Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is That Whining I Hear Or A Finger Violin?

I found myself two days ago with more than 700 other people at Durham Bulls Athletic Park when someone I barely know told me something ludicrous.

We were part of creating Google’s logo for an aerial shot coordinated by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau as part of an appeal to host that company’s test a new super speed broadband.  We were both wearing “red” but I was “o” and she was in the “e” at the end of the logo.

This lady told me an official told her that someone was going around complaining that DCVB wasn’t doing enough “special” for the newest of Durham’s dozen performing arts theaters.  She was probably disappointed at my reaction because I am so relaxed in this retirement “gig.”

I doubt I heard the whole story and it would be so easy to fill this blog with all of the things DCVB has done for DPAC working hand in hand, long before the facility opened with the professionals contracted by the City of Durham to operate it.  Not the least of which is to spearhead the million plus visitors each year to pay the lion’s share of the facilities debt service.uncle-sam-stop-whining 

But the ludicrous part of the comment if true is that it isn’t DCVB’s or any destination marketing organization’s job to do special things for any one individual ingredient of a destination.

The things a DMO does for a community as its marketing agency should be the things that accrue the most benefit to the destination overall but also things that can be equally beneficial to all of the destination’s ingredients.

Even if a request like DPAC made of DCVB to recruit and train and outfit what will soon be a corps of 1,000 volunteer Durham Wayfinders had its origin with one facility, it was Bureau’s job to rapidly deployed to dozens of Durham’s other events and cultural and sports facilities as well.

It is a DMO’s primary role to tell the destination community’s overall story in a way that is compelling to the types of travelers likely to travel there and to get on the list for consideration.  One of four secondary roles is to get these visitors to circulate once they are here.  Others roles involve providing a platform for businesses and organizations to harvest their fair share, providing a common brand to make all messengers consistent and research to inform development decisions.

When a new facility or event is added, it is the DMO’s role not only to rapidly weave it into promotions but to keep a close eye on existing counterparts to that facility to try to offset the likely impact until the dust settles and the honeymoon period is over and equilibrium returns.

And as an official with Americans For The Arts told me recently, it is absolutely essential that the DMO pay equal if not more attention to those parts of the community that are unique and give each community texture and avoid getting caught up with just the “big guys.”

Now accusing a destination marketing organization like DCVB of not doing enough for a particular facility is an old, old trick meant to cause the DMO to overcompensate or to “go along to get along” instead of fulfilling its mission.

But it hasn’t been common at all in Durham.  I can only recall thee people who tried this in my two decades here and it didn’t work.  Nor did it backfire, because a DMO must be even handed even when its hand is bitten by those it feeds:)

And I wouldn’t be surprise if one of these very individuals is either doing DPAC a disservice or giving it very bad advice.  Either way, you can bet DCVB won’t take its eye off the ball nor will there be one bit of retribution.

Hotels first used this technique of whining for special treatment, probably shortly after DMO’s began to evolve in 1896.  But a core value of any destination marketing organization worth a salt is to balance any and all special interests.  The only special interest a DMO serves is the community.

So if what I was told is true, I hope the officials to which the whining was allegedly directed fired back immediately that a destination marketing organizations role is to do special things for the community as a whole.

No comments: