Using Podcasts to Build Community Engagement

By: Adam Stoker, Relic

What started as an experiment for Relic in 2019 with the Destination Marketing Podcast has turned into a growing success for destinations all around the country with the Destination Marketing Podcast Network.

This booming medium is a powerful marketing tool for destinations as it allows stories to be built and shared, audiences to be owned and community members and stakeholders to become unified. The approximately 104 million Americans listening to podcasts monthly are an almost untapped market for tourism destinations.

The Residents of San Juan County, Utah

Residents, in particular, are a vital part of every destination. They act as brand ambassadors, living day-to-day in a location many come to vacation and explore. The economic development and visitor services team in San Juan County, Utah understand this.

In Southeastern Utah, San Juan County — also known as Utah’s Canyon Country — is filled with natural wonders that make up the iconic American Southwest including Bear’s Ears National Monument, Four Corners Monument, Canyonlands National Park and Monument Valley.
The county is almost 8,000 square miles, stretching from Lake Powell to the Colorado border. For how expansive the county is, the entire county has a population of just over 15,500 residents calling it home.
Some might think, who wouldn’t want to live in an area where the red rocks tower overhead and the sky radiates blue? Who wouldn’t want to live surrounded by national parks like Zion, Arches and Bryce Canyon?
Nonetheless retaining residents, especially college-aged youth and college graduates, has proven to be a challenge for the county. High school students can also be a contributor to this challenge as well.

With this challenge, San Juan County observed the need for a strategic growth plan, not only in attractions and activities but also in career opportunities and economic initiatives. In doing this, it was important, even essential, to share efforts of growth within the county and initiatives to build the place where residents want to continue living.

San Juan Now — The Podcast

At the beginning of 2022, San Juan County partnered with Relic and joined the Destination Marketing Podcast Network, taking advantage of podcasts for the purpose of creating a community shared value among its stakeholders and residents.

The destination’s podcast San Juan Now published its first episode on February 11, 2022.

The podcast is co-hosted by Director of Economic Development and Tourism, Elaine Gizler and Economic Development Specialist, Ben Nielson. Twice a month, locals can tune in for updates and details on the progress of the county’s growth initiatives.

Elaine and Ben meet with government officials and local leaders to talk about the various improvements to the community’s economic development. Additionally, some guests are also residents who have a commitment and personal investment in the county’s success — most having grown up in the close-knit communities of San Juan County and having raised their own families in San Juan County.

On the show, hosts encourage community members to offer their insights and input. Ultimately, the podcast is a platform for residents and visitors alike to be a part of the ongoing discussion about how to achieve countywide growth and keep people coming back to live, work and play.

To accomplish this, San Juan Now was one of the first podcasts to start using software called telbee — a voice messaging platform that communicates with your listeners and customers by receiving and sending voice messages online. Listeners can send in feedback and comments through this platform that can directly be addressed on any episode.

Results so Far

Today, San Juan Now has successfully published monthly episodes for its first 100 days.

As planned, the podcast has been cultivating a listenership locally within the county including Monticello and Blanding. It also pulls in listeners from surrounding hubs like Salt Lake City and Denver. This is evident not only in the geographic location of listeners but also in the intriguing number of people that listen via the internet (40.9%) on a desktop (59.6%) which is unique and different from other podcasts. Other podcasts usually see a higher number of mobile listens via apps like Spotify, Apple and others.

The demographics of listeners are varied as well. Most listeners are ages 35-54 (56.9%) with age groups 25-34 and 65+ at 21.6% of the total listenership.

With this data, San Juan County has communicated its satisfaction with the podcast thus far and the success it has had in accomplishing its goal of communicating county growth and starting an ongoing discussion for community members.

We are excited to continue seeing growth as it moves forward.

About the Author

Adam StokerPresident & CEORelic

About the Author

Adam Stoker is President/CEO of Relic. He's been working with destinations for nine years, consulting with leisure travel, stakeholder engagement, destination branding and convention/meetings marketing. He has been featured in the Utah Business and Utah Valley Business Magazines' 40 Under 40 issues. He now speaks on different industry subjects at tourism conferences across the country, most recently including Utah Tourism Conference, and the Texas Travel Summit. As one of the up-and-coming industry thought leaders, Adam's impact on the industry is just beginning.

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