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Putting a sense of place at the heart of your story - how to use destination public relations

Black Angus cattle in front of a mountain - PR photo

Pick up almost any book on public relations and you will read about communications strategies, audience segmentation, determining reputational risk, key messages, building brand awareness, media channels, and more. PR students will tell you that it can get a little dry and sometimes feel overly process driven. However, as PR professionals, it is useful to understand the building blocks of a good campaign, so we can be sure that every project ticks the right boxes for our clients, and so that we can confidently show that we’re generating results.

But…there comes a point when we need to put aside the theory and PR jargon and make room for the special sauce, the stuff that truly sets your brand apart from everyone else out there. The spark that will get the people you want to reach, whether it’s customers, booking agents, supermarket buyers, or investors, to sit up and think, “Aha, this business has something, I want to find out more.”

For brands based in and around the UK’s National Parks, from the rolling hills of the Peak District and the stunning peaks of Snowdonia to the Norfolk Broads waterways and the tranquil trails winding through the New Forest – that special something is the ever-present sense of place. Where they are. Coupled with the personalities involved and why they are so passionate about what they do. Where, who and why.

Harnessing the power of place

Every piece of work we do, whether it’s an on-going PR campaign, a social media push, a branding overhaul, or a new logo, has the surrounding environment and the brand’s place within it carefully weaved in – and it always hits the mark. We once supported the launch of a beef brand, where the Black Angus cattle grazed purely on grass grown in rich volcanic soil that was lightly salted by the nearby sea. Threading that image through the branding, media stories, website copy, photography, social media, and everything else, along with the family’s love of the land, and for producing the best quality grass-fed beef, turned the brand into an overnight success. We could barely keep up with the media queries.

If you’re based in or near one of our beautiful National Parks and you have a lifestyle business, whether it’s in food, drink, tourism, hospitality, retail, or something else, then you probably have some idea of why you’re doing what you’re doing, and that your location is an important part of that. Capturing that and making it work in a way that resonates with your customers and other audiences can be slightly more challenging if you’re not a wordsmith or branding specialist (or you’re simply short on time running your business!)

Where to start - one step at a time

Our recommendation would be to keep it simple and start small. For example, jot down a few questions and mull over the answers. What inspires you about where you’re based? Why did you choose to run your business from that place? What do you want people to understand about that place and how it ties in with your brand story? Can you come up with three sentences that capture all of those things?

Then, focus on one channel to start with – Facebook or Instagram, perhaps, and try to create a post that encapsulates your location and reason for being. It could be a photo of the sun setting over your property, or a video of your team using locally sourced ingredients to create your product, or footage of your experience, accommodation, food, or drink being enjoyed against a backdrop that sums up what your location is all about. Add some copy using one of the sentences that you’ve drafted, or part of them. Test it on friends, employees, and family, then with your public, and you will soon see whether it elicits the reaction you’re after. If they respond with enthusiasm, warmth and engagement you will know that you are on the right track. You will have pinpointed that all-important ‘tingle’ effect, and have created an emotional connection with your customer or whoever else you need to influence.

From there, you can work on recreating that same feeling and powerful, magical sense of place and purpose through your other PR and marketing channels, whether it’s a media story, website content, advertising, or blog posts. It’s a lot easier once you’ve sat down and really thought about what your environment means to you, how it relates to your brand, and how you want it to come across.

Destination public relations and branding - telling the story of where you are based and why you’re there is gold dust, and will draw people to you, turning them into loyal advocates. We’ve seen it many times before. It is well worth taking the time to get it absolutely right.


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