The Importance of Creating a Community Narrative

By Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer, Destinations International

In my speech at the annual convention last year, I spoke about how too many destination organizations are finding their relevance in their community weak or non-existent. There seems to be a disconnect between the destination organization and the community it claims to serve. I reminded the attendees that all of us have joked at one time or another that “not even my family know what it is that I do” and unfortunately, in way too many cases, that is not a joke. It is the truth. Which also means that our friends, our neighbors, and our community don’t know what it is we do.

Additionally, rarely is the community, either as a whole or through its leaders, fully or even partially engaged. They most likely have not been involved in any brand development or seen promotional campaigns launched on their behalf. Mechanisms for collecting public input are regularly absent. The community doesn’t know the destination organization’s priorities or understand the reasons behind them. They have little understanding of what is involved in building destination awareness, business acquisition or driving visitation.

This means that there is no community ownership of the destination organization or a community narrative about the shared value it should represent. And this community’s lack of familiarity gives others a fertile ground to control the narrative and attack us.

This is why I really like Visit Norfolk’s new video that headlines their COVID-19 website page.  They asked residents of Norfolk to finish the sentence “When this is over…”.  The result is a collage that is part promotion, part reflection on the moment we are in right now and part warm hug. And it is resident created, Visit Norfolk assembled.  It brings their residents into the process of promoting Norfolk and does so in a manner that also swells civic pride. And it created buzz.  But most important, it created a community narrative about Visit Norfolk.

Please take a moment and enjoy the video.