Integrated Social Influencer & Content Campaign: The AFAR Ambassador Program for USTOA

Five years.  Six continents.  21 countries.  10 states.  27 tour operators.  And countless cups of coffee (and perhaps a few adult beverages) to lend adrenaline support.

That’s what it took to orchestrate this complex, long-term partnership program for the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) and AFAR Magazine that culminated in 2019.

Flashback to 2013, as we assessed USTOA’s strategic growth runway:  We saw a need to create a robust content strategy that could evolve over several years to support new consumer communication channels the association planned to unfold.  One key initiative we designed within the content strategy was the USTOA AFAR Ambassadors Program.

What is it?

The program was a multi-year (2014-2018) integrated content development initiative that sent prolific journalists/social influencers (dubbed “AFAR Ambassadors”) around the world with USTOA members.  Each of the 15 ambassadors had immersive tour experiences armed with a list of content-generation assignments:  multiple editorial articles for AFAR.com, blog posts for USTOA.com, social media posts/shares/takeovers, photos, and more.  In our role as USTOA’s comprehensive marketing and PR partner, we thoughtfully planned and orchestrated the association’s entire annual content calendars – blog, all social channels, consumer e-newsletters, travel trade byliners, and more – around these rich, unique anchors.

Why has the program been such a success for USTOA?

AFAR Magazine was selected as the ideal partner for this program because the audience it reaches aligns perfectly with USTOA’s target audience.  The win-win partnership not only delivered breathtaking content for AFAR’s readers/viewers from destinations like Myanmar, Taiwan, Croatia, Kenya, Colombia, Manitoba, and Arizona, it also provided USTOA with consistent, frequent, and compelling exposure of its messages to AFAR’s coveted audiences over a period of five years.  Moreover, it…

  • Offered USTOA tour operator members a highly cost-effective way to collaborate with leading journalists and influencers, receiving widespread editorial/social media coverage for their specific offerings
  • Shared costs among all the partners involved, yet also shared content among all the partners involved… so the price per trip was low, while the benefit per trip was incredibly high
  • Provided extensive reach for USTOA messaging, as stories, photos, and videos from trips were shared across social and digital channels from AFAR, USTOA, each influencer/ambassador, tour operators, destinations, and a high percentage of USTOA’s members
  • Delivered significant content results for USTOA, including 44 blog posts for USTOA.com, as well as hundreds of social posts across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (story takeovers in 2017 and 2018 alone resulted in 6+ million impressions)
  • Aligned destination content strategically with several of our other high-profile initiatives for USTOA, such as the USTOA Travel Together video series with Tripfilms.com, which fed annual distribution to USA Today, MSN, Amazon Prime, and more

We LOVED orchestrating this entire program, from ideation to analytics, and we executed every single element of each trip, as well as directing all the content generation and placement.  See the highlights reel here.

Now please excuse us while we go drink some more coffee (and wine?) to refuel.

 

(photo credit: Megan Murphy)