Organizational Overview: The Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association (GPRTA) is a non-profit organization serving the communities of the Grande Prairie region in northwestern Alberta. Driven by a mandate to enhance the region’s reputation to citizens and visitors and to promote the growth and success of local businesses and opportunities, the GPRTA uses a variety of marketing tools, funding streams, and other initiatives to pursue its goals.
With the city acting as a potential service and retail hub for a much larger region that extends into northern BC and the NWT, the organization is aware of its expansive influence, and is always at the ready to highlight how the Grande Prairie region is a great destination, all on its own.
Listen: Capitalizing on destination marketing in the midst of a global pandemic is not ideal, but that was the situation that faced the GPRTA in the spring of 2020. With most travel in limbo and nearly all tourism suspended, the organization was searching for a way to fulfill its mandate and attract more attention – not just to the large chain stores where people flocked for supplies, but also to the smaller local businesses that dot the cityscape. At the same time, whatever path they took would have to be broad enough to also apply to incoming travelers as restrictions lifted, giving them a reason to explore the area and have a uniquely GP experience. And, as a final hurdle, the campaign would have to be targeted enough to bring in new members to the GPRTA itself – highlighting the benefits of joining the organization for local businesses. Hoping to appeal to tourists, residents, and businesses alike, the Association turned to William Joseph for help in building a strong digital and social media campaign.
Act: Working within the established guidelines for branding and language already in place, we began our efforts by brainstorming an exhaustive list of activities, amenities, and other businesses that the city and surrounding area had to offer. What we found was a rich and diverse mix of local favourites, unique destinations, world-class natural beauty, and equal parts big-city possibilities and small-town charm. Realizing that even people who live within Grande Prairie may not know about all these hidden gems, we started outlining lists for different interests – the nature lover, the artist, the family road trip, and so on – and before long, we had several ready-made itineraries for anyone in the area, whether they lived there or were just visiting. All we needed was the catchy name to get people’s attention, which soon followed: the Grande Plan.
As our designers got to work building eye-catching graphics for the itineraries our social team began crafting a content strategy that helped refine and emphasize the organization’s voice and online presence. Upon implementation, we curated content and created materials that not only told the GP story, but enticed the people of the area to make the most of the situation and explore the treasures that were in their own backyard – from hikes and campground visits to casual sports leagues, historical tours, famous food trucks, and much more.
Results: After the campaign launch, the social team tracked analytics and feedback through a variety of tools and platforms, getting a complete and cohesive picture of public perception. All of it pointed to a huge success – across all social platforms and the GPRTA website itself, engagement and unique visits surged. Many people across Grande Prairie and the smaller towns around it enthusiastically shared the Grande Plan documents and supporting blogs and social posts, leading to major organic reach and response. With over 1.4M paid digital impressions and 350,000 people reached on social media, the true marks of success are direct web traffic increasing by 280%, organic search traffic to their homepage rising 25%, and traffic via organic social media jumping over 1100% in just a few months.
Many residents commented that they had gotten out to try new activities and visit new local businesses in the area as a direct result of the campaign. Several businesses joined the GPRTA as members, furthering their reputation as a partner with real, tangible benefits to membership. And, with the region setting its sights on post-COVID travel, the campaign has now proven its effectiveness and built enough momentum to seamlessly transfer to a whole new set of incoming travellers – not just from satellite cities like Fort St. John and Yellowknife, but from the rest of Canada and the world.