Unfortunately, in less than two months, the destination would find itself in the midst of the most destructive wildfires in California history. In addition to the implementation of a crisis communications strategy, as soon as the fires had been contained and the smoke had cleared, we helped Sonoma Valley push the message to visitors that none of Sonoma Valley’s wineries, hotels, or restaurants had been destroyed, and that it was safe to continue with planned trips to the valley or book a new trip.
We started with a two-part messaging strategy – first, showcasing that Sonoma Valley’s partners were in fact open for business and second, that Sonoma Valley is a unique destination, separate from other wine regions in the area such as Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
We communicated that the best way to help Sonoma Valley residents recover from the fires was to visit and bring tourism revenue back into the destination. Then, we pivoted the conversation away from fire recovery messaging to key messages that help differentiate Sonoma Valley and make the destination stand out among its competitive set.
As part of our communications strategy related to the fire recovery efforts, we drafted a letter that was sent on behalf of Experience Sonoma Valley’s executive director to the thousands of visitors within its email database, letting them know that Sonoma was ready to welcome them back.
We issued a press release to media highlighting “Five Reasons to Visit Sonoma County,” which communicated messaging surrounding the lack of permanent damage to the area; the great weather and rates available at that time of year; upcoming events and more.
Just prior to Thanksgiving, we partnered with Visit California to host a group media and influencer FAM (familiarization trip) in partnership with Tyler Florence. The FAM focused on giving thanks to first responders for saving so many, as well as promoting California’s upcoming restaurant month. Simultaneously, it allowed us to bring media to the area to see first-hand that the fires were less impactful to a potential vacationer than had been reported, so they would help spread messages about the area’s continued viability as a tourist destination.
Finally, we scheduled a media and influencer FAM trip surrounding Sonoma Valley’s annual holiday celebration, as well as its upcoming “Sonoma Valley Delicious!” campaign to coincide with California’s restaurant month. Social media influencers disseminated immediate imagery showcasing the destinations’ continued beauty, while media queued up stories that would run for months to come, continuing to push the message.
Moving forward, we shifted our key message points to focus on the attributes of the destination, and what differentiates Sonoma Valley from other nearby wine regions. Messages highlighted that Sonoma Valley is the birthplace of California wine and still today more than 85 percent of the wineries in Sonoma Valley are still family owned.
We focused on pitching key events, such as Signature Sonoma and Out in the Vineyard, as well as partner profiles to put a true sense of destination for the writers covering Sonoma Valley, as well as their readers.
At the conclusion of this campaign, we were able to generate nearly 100 media placements in local and national publications encouraging visitors to plan vacations in Sonoma Valley
Between when the fires subsided in mid-October, and the end of 2017, we were able to generate nearly 100 media placements encouraging visitors to plan vacations in Sonoma Valley, in national outlets including USA Today, Zagat, The Points Guy, Vogue, Afar, The New York Times, and more. Locally, within drive-to markets, we secured positive, feature press in outlets including San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, LA Times and more.
Positive, tourism-focused media coverage generated more than 300 million media impressions and nearly $1 million in advertising equivalency. Targeted influencers reached 843,000 followers with positive messages about visiting Sonoma Valley, and received 136,962 engagements and a potential 4,021,000 impressions via permanent Instagram posts, and 261,988 views/impressions via Instagram Stories.
Further, area businesses reported much fewer cancellations than they were anticipating, and bookings have steadily climbed back toward previous years’ numbers.
One- to two-night visits from eight high-profile influencers with a combined 1,505,934 followers generated 9,387,616 impressions for the destination and its partners alongside 228,410 engagements. To-date, we have secured influencers purely in trade, with many paying for their own airfare or car transportation. 2017-18 influencer hostings have provided a total campaign value of $340,870.
We continue to work to differentiate Sonoma Valley messaging with coverage in Forbes, Robb Report, 7×7, Food & Wine, Honest Cooking, Wine Spectator, The New York Times and more.
Additional services provided for Sonoma Valley included:
- strategic planning & implementation
- campaign design & strategy
- media strategy & execution
- public/influencer/media relations
“JNS Next has found creative ways for us to get our message out, working within our parameters and over-delivering on their service.”
– Tim Zahner, Executive Director, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau