When the outbreak of COVID-19 began, the U.S. government enacted strict entry regulations to prevent the virus from spreading. To maintain a positive relationship with the Chinese public, U.S. official travel Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) required guidance on engaging with tourists on social media.
Under the unique circumstances, Hylink launched a well-organized Covid-19 response plan for DMOs on WeChat. The strategy delivered positive brand messaging and managed public communications effectively.
Maintain DMOs’ relationship with Chinese tourists without openly inviting them into the country.
Provide travel advice, travel/tourism-related information and help guide tourists who are still on their trips.
Establish a positive brand voice and brand image when discussing topics related to COVID-19.
Respond and adequately manage all inquiries and comments on WeChat and beyond in China.
Prevent DMOs from being interpreted negatively in the WeChat community.
From February 2020 to May 2020, Hylink organized public communications for Brand USA and city-level DMOs: Sanfrancisco Travel Association, San Diego Tourism Authority, Santa Monica Travel & Tourism, and New York & Co. We developed a direction for DMOs to follow in their social media messaging (both in English and Mandarin). Empathizing with those affected by the virus, showing gratitude for those fighting the virus on the frontlines, and offering health tips to travellers was vital in our strategy to maintain a positive relationship between DMOs and their audience.
The first phase of messaging was a WeChat post that welcomed all Chinese travellers to the U.S. after the outbreak was controlled, to show empathy and strengthen the emotional relationship with our audience.
The second phase of messaging was a WeChat post that provided Chinese travellers with information on U.S. entry regulations — providing the audience with helpful solutions and practical support. We also simultaneously released the post content on Weibo, to increase the audience reach and respond to the public's common inquiries on social media.
Lastly, we created and posted posters that supported Wuhan on WeChat and Weibo with the slogan "Stay Strong Wuhan," demonstrating our support and caring for Wuhan during a difficult time.
The response plan and strategy were proven to be highly effective during the initiative. All comments and concerns raised on media/social media platforms were professionally addressed, with the response plan's guidelines.
Negative comments were managed by leading the conversation positively and addressing concerns in a personal and professional brand voice. We lowered the negative sentiment to 4% and strengthened the relationship between travel brands, DMOs and international travellers.
Audience relations were maintained and experienced positive growth through this response plan.
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