It’s been just more than a year since a wildfire charred some 75,000 acres, destroyed 2,000 buildings, killed 15 and left dozens injured in Sevier County, Tennessee.
The tragic legacy of the historic fires could have been compounded were it not for the efforts of public relations agencies, writers and bloggers who offered constant reminders that damage was relatively limited in scope and that business largely continued as usual despite the horrific consequences of the wildfires.
The fire burned largely outside the city limits of Gatlinburg and spared Pigeon Forge. Together, the two towns adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the powerhouses of the East Tennessee and Knoxville-area tourist economy. But there were immediate misperceptions and misinformation: Gatlinburg had burned to the ground. This was far from the case, and that erroneous information couldn’t have come at a worse time of year. Like businesses everywhere, the retail shops and restaurants of downtown Gatlinburg depend heavily on Christmas shoppers and holiday revelers to bring in crucial, make-or-break income at the end of the year.
Sevier County economic development officials and businesses alike needed to set the record straight, and fast: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge were open for business. It was truly an apex of crisis communications.
Ripley PR, a leading Knoxville B2B and B2C public relations agency that can connect businesses directly with consumers, was among those tasked to communicate that message to potential tourists and consumers across the country. We promptly turned to some of the best assets to spread the word that the fire had spared the retail and tourist centers of the region: Travel writers.
As an agency with global reach specializing in construction, franchise, manufacturing and home service industries, we have a large manifest of travel writers to work with on behalf of our clients. Here are a few key points about travel writers and why they are a valuable part of any public-relations plan:
- It’s a bit of a paradox, but despite declining print circulation in the traditional news media, travel writers can share stories of your brand with an immense audience. That’s because many magazines and newspapers now maintain a very robust online presence, and often have web-only content that doesn’t appear in print format. Some of the most prolific travel writers don’t even write for print, they are only bloggers. The extent of online reach is boundless.
- Not every travel writer is Anthony Bourdain, but writers from national publications and websites such as the New York Times and Huffington Post, and smaller regional publications, definitely carry some clout. Even writers who aren’t wedded to print or popular news sites can be well-known as bloggers, especially among those in target demographics such as working mothers, foodies and history or nature buffs.
- For the price of a comped room or some VIP passes, brands, messages and products can be publicized before a huge audience.
- Travel writers as a whole are still expected to adhere to traditional journalistic standards such as accuracy, honesty and fairness. Their opinions and assessments, by and large, will be better received by the reading public than some random blow-hard on a reviews site who may have an ax to grind.
We know how to connect writers with your brand or service. Their value is as vast as the lengths they travel. And they can even help a community recover from a terrible tragedy, simply by telling the truth.