If yoBostonCommonsu’ve watched TV recently, chances are you’ve seen the Pure Michigan campaign videos. These videos showcase different aspects of the state of Michigan, including cities, lakes, wineries and Michigan culture. The goal of these videos is to create awareness for Michigan as a travel destination. As a public relations professional, it got me thinking about the communications strategy behind this campaign, as well as others like Utah’s The Mighty 5 and Massachusetts’ It’s All Here campaigns.  Do these campaigns have a target market? How are these markets reached? Are people in other parts of the country seeing the same videos as I was? Moreover, the idea of promoting a state as a brand was something that fascinated me.

To answer some of my questions, I reached out to David Lorenz at Travel Michigan, Lisa Simmons, at the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism and Emily Moench at the Utah Office of Tourism. “Our main target market is women, between the ages of 25-60,” says David Lorenz of Pure Michigan’s outreach.  Lisa Simmons of Massachusetts’ It’s All Here campaign says, “Women tend to be the decision makers in their families when it comes to spending on travel. They are the ones on the travel websites looking for information and doing the research.” In the broadcast media relations industry, we are often very specific in who we target when pitching – for example, Country radio stations in Maryland – so I found it interesting that these state campaigns have such wide target audience. “The wide age range in our target market allows us to also reach age groups at both ends of the spectrum, such as millennials and older travelers” explains Lorenz.

Interestingly, New York is a key market for each of these three states’ travel campaigns. Michigan, Massachusetts and Utah offer visitors different experiences – however, New York City is one of the most well connected metro areas. With three major airports, a large train station and bus station, it is easy for travelers to get to where they need to go. Additionally, if the goal of these campaigns is to increase the amount of tourists to their state, it makes sense that they are targeting a metro area that offers easy access to their states. “New York and Hartford are definitely our top geographic markets,” says Simmons in Massachusetts.  “We focus a lot of our energy into promoting weekend trips to Boston, Cape Cod and the Berkshires because they are all an easy drive,” she continues. There is also a strategy to focusing closer to home. “We also put a lot of effort into reaching people in Denver,” says Moench. “Utah is an easy drive from Denver, so it’s a natural choice for us.” Lorenz, of Pure Michigan says, “Because Michigan has so much to offer, we actually do a lot of targeting within different areas of the state.”

“Our PR strategy is very traditional,” says Simmons in Massachusetts. “We do print, use infographics and are starting to incorporate more video press releases.” She continues, “The last season of the Bravo show Top Chef was shot in Boston, so we did a thematic press release that focused on highlighting Boston as a culinary destination.” In Utah, they also utilize aspects of a traditional PR strategy – targeting both print and online publications such as Shape Magazine and Men’s Health, to make sure they’re reaching their target audiences. “This is the first year that we’ve aired the Mighty 5 video on national cable networks,” Monech says. “National parks are trending right now, so we want to make sure we are taking advantage of that.”

Speaking of trending, one strategic PR element that these three campaigns share is their presence on social media. “We’ve increased our presence on social media,” says Lorenz with Pure Michigan. “We want to be able to reach as many audiences as we can, and social media allows us to do that.” Their efforts are paying off, as Lorenz says that Pure Michigan is one of the top travel brands on Instagram. In Massachusetts, Simmons says people are constantly looking at their website for new and updated information, so it’s important that they’re constantly delivering interesting content. “Social media helps us constantly deliver unique content to our followers; we aim to always be tweeting and posting.” With millennials receiving a lot of their news and information through channels like Twitter and Facebook, it makes sense that these campaigns have a strong presence on social media.

There is a lot of exciting strategic planning that goes into a state as a brand and travel destination. So what’s next? Pure Michigan has plans to target travelers in China. It will be interesting to follow them across the globe!

Stay tuned…