Destinations Council Destiny Awards > Niche Targeting
Destinations Council Destiny Awards > Niche Targeting
About This Entry:
Richmond’s LGBTQ outreach began in 2009 when Virginia wasn’t known as a welcoming place. The city had its own baggage and we wanted to show LGBTQ travelers the real artsy, foodie, and outdoorsy RVA we love.
In 2010, “Rainbow Over Richmond” launched with a limited budget and aggressive PR strategy. It worked -- LGBTQ media validated RVA with placements on NewNowNext.com, Out In Jersey, Metro Weekly, The Washington Blade, and Curve Magazine. Earned media continues to be a core part of the campaign’s success.
In 2014, we collaborated with the VCU Brandcenter to take the campaign to the next level and develop what would become OutRVA. As part of their capstone project, graduate students developed brand standards and a logomark inspired by the Region’s “RVA” identity.
Just as many LGBTQ people share their identity with loved ones and friends through coming out letters, Richmond was going to do the same. Since learning that Richmond is an LGBTQ friendly destination might come as a surprise, letters offered a personal and powerful way to communicate this. We wrote letters to Boston, Atlanta -- and even Ellen -- to share with the world who Richmond really is.
We had to be sure Richmond was out leading up to the campaign launch. We distributed thousands of stickers to provide a visual way for visitors to navigate the Region and find businesses welcoming LGBTQ guests.
RichmondIsOut.com was created as a channel to direct the campaign’s social media efforts. The website features interviews with business owners and identifies welcoming attractions. Locals can sign up to be an OutRVA “Insider” and receive a featured page to share their favorite things to see and do in Richmond. These ambassadors opt-in to post their social media profiles so tourists are able to directly connect with a local before their visit.
Hard work paid off -- OutRVA was featured in The New York Times article “Richmond, Va., Makes a Bold Appeal for L.G.B.T. Tourists.”
In 2009, we built a committee of LGBTQ professionals to ensure our outreach truly represents the community. Today, the committee includes, a James Beard nominated chef, executive directors of the LGBTQ community center and only LGBTQ-focused theater in the Mid-Atlantic, the editors of two LGBTQ publications, presidents of both Virginia Pride and BlackPrideRVA, event planners, trans advocates, and agency owners.
Out-of-the-box ideas have always been part of the campaign. To celebrate marriage equality, we worked with a team of local event planners to giveaway an all-expenses paid wedding. From photography, cakes, attire, florals, and invitations -- vendors donated their services for the contest. The winners were announced at Richmond’s first LGBTQ wedding expo with the couple receiving one month to plan their special day -- all documented on RichmondIsOut.com. The earned media attention cemented Richmond as an affirming wedding destination for same-sex couples.
Shortly after, we partnered with Richmond’s history museum to create the “One Love” photography exhibit featuring LGBTQ -- longtime partners, same-sex couples with kids, trans parents, and drag queens. Not only did this grow OutRVA’s media library, but it positioned Richmond as a destination for every family.
To draw major LGBTQ events to Richmond, the sales team worked directly with a liaison in the mayor’s office to increase the city’s Municipal Equality Index Score. Through the MEI, the Human Rights Campaign looks for municipalities providing non-discrimination protections for employees and LGBTQ representation in city government. From 2017 to 2018, Richmond’s ranking jumped from 42 to 94 -- the highest rank in the state and the largest increase in the nation.
As LGBTQ conference bookings increase, we worked with community organizations to develop a workshop for our hotel and attraction partners to provide resources including a list of LGBTQ-owned businesses for concierge desks to keep on hand.
Through the combined efforts of the DMO team, community partners, and government, OutRVA has not only driven tourism, but also made a social and cultural impact on the Region.
OutRVA operates on an annual budget of $20,000 with matching dollars earned through sponsorships from local restaurants, attractions, and hoteliers. Earned media has allowed the campaign to optimize results with minimal spending. Since 2014, PR efforts have accounted for an audience reach of 10.2 million with an approximate total value of $138.6K -- excluding influencer campaigns and social media mentions which have also been an important part of the mix.
Since its inception, the campaign’s website has captured 57,000 users and a Facebook fanbase of 5,700 engaged followers. In 2018, we produced a short video featuring LGBTQ-welcoming businesses, nightlife destinations, and highlights from the previous year’s Pride event. This paid video campaign ran on Facebook 3.5 weeks prior to Virginia Pridefest to drive weekend tourism to the event. A $4000 Facebook advertising budget lead to 365,283 impressions and 153,248 video views with a coinciding Google campaign seeing a strong clickthrough rate of 10% with a majority of searches coming in on “pridefest” and “pride events” related keywords. The most visible impact of these efforts is seen in the growing crowds at Pridefest -- the event has tripled in size since 2014 and now hosts 30,000+ attendees each year.
Richmond is now on the rainbow map internationally. In 2017, Richmond received a nomination as a top ten destination in the world at the British LGBT Awards. Mayor Levar Stoney and Governor Terry McAulliffe helped get out the vote through videos posted on their social media channels. OutRVA was also the inspiration for Virginia Tourism Corporation’s statewide LGBT efforts and extension of their “Virginia Is For Lovers” campaign.
Also leveraging the Region’s notoriety as an outdoor destination, Richmond played host to the first Sports Diversity Jubilee bringing LGBTQ+ athletes together from across the nation. Next up, the region will the Prides of the Southeast Conference in 2021. With a decade of buildup, the OutRVA campaign has gone beyond serving leisure visitors and is now capturing convention business.
Why This Is A Finalist:
Strategy and vision to reposition a city is a collective effort and the OutRVA campaign achieved more than promoting the city by introducing a new narrative. The judges appreciated the vibrated images focused on people, which made even more dynamic with strong unapologetic statements. Overall, the campaign boasted strong methodology and a commendable outcome.
- Category Winner