PR Agency of Record for South Carolina Tourism

We’ve already hit the ground running as the new PR agency of record for South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism (Discover South Carolina)! Follow along as we #DiscoverSC. 

We worked with South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism before at the James Beard House in New York City and two media marketplaces at the South Carolina Governor’s Conference. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that planning events takes teamwork

SCPRT NAMES SC-BASED PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM AGENCY OF RECORD

COLUMBIA, S.C. Touchpoint Communications, a Charleston-based boutique public relations agency specializing in effective public relations strategies for clients in hospitality, tourism and economic development, has been named the public relations agency of record for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT). 

“The cultivation of positive media coverage for South Carolina’s outstanding leisure travel offerings, unique Southern flavors and numerous cultural experiences all aid in helping drive visitors to the Palmetto State,” said Duane Parrish, executive director of SCPRT. “Our internal team has exceeded every PR goal we set in recent years, and we are excited to see what can happen when we forge the passion and expertise of our new partners to generate even more attention on South Carolina.”

To support the state’s robust public and media relations goals for both domestic and international media efforts, Touchpoint Communications is collaborating with Mindy Bianca Public Relations, a Pennsylvania-based firm specializing in hospitality and tourism. Bianca is an industry veteran who formerly headed up public relations for the state of Maryland’s tourism office.

For more information on South Carolina’s many tourism offerings, please visit DiscoverSouthCarolina.com.

###

About the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism/Discover South Carolina:

Discover South Carolina, the marketing brand used by SCPRT, aims to promote leisure travel and tourism to the state of South Carolina. For more information on the Palmetto state’s 47 state parks, bustling cities, charming small towns, festivals and events, authentic cuisine and beautiful coastline, please visit DiscoverSouthCarolina.com. South Carolina…Just Right!

About Touchpoint Communications:

Touchpoint Communications provides public relations, event activation, social media and paid media strategies for organizations focused on economic development, hospitality and tourism. Founded in 2005, the 100 percent female-owned, Charleston-based firm has garnered regional and national recognition for its earned and social media programs.

About Mindy Bianca Public Relations:

Mindy Bianca Public Relations is a small public relations agency that caters to travel and tourism-related clients – destinations, hotels and resorts, and attractions of all types. Collectively, the MBPR team offers nearly 50 years of experience in various fields of communications. Each member of the agency combines expertise with passion for travel, and they have blended strengths to form a “dream team.”

Marketing Lessons from the Past Year

Resolve to take action in time for it to matter

The new year dawns, as it always does, full of hope and promise. 

2018 marketing tips Touchpoint Communications
It’s a new year and the clock is ticking to take action on your resolutions

If the end of 2017 is any indication, we’re looking forward to a vibrant 2018. But we don’t think anything is guaranteed, so we push forward, daily, on numerous fronts. 

That’s probably true for your business, too. You put your nose to that old grindstone on a daily basis, working toward goals, meeting them, and moving the finish line forward time after time.

Marketing tips for the new year 

In the spirit of new beginnings, we wanted to share a few marketing lessons of the past year, and welcome any you’d like to share:

  1. Market when you’ve got a healthy business on your hands! We’re seeing plenty of coverage in national media about the healthy global and national economies. Hurray! Sometimes, upward trajectories can be so comfortable we pull back on outreach efforts. That’s always a mistake: market while you are healthy, and you’ll be in a better position when things change. 

2. Marketing can’t save the day if you wait too long to do too little. We are huge believers in the value of marketing promotion for just about any business. But we also know it takes time to make things happen. Sometimes, clients come to us very late in a downward cycle, hoping a new website or a few ads can fix what ails them. If that’s you, level with your marketing partner, so they understand what sort of lifeline you’re hanging onto.

3. There is no such thing as sudden stardom. PR, advertising, marketing, social media…they all take a bit of time to build toward your desired outcome. Don’t expect that you can go from unknown to famous in three months. (Infamous, maybe. But that’s not what we want to see happen!)

4. Choose a marketing partner with whom you can be really frank. Tell them what’s happening with your business. Tell them how they are, or are not, satisfying your partnership needs. The best work happens when people are pulling together in a spirit of trust and cooperation.

And that’s it, our Marketing Resolutions check list for 2018. Here’s hoping you end this year in an even better place than you started it!

One80 Place Hosts Annual “Turkey & a $20” Thanksgiving Drive with Help from Touchpoint

This Thanksgiving season, we at Touchpoint Communications are giving back by helping our friends at One80 Place with their annual Thanksgiving turkey food drive. We hope other members of the Charleston community will also give back by donating turkeys (and $20 bills) this holiday season.

It’s time to give back with turkeys! We’re busy gearing up for One80 Place’s fourth annual “Turkey and a $20” donation drive set for next week, Tuesday, November 21. This is a critical drive for the facility that provides food, shelter, and hope to end homelessness and hunger one person at a time, one family at a time – and we are excited to roll up our sleeves and help.

We’ve been tasked with planning and executing a 20-day campaign that will culminate with the Nov. 21 donation event. The goal of the campaign is to drive up excitement and generate donations throughout the entire month.

We’re teaming up with local celebrities, mascots, news anchors and radio personalities to make this festive fundraiser even more successful than last year’s record-breaking day. The goal is to collect 350 turkeys and raise $25,000.

2016 results by the numbers:

  • One80 Place collected 332 turkeys, which translated in 2,600 meals.
  • Collected 1,201 twenties ($20 dollar bills).
  • This enabled 160 people to be able to move into a home, as the funds went toward the security deposit. 

The donated turkeys will:

  • Help One80 Place put food on the table year-round.
  • Feed guests of the community kitchen.
  • Give turkeys to those who are struggling to put food on the table this holiday.

Help us beat last year’s numbers by donating a turkey and a $20 to this non-profit organization on Tuesday, November 21. Can’t make it on the 21st and want to donate? You can do that here.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Holy Cow, Holy Spokes Bike Share Takes Off!

How do you sustain the momentum of a new product or service launch? You focus as hard on the marriage as you do the wedding!

That’s the philosophy we bring to our work with Holy Spokes, the new Charleston bike share that launched in late May. As they prepared to announce a major milestone, we asked the community:

What do 4,700 buttery biscuits, 11,111 glasses of sweat tea and 2,000 pieces of pecan pie have in common? 

The answer is they each total one million calories, the same amount riders burned in just three months since Holy Spokes and Title

Holy Spokes Charleston Bike Share

Partner MUSC Health challenged the community to do so within a year.

Since the launch, Holy Spokes has seen more than 10,000 bike rides traveling almost 25,000 miles – even crossing the Ravenel Bridge.

Touchpoint has helped fuel that success through PR and social influencer outreach that resulted in some great coverage and an ongoing effort to keep people biking.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

One of the reasons our team has been drawn to this Marketing Communications business is that it is ever-changing. Each day brings a new challenge, a new need to serve our clients, and a new opportunity to learn.

That seems particularly true this time of year, when students return to classrooms thirsty for insights and inspiration. We welcome back-to-school season with open arms.

Kerry Welch Michael Stettner Lecture Charleston SC Public Relations Marketing

First of all, one of us frequently serves as an adjunct professor of Marketing at the College of Charleston. So mid-August finds us focused once again on the work we do, why we do it, how, and how best to talk about that with willing listeners.

Funny enough, having one adjunct on the team turns us all into guest lecturers – which becomes a great way to polish our presentation skills.

The launch of a new year is also intern season, a particularly beloved time because we have been fortunate to work with many amazing young talents. They give us a semester of their time, and we give them a pretty healthy dose of reality. (It must be working, since about 80% of them have gone on to careers in this field!)

Emily Nicastro Lecture Charleston SC Public Relations Marketing

And yet another reason we celebrate the start of a new semester is the opportunities we have to mentor others. We do this at the elementary school level through graduate school. It’s exhilarating.

All of this has us thinking about the former NYU professor Neil Postman, who wrote Teaching as a Subversive Activity.

His central thesis is that education should – must – encourage people to “question, doubt or challenge” any part of their society. We agree. It’s something we try to do daily around here.

And truth be told, we love the act of teaching because – at our core – we are each passionate problem solvers and askers of “why?” And if we do all this right, we’re going to infuse others with this need to find answers. And done really right, we’ll inspire some kids to think differently about their own futures. (Maybe even turn a few Accounting majors into marketers!)

 

What a Wild Ride: 13-Year Old Bikes Across the Country for Water Mission International

Potential clients often ask if they can engage us for project work. And our answer is always “that depends.”

It depends on a shared understanding of goals. For us, project work demands and deserves as much heart as we bring to long-term projects. Maybe more. The simple fact is we are pretty bad at doing anything half way.

We had the tremendous pleasure of spending our summer cheering on a 13-year old boy from Charleston as he pedaled from Santa Monica, CA to Sullivans Island, SC to raise money for new wells to bring safe drinking water to other parts of the world.

We’re always happy to lend our powers to others trying to make this world better. And our money’s on Scotty Parker, the young man whose “heart hurt” thinking about other kids who died drinking unsafe water. Thanks to his effort, thousands of people will now count on safe water from new wells.

Project Work: Scotty's Ride For Water Touchpoint Communications Charleston SC After 8 weeks, countless flat tires, and more than a dozen media interviews in towns big and small, Scotty and his team netted more than $580,000 in contributions. And the money continues to roll in.

Scotty’s Ride for Water supported Water Mission International, a global non-profit based here.

This sort of project also reminds us that everybody brings unique gifts to each challenge. Our gifts come in the form of world-class publicists with tenacious, unbending hearts. They spent plenty of days (and evenings, and weekends) pitching, persuading and talking logistics with people all over the Southwest, Midwest and Southeast.

One of our many firm mottos is: “let’s not ask how much we’ll make, but rather, what difference we can make.” Working with people like Scotty Parker inspires us to keep asking that question!

Telling Your Story . . . Digitally

The phrase “tell their story to those who need to hear it” reverberates through our office daily at Touchpoint Communications because stories are at the core of Public Relations. Traditional storytelling is not the only option. A strategy combining traditional and digital storytelling reaches even more of those people who need to hear your story.

Digital storytelling is critically important and goes beyond social media channels. Consider the list below when developing your digital storytelling strategy.

Digital Storytelling – A New Web Standard: HTTPS.

Touchpoint Communications Charleston Blog Digital Storytelling SSL HTTPS

Google is calling for all websites to switch to HTTPS (a secure connection) to ensure they remain safe for transactions like credit card purchases.  When a website has a standard HTTP connection, unauthorized parties can observe the conversation between you and the site, i.e.what you are doing or typing while on a website.

Google’s long-term plan is to require an HTTPS for every website, even when users are not sharing sensitive information. This means without an HTTPS address in the future, your website will be marked as “not secure” and will not display your landing page.

Plan ahead and install the right type of SSL certificate to prevent any drop offs or inaccurate analytics tracking for your site.

Digital Storytelling – Mass adoption of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

If a website is taking too long to load, most of us will immediately close the webpage. Google knows this. User experience, such as page load time, is a primary factor in ranking a website in search engine results.

Touchpoint Communications Charleston Digital Storytelling AMP

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project provides a way to instantly load mobile optimized content (created once) and published everywhere. This saves digital content creators time while making audiences happy, according to a survey from 9to5Google suggesting users prefer AMPs over regular content.

 What are AMPs? They allow static HTML pages for mobile users to render more quickly. Instead of sites having inconsistent sizing and coding parameters for loading a page in a browser, it will all be streamlined. 

Digital Storytelling – Optimize for Voice Search.

Voice search is booming. According to a Google survey in 2014 conducted by Northstar Research, 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults are using voice search more than once a day. Recent studies have suggested that the use of voice recognition will double in the next five years.

Touchpoint Communications Charleston Digital Storytelling Voice SearchVoice search in mobile has a higher percentage of featured snippets (the answer boxes that appear beneath the search results). This means any optimizer should start including keywords based on how people search when they speak into their mobile phones.

The growth in popularity of voice search requires us to anticipate our users’ wants and needs to ensure we are answering their questions above the competition.

Written by Michael Stettner

Social Media Tools All Publicists and Marketers Should Use

It is no secret that social media changed the landscape of PR forever. With 1.94 billion monthly active users on Facebook and 328 million monthly active users on Twitter, this modern-day obsession is impossible for anyone to ignore, especially PR professionals. At Touchpoint, we use social media (mainly Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat) every day for our clients because we recognize users as our target market.

Due to our lack of access to the viral nature of Kim Kardashian’s selfies, our social media content curation is a little more complicated. Here are few tools that we use at Touchpoint to make this vast world of sharing and screen-shotting work for us:

Graphics Grab Attention

Canva makes it simple and quick for us to create polished graphics that are ready to post across all social platforms. It allows us to add text, multiple photos and fun backgrounds. The site even comes equipped with tutorials to make it the most user-friendly image creator we have ever used. Thanks Canva!

Organization for Optimization

Google Sheets is the Excel of the future. This is a really easy way to stay organized, and show-off how organized we are. We use this to coordinate social media content. Once created, the Google Sheet can be shared and edited by multiple users at the same time (don’t worry – there is an undo button in case you happen to be the user that accidentally deletes the entire document…speaking from experience!)

Schedule to Stay A Step Ahead

Hootsuite is a very sophisticated calendar; it’s a digital platform that allows us to schedule social media posts for clients on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We stay a step ahead in the fast-paced social media environment thanks to Hootsuite.

Sharing is Caring

We use the above tools to create social media content that people want to share. Consider this: 84 percent of all social shares are Dark. “Dark social” refers to “content that is shared peer-to-peer through channels other than social media – over emails, chat services and messaging platforms including text messaging.”  Shift Communications notes that this type of social is considered dark because we have no way of tracking the number of times content is shared. This is basically digital gossiping: It’s sharing content without the content creator knowing you shared it. And it’s awesome.

Our goal for all of our clients is to receive as many likes and shares as Beyoncé’s pregnancy post. High expectations…we know. But heck we can dream!

Written by our intern, Sidney Harper.

Encouraging Tourists to Flock to Summerville

We all know the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” and the same can be said for certain PR campaigns.

While brainstorming ways to drive visitors to Summerville, S.C., all roads led to community involvement. And what better way to showcase this sweet, southern town than by inviting the community to help tell some of its story?

During our thought session, we discussed how in real estate, success comes from location, location, location. We applied that adage to Summerville’s avian tourism push. Much of the town’s activity links to its proximity to plentiful parks and world-class bird habitat, The National Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest.

Partnering with Summerville organizations and businesses with an interest in avian activity is what enabled us to transform what was once just an idea into a full-fledged campaign: #FlocktoSummerville

Summerville birding campaign

The original thought is only one (very small) piece of the puzzle

In the PR world, the success of a project is contingent on results, and efficient execution lays the groundwork. Projects with multiple moving parts can be complicated, but support from those with a shared goal is essential. And that’s exactly what we got from the Summerville community!

As news of our campaign migrated to Summerville, we were excited to learn that people throughout Town were up to the task. We enlisted help from folks at the No. 5 birding destination in the country, Beidler Forest (as per this USA Today 10Best article).

Through those conversations, we discovered more ways we could promote Summerville’s abundant aviary offerings. Some programs already existed but weren’t heavily promoted. For others, we teamed up with business owners in other capacities to create bird-inspired programs to flesh out the campaign.

Town business participation bolsters Summerville birding campaign

  • Warbler Blend Coffee: Forest staff collaborated with local business Coastal Coffee Roasters to produce Warbler Blend coffee, exclusively sold at Beidler. All proceeds benefit Project PROTHO, a program that recruits citizen scientists to help Beidler learn more about the Prothonotary Warblers’ breeding biology.
  • Downtown Summerville Guided Birding Walks: Beidler staff offer free walks in Summerville on Saturdays in the spring and fall.
  • Painted Buntings at Summerville’s 7-mile Sawmill Branch Trail: Guided walks offer great birding locations; the trail is one of the best places in the area to see the beautiful Painted Bunting.
  • Night Flight Yoga: Strike an eagle or a crow pose! Night Flight Yoga happens in the Coastal Coffee Roasters warehouse twice a month during migration seasons. Participants offered beer flight after class.
  • Stretch Your Creative Wings: Sit and sip with family or friends while painting beautiful birds at Summerville’s Wine & Design during migration seasons.
  • B.I.R.D.S. – Birds in Residence Downtown Summerville: Birders and art lovers appreciate the chance to catch a glimpse of the region’s most recognizable birds in still form (sculpture) at 22 stations downtown.
  • Beidler Forest: This old-growth cypress-tupelo 16,000-acre environment with a 1.75-mile boardwalk is home to the warbler and numerous other bird species. The park provides a free boardwalk-specific app for iPhones to help guide your adventure.

Coordinate with team before any ideas leave the nest!

After all of this, we still wanted to increase the campaign’s wingspan (hehe), so we tapped The Southern Weekend to shoot a video highlighting Summerville’s outdoor offerings. 

As a team, Touchpointers seek to make connections whenever, wherever and between whomever we can. We love helping to shine a light on the amazing assets of our community client partners. Collaborating with so many folks in Summerville on this multi-tiered campaign is one such example!

 

PR Never Sleeps

Another crop of freshly graduated college students are looking for jobs in the communications fields, and that means aspiring PR mavens are plentiful here in the Lowcountry.

One of the subjects we cover with potential interns seems like a trick question, “what is PR, what is PR to you?” We have learned there are almost as many definitions for the profession as there are intern candidates. And none of the answers are completely off base.

My friends and family sigh with jealously when I describe a Charleston Wine + Food Festival event we attended or tell them I’m hosting a writer at one of our restaurant clients. “Your job is so fun!” they say, “It’s my dream job, drinking and eating!”  

There are numerous specialties within the field and many approaches to PR, but any pro can tell you it’s not all schmoozing over cocktails and floating from one fabulous event to another ( à la Sex & the City’s Samantha Jones).

Sometimes I’ll think “we’re not surgeons, we don’t have to be on call” but…we actually kind of are. 

No we’re not saving lives, but when a PR crisis arises our office turns into the ER for PR!

One night we’re chatting with journalists over cocktails at The Darling Oyster Bar. The next night at 11 p.m. on a ::cough cough:: Friday that we were supposed to have off, we’re drafting a crisis communications plan and then spending our Saturday responding to a media blitz.

It’s exciting, to me at least. But is it glamorous? No.

Words are our tools, and constructing a response on a sensitive subject takes needlepoint accuracy, strict adherence to strategy and a great deal of creativity. If we miss the mark, it’s our client’s reputation on the line, and often ours as well. This is our version of surgery – and no two cases are ever alike.

So here’s a word to the wise for graduates pursuing a career in PR:

  1. Don’t expect to become Samantha Jones or Don Draper (he’s in advertising anyway).
  2. Craft your own definition of what PR means to you before the interview at your dream job, and expect that definition to change dramatically as you gain experience.
  3. Do some pre-interview digging to learn about the company’s clientele. Scan the social media feed and website to find clues on what PR means to that team.

At Touchpoint, PR is a verb. It manifests in many ways. It’s about action and consistent growth – challenges we instill and accept. We might not have to perform surgery every day, but we’re always sharpening our scalpels.

Pin It on Pinterest