travel is projected to increase by approximately 7 percent this year, with a 3 percent increase – equivalent to $292.3 billion – in the United States. That means it’s a great year for DMOs who rely on hotel occupancy tax […]

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