When Scotland went into lockdown on 24 March, the country was effectively closed to tourism for the foreseeable future. This left destination marketing organisations with a dilemma: how do you continue to promote places that people are unable to visit?
NB runs the Promote Shetland contract on behalf of the Shetland Islands Council. Our remit is to showcase Shetland as an attractive place to live, work, study, visit and invest. With travel connections closed to all but essential travellers – and with interest in tourism and travel decreasing significantly – we had to find appropriate ways to keep Shetland in people's thoughts.
“When it became obvious that the coronavirus pandemic would have a massive impact on all aspects of life, our content team had to park almost all of our existing marketing plans and create an entirely new strategy in a few days,” says NB managing director, David Nicol. “A key part of this was to repurpose the shetland.org homepage to provide a ‘Virtual Shetland’ area. The idea is to provide a wealth of useful content about Shetland that folk can experience from the comfort of their own homes.”
Our focus has shifted, temporarily, from promoting visitor experiences to sharing experiential content, allowing people to immerse themselves in aspects of Shetland remotely. We added additional video content to the website, alongside a “learn” section where users can find out about traditional Shetland skills like Fair Isle knitting, and access popular Shetland recipes. We also upped our blog output, commissioning Shetland writers to share their stories. Content focusing on moving and living in Shetland has been particularly popular.
Another new initiative is our new monthly competition, and are using this as a way to boost local producers by offering Shetland-made products as prizes. We share the competition on social media, driving consistent traffic to the website.
Also on social, we shared positive and uplifting stories of Shetlanders pulling together during lockdown – highlighting the enduring community spirit. With people stuck inside, we also launched a #MyShetlandView hashtag campaign. This encouraged folk to share snaps from their windows and on their daily exercise.
A highlight of our social activity was streaming a Shetland Folk Festival concert on the night of what would have been the Sunday night Foy. People tuned in from around the globe to watch highlights from the 2014 Foy online. We edited the video to include promotional clips of Shetland to attract future tourists and showcase the beauty of the isles.
“Lockdown has given a lot of folk the chance to sit back and take stock of their lives and what’s important to them,” says David. “I think more people are seeing the appeal of a place like Shetland. For some, it offers a slower and healthier pace of life. For others, the space to breathe and appreciate natural surroundings. There's so much going on here too, and plenty for people of all ages to get involved with. It’s our job to convey those benefits."