Spotlight: Explore Branson

Destinations facing challenge with resilience and creativity

Explore Branson's Virtual Postcards & Believe in Branson Initiative

Resilience and creativity have always been hallmarks of the travel industry. At Miles, we’ve been inspired by the innovative ways that destinations and organizations are exemplifying those qualities, adapting to meet the extraordinary challenges presented by COVID-19. We will be spotlighting those efforts here each week to help share that inspiration throughout the industry.

Read on to find out how Explore Branson engaged their devoted live shows audience when performances went dark in the Live Entertainment Capital of the World.

Challenge: Intermission

Branson, MO is famous for its long list (100+!) of live shows, ranging from music to comedy to acrobatics. Each year more than 9 million visitors flock to Branson to enjoy performances by some of the country’s most well-known resident performers. However, in mid-March, like many other attractions across the country, theaters in Branson closed their doors and paused their performance schedules indefinitely to focus on the safety and wellbeing of their city.

Strategy: Sing-Along

During this unexpected intermission, the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB Explore Branson needed a creative way to keep their live shows audience engaged from home. Knowing that people were missing their favorite Branson performers and likely spending much more time viewing virtual content, inspiration struck. Explore Branson began working with local performers to bring at-home entertainment to their audience through a new Virtual Postcards concert series. These short 1-2 minute videos feature well-known entertainers performing from their living rooms, backyards and even bathrooms! In addition to the at-home concerts, the Explore Branson team also worked with area attractions to create Postcards sharing community updates, comedy and cooking tutorials.

The concerts were so popular that they caught the attention of the local NBC affiliate, who suggested turning the concept into a TV special to help uplift the Ozarks region. The TV series “Blessings from Branson” aired on May 2, featuring well-known Branson entertainers performing traditional Gospel favorites, including “How Great Thou Art” and “Amazing Grace.” The special was picked up by other stations in the region as well.

Results: Authentic Connection

Explore Branson was able to facilitate a heartwarming and authentic connection during an uncertain time—while also keeping its identity as a premier entertainment destination front-and-center. The concert series and TV special, combined with Explore Branson’s “Believe in Branson” campaign—a collection of uplifting UGC from across the city—connected the destination’s audience with the city’s beloved entertainment community and with each other. High engagement metrics on social media channels, including Explore Branson’s YouTube channel, are evidence that the series resonated with their loyal live shows audience and so many more.

To learn more, we emailed Manager of Digital Marketing for the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB, Cassandra Vasquez, to learn about the strategy behind their Postcards and Believe in Branson campaigns and the response they have seen from their devoted live shows audience.

What was the strategy behind engaging Branson’s Live Shows audience when performances went on hold during stay-at-home orders?

The original goal was to produce tourism content in conjunction with our entertainment community that would continue to drive traffic to our website and keep Branson top-of-mind by sending virtual postcard videos to the consumer.

Our “We’ll See You Soon” virtual postcard series has featured more than 25 live show entertainers and area attractions singing, telling jokes, giving tutorials and more. Raw, authentic and sympathetic messaging was the key to each video’s success.

What’s been the response around your Postcards from Branson video series?

The Postcards from Branson campaign has paved the way for Branson fans to continue engaging with local entertainers in the show industry, hear from area attractions, and learn about restaurant and leisure business updates; all while feeling encouraged and connected. We have seen a tremendous amount of interest and engagement online as well as high reach, impressions, likes, comments and shares.

From a performer perspective, this campaign gave our live show community an opportunity to engage with our audience in a fresh, never-seen-before way. Our team used this campaign to play on the strengths of our tourism community and keep Branson top-of-mind for loyal and interested travelers. We’ve received an abundance of positive remarks from area stakeholders and residents alike who felt unified in a time of crisis.

How did the “Blessings from Branson” TV special come about and how was it received?

Our local NBC affiliate noticed the Postcards from Branson campaign online and reached out to us with the idea to turn it into a series of TV show specials. We immediately went to work with our entertainment industry to produce a from-home or outdoor personalized performance from Branson. The TV show special was received extremely well and was shared with other NBC affiliates, which grew the audience regionally.

What sparked the idea for the Believe in Branson campaign and how are you measuring its success?

A new light display at Cox Medical Center Branson reading, “Believe in Branson” was donated by Tammy Peters, owner of North Pole Productions, in an effort to help encourage the community during the COVID-19 crisis. Our team collaborated with the Branson Christmas Coalition to create messaging specific to sharing within the community.

We rallied with local businesses to spread a message of hope and unity to our community, locals and visitors alike during unprecedented times. We asked our social media followers and local businesses to participate in the campaign by utilizing their storefront windows, sidewalks, parking lots and marquees to send appreciative messages to future guests and visitors. Area residents have been encouraged to share positive and encouraging images of those displays and messages on social media using #BelieveInBranson.

Taking it a step further, we wanted to share our appreciation with our followers by featuring their inspirational messages in our Crowdriff gallery and continued social media posts. We have measured this campaign through analyzing our total reach in posts, engagement, shares and the use of our #BelieveInBranson hashtag.

How are Branson’s shows and theaters adjusting their visitor experiences as they reopen?

Branson’s live show theaters have worked together to create the safest environment possible for staff, performers and guests. A few of the actions being taken by our theaters to give visitors and performers peace of mind are:

  • Acrylic barriers are encouraged between staff and visitors
  • Implementation of routine employee health screening
  • Guests will be dismissed row by row at the conclusion of each show
  • Intermissions, meet-and-greet sessions and concessions may be modified
  • Social distancing seating chart should be expected (skipping rows and only surrounded by your own group)

Do you have any tips for other destinations about engaging audiences that visit for specific activities or attractions that currently may be more limited than usual?

Each destination has its own limitations in reference to the pandemic, so it’s crucial to remain tone-sensitive to the visitors. Each time we’ve communicated health and safety to our visitors, our results have been positive. It’s also important to assure the traveler that their favorite attractions, stores, restaurants, shows, etc. will be here for them when they feel safe to travel again. People don’t want to be sold to during this time, just cared for and heard. One way travelers feel valued is by making them part of the conversation through social media campaigns and online messaging.

We encourage displaying the descriptive health and safety measures that destinations are taking to ensure the safety of travelers, which will help guests safely transition into leisure travel again. It is also great practice to reframe high-traffic articles/posts to current and truly informative messaging that highlights health, safety and comfort for the traveler.

Are there any future exciting things coming up for Branson that you’d like to share?

We have multiple new attractions opening this year in Branson that will add to the fun our destination offers!

  • Payne’s Valley Golf Course at Big Cedar Lodge – Paying tribute to Ozarks-native and World Golf Hall of Fame member, Payne Stewart, Payne’s Valley will be the first public-access golf course designed by 82-time PGA TOUR winner Tiger Woods and Woods-led golf course design firm, TGR Design. Payne’s Valley will stand out with its inviting layout, pristine water features, large fairways and greens, and spectacular 19th hole… the Big Rock at Payne’s Valley™.
  • Aquarium on the Boardwalk – If you’ve ever wanted to take a submarine voyage or get close to thousands of incredible sea creatures, you won’t want to miss this attraction. Designed for all ages, experience the wonders of the coral reef and so much more. In the 46,000 square-foot aquarium, guests will enjoy up-close views of amazing sea creatures like colorful fish, seahorses, and jellyfish, to octopi, eels and sharks.
  • Wonderworks – You won’t be able to miss the iconic exterior—a huge upside-down house—of WonderWorks in the heart of Branson’s Entertainment District. The sixth WonderWorks in the country, the Branson location will feature two unique experiences: an interactive military experience and an exhibit that honors Branson’s history. Other WonderWorks experiences include an interactive sandbox, an illusion art gallery, Xtreme 360 bikes, and a bubble room. Guests can also encounter Professor Wonder’s Adventure, an augmented reality adventure that explores the history of WonderWorks.
  • Mystic River Falls at Silver Dollar City The tallest raft ride drop in the Western Hemisphere – a nearly half mile trek that ascends an eight-story lift tower then plummets down a four and a half story waterfall – it’s the wettest splashdown in Silver Dollar City’s 60-year history.

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