Why I Write

Becky McCray, good friend as well as a founding partner of Tourism Currents (of which I am a part) wrote this in an email ~

“Back in the day, a blog meme or a blog hop was a way of connecting different writers together to each offer their own take on a single topic, each on their own blog.”  Becky McCray

Des Walsh from Australia tagged Becky in a blog hop with the theme “Why I Write.”  She has since written her answer here and has listed others who have participated. She then tagged me along with Jon Swanson and Linda Crimm, aka Miss Dazey, to share . I’d never heard of this concept and I’ve never really thought much about “the why.”

Wow –  it’s simple why I write

Why I write

My mom Jean, gave me the writing gene!

I took a couple of days to ponder why exactly I write and it’s not a deep, introspective answer as you’ll see, but it is the truth.  As Becky pointed out in her initial email, I rarely get to write for myself as I’m always writing for others.  But so much of that is why I write.  I love being able to give a voice to those who have trouble writing about what they’re doing.   Writing has always come easy to me.  My mom was a successful radio advertising copy writer in the 1950’s.  She gave that up to raise our family.  She instilled her love of writing in me.  So many can’t express themselves via the written word, and I’m happy to do that for them.

Mr. Livingston, my 4th grade teacher encouraged my writing and creativity.  He understood that I had to write things down because if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to express myself well.   There were just too many thoughts going through my head at any given time and I couldn’t spit them all out.  By junior high it was a done deal. I knew I was going to be a writer, I just never thought that tourism, destination marketing and small business would be the focus of my writing.  I thought I was going to write Harlequin romance novels – but that’s another story.

Math makes me cry, writing makes me happy

Another reason why I write – well, I’m terrible at math!  It goes back to writing being easy, and I took the easy road.  A road that makes me happy.   Happiness, that’s really why I write.  I make people happy by writing for them and that makes me happy.  I’ve been accused many times of being happy all the time.  Well, when you do what you love, how can you not be?

Now I’m tagging the following 3 people to enlighten us, keep this blog hop hopping, and let us know why they write:

Joe Cheray who can be found at http://wildheartsocialmedia.com/

Jane Boyd who is the founder of 45 Conversations

Paul O’Mahoney who is a brand sociologist and CEO of Change Agents


The Extended Family Business Hug

When we see our extended family members, we usually give them a hug.   Sometimes, even thinking about our families conjures up warm and happy feelings, kind of like a hug.

What kind of feeling does your business provide your customers?   What do you do in your business that could give people that special feeling that a hug provides (without actually hugging all of your customers)?   For a minute think about what makes you happy, really happy to frequent a particular business?

Extended family feeling in business

Letting the guests ring the bell for Costa Sur Happy Hour

Does your business “hug” your customers?

I recently vacationed in Mexico.  It was the second time we stayed at a particular resort and I was so excited to get back to that property because our first experience was fantastic.  This time it was even better and the primary reason why is the resort treats all their guests like extended family.  From the minute we walked through the doors and they put a face to our names, I felt them envelop us with their happiness, their pride in their work, and their pride in their resort.  It felt like a great big hug, although no hugging really occurred.  When was the last time you felt that way about a business?  Shouldn’t we all strive to have our customers and clients feel like they’re part of our extended family when they do business with us?

In business the family feeling starts virtually

We check businesses out online first.  If your website is working in your favor, it will draw customers in.  It will begin to give them a feeling about what you offer.  Something to check –  what type of feeling does your website provide about your business?  Are you letting potential customers know that when working with you they’ll become part of your extended family?  Do they get the feeling from your site that they will be a priority for you?

When your business door opens, what happens next?

I’m not suggesting that you have to jump out and hug everyone who comes through your door, but do make sure they really feel welcome.  Not just a cursory “Hello” and nothing more.  Not a “Can I help you” comment either.  What would you say to an extended family member?  Maybe comment on the weather, comment on something cool the person is wearing…say something that makes them feel at ease and happy to have chosen to walk through your door.

Extended families don’t share everything and neither should you

One of the most fun aspects of the resort stay in Puerto Vallarta was that we all knew the employees by name, they knew us by name, and we all shared bits and pieces about our lives.  Not a lot, but just enough to keep that feeling of “family” alive.  Businesses need to be engaged with their customers.  Being engaged helps people feel good not only about your business but also about themselves.  They care that you care. It doesn’t matter what type of business you are – big or small.  People care about how they are made to feel.  If you’re not treating your customers like extended family members, they probably aren’t going to hang around long.  Take a look at your business and have a few others look at your business too,  then see where you can make a few changes to help your customers feel that “hug” from you.

The resort in Puerto Vallarta is called Costa Sur (yes, big shoutout to them!) and they have the “business hug” down perfectly. The entire staff makes you feel like part of their extended family and we’re already talking about our trip there next year.  Are you giving your customers a business hug?   What do you do in your business to help foster that family feeling?  What do you do that keeps your customers coming back?

Let Them Hear You Smile – Customer Service Tip

One surprisingly EASY tweak to improve customer service

Customer Service SmileOur world is not monochrome, nor should it be monotone.  When was the last time you spoke to someone on the phone that actually got you excited about what they had to say?  Aren’t you sick of hearing “Thank you for calling, how can I help you?” in a flat kind of “I really don’t care if I help you or not” voice?  When was the last time you heard a smile on the phone?

Reach out and touch

With so much emphasis on customer service these days, how can you stand out among everyone who is doing it right?

1.  How about by showing a little personality?  You’re a person, not a recording so act accordingly.

2.  When being asked a question over the phone, let the caller know that you’re excited they asked and you’re happy to provide the answer.

Anyone can provide an answer, so why not go out of the way to make more than just your answer be memorable?  Elevate your business to a “fabulous” customer service level by being engaging, conversational, and by showing your smile.

Don’t be one dimensional

When you’re speaking with someone face to face would you speak in a monotone?  Of course you wouldn’t.  Your tone would be up and down, you would show emotion.  Be the same on the phone.  There’s no customer service etiquette rule that says you shouldn’t show emotion over the phone.  Being helpful is great, but being helpful and being memorable for your phone personality is even better.

We all deal with people over the phone.  It doesn’t take much to bond with the person on the other end of the line ~ put a little inflection in your voice, genuine warmth in your tone, and your customer will hear you smile.   This is an easy customer service technique that will make a big difference in how you’re perceived and will help ensure the caller will want to call back and do business with you again.


Trampled by Technology

Just a Small Town Girl trampled by technologyThe last time I blogged for this site, my own site, was March 2013.  That’s when I was trampled by technology.  Have you let technology trample you?

After reading my first draft of this post I actually said out loud, “Really, Leslie? That’s not what happened!”  I wasn’t trampled by technology. After some introspection I realized that this post really is about priorities and it took me writing the first draft to realize I was using technology as a crutch, an excuse.  Instead of stating that I was trampled by technology, I should have been owning up to the fact that this blog wasn’t one of my priorities. It’s a bit hard to swallow, that I really haven’t been trampled by technology, but that I’ve had my priorities screwed up.

Last March I took on a tourism consulting project for a region in Southern California, it had to be built from scratch.  That meant developing a website, starting the social sites, launch it all, and once again, being a one person marketing department.  The launch of this destination marketing program was in July and now the ongoing focus is to grow awareness for the region via social media and online marketing.  While this was happening I agreed to partner on another start up endeavor ~ marketing social media to associations and large meetings. Once again, build a website, start the social media, get the business launched and grow it.  All the while Tourism Currents (with awesome partners Sheila Scarborough and Becky McCray) was going full speed ahead with more subscribers than ever, a super strong social media program and lots of training and speaking engagements.

Practice what you preach!

At Tourism Currents we train and talk a lot about putting your efforts into a couple of online platforms and doing them well.  We also stress priorities.  Talk about NOT practicing what you preach!  During 2013 I said many times that technology, all that I was doing online, was keeping me from this site.  I was having to write too many blogs and social media posts for others which put me on technology overload and couldn’t do anything for my own site.  But let’s be truthful here, I simply didn’t have my priorities set with this site in mind.

It’s all about the “P” word

While both of the new projects are coming along, this site has been left in the dust. I knew I needed to start blogging here again or simply let Just A Small Town Girl go.  Marketing with small budgets, stretching marketing dollars – that’s what this site is all about.  For the past 10 months I should have made it a priority to share the good and the bad of these startup experiences.  I chose to let this blog take a back seat, it wasn’t one of my priorities. Everyone is busy these days, it’s not that we don’t have time for everything, it’s that we don’t make certain things a priority.

So many people write about priorities at the beginning of the year. I’ve NEVER thought about writing a post about priorities.  Blaming technology for my lack of blogging is nothing short of cringe-worthy now that I’ve realized what my real problem is. I’m glad I figured it out before I published a really dumb post.

Have you been in these shoes before? Have an experience like this that you’d like to share?  I hope this inspires you to look a little deeper and not necessarily accept the excuses that you make for yourself.  I can see this post becoming an addition to upcoming trainings!

If you’d like to take a look, the two new projects I took on in 2013 can be found here:




How History Works for Your Marketing

How does history work for your marketing success? Why would someone care about your history?   Inquiring minds want to know, that’s the bottom line.  Whether you’re a small business,San Jacinto Valley Marketing their History a tourist attraction, or a destination, people crave the details of the how, why and when.  Your customers and visitors care about your history. How well you share those interesting slices of history that can add another, deeper level to your marketing efforts.


How to Market Your History

Here are a few things to think about when considering using your history in your marketing:

  1. Is your business one that has been in your family for generations?
  2. Did you start it after deciding it was your passion, and if so, how did this happen?
  3. Who settled your area?
  4. What interesting characters from the past can you bring to light to help highlight a living history?
  5. What products do you carry that have a great local history?
  6. Have you realized that your products and your marketing can help promote your community?

Writers of all sorts – bloggers, travel writers, print media – never stop looking for new stories. What part of your history can garner their interest?

The local angle is like gold in the marketing world.  If you have a strong local history, historical figure, a business with a great local story, you need to highlight it and start having if work for you. 

Be visionary here – look at what your history encompasses, look deep to see how it can be a marketing benefit to you in the future.

Share your history via your social media channels. Use hashtags to call out specifics in Twitter and Instagram to extend your marketing reach.  There are people out there that cherish history and will go to the ends of the earth to experience and enjoy local areas, events and products that have a history.  Bring your history to the world through social media and invite the world to visit your history.


An Example of a Community Marketing their History

When history is marketed in a community, it enhances the community’s sense of pride.  It rallies everyone living in the area around that aspect of their history.  A great example of this is the Ramona Pageant in the San Jacinto Valley in Southern California – www.RamonaBowl.com .  The Ramona Pageant is the official outdoor play for the state of California and the longest running outdoor play in the United States.  The pageant celebrated its 90th year this year.  (Disclaimer – I am contracted with the San Jacinto Valley to build a multicultural tourism program for them so while I had attended the play several times in the past, this year when I went I looked at it through entirely different eyes.)

The residents of the San Jacinto Valley take great pride in this play.  It’s tough to find anyone who hasn’t been part of the 3 weekend event at some point in their lives. It’s a true community effort celebrating the history of the community, a great sense of community pride, and a great revenue source for not only the valley but the local businesses too.  The economic trickle down is immense.


How are You going to Succeed Marketing Your History?

So, what are you marketing that reflects your history?  Spend a little bit of time thinking about it and I bet you’ll come up with some interesting facts and ideas to enhance your marketing.  Have a good story about using history in marketing?  Hope you’ll share it to help others with ideas!


Want to know a little bit more about Just A Small Town Girl?  You’ll find it here:  http://www.justasmalltowngirl.us/blog/why-leslie/



Social Media Do Over

How many of us wish we could have a social media do over? Social Media Tourism Marketing Do Over

Remember when we first started out, oh so long ago? At the time, it seemed like we were artists, painting each piece of the social media puzzle individually, hoping that some sort of cohesive marketing design would appear.  How many times have you looked back and said “If I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently?”

Social Media “Coulda Woulda”

For those who were traditional marketers that embraced social media early on, there wasn’t time for the “coulda woulda” mentality. We were all in the same boat – trying to keep our heads above water and stay one step ahead of the social media curve.  We didn’t have a choice, we needed to incorporate social media with the traditional marketing we already had in place.

As luck would have it, I get to have a social media do over.   The city of San Jacinto, CA has contracted with me to build a tourism marketing program from scratch.  We will be starting from nothing and building something brand new.  The tourism community is very excited, as am I.

Flip your social media mentality

What would you do if you had the chance to start over with a clean canvas, if you could have a social media do over?  I posed this question to a tourism group on Facebook and William Bakker of Think! Social Media provided a great insight.  He wrote:

“Put social at the core. Instead of building marketing programs and digital channels and use social to support them, start with social and build digital and other channels to support social.”

Perfect advice!   Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and bloggers will be the first line of marketing in this particular tourism marketing program as opposed to brochures, direct mail and other traditional marketing tactics.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do think we need to have a balanced marketing effort, and will still use some traditional methods, but social will be the focus and we’ll build out from there.

If you had an opportunity for a social media do over, what would you do?  What have you done?

eTourism Summit – Small and Mighty Tourism Conference Rules

Right off the bat I have to say, “eTourism Summit is one tourism conference you really should attend!”  While we all attend a variety of tourism conferences and educational events throughout the year, eTourism Summit is different.  It’s intimate, only 200 can attend. Because of the small number of in attendance,  you are immersed in the stellar education offered and you get to really connect with others in tourism.

This year I was able to share my experience marketing the resort destination of Lake Arrowhead, CA. for 2 years with no budget, primarily via Twitter.  I shared the session with Melissa Barnes, Marketing Strategy, from Twitter and Ali Daniels, Director of Marketing, Seattle CVB and from all accounts our Twitter session rocked!

eTourism Summit visit to Facebook

A special field trip was arranged for some eTourism Summit attendees!

Jake Steinman, founder of eTourism Summit, offered something very special to some of us the day before eTourism officially started and that was a trip to Facebook headquarters.  Approximately 60 people attended.  We were in 2 groups that  participated in a workshop and had time for lunch on the “campus” too.  It was really something getting a glimpse of what it’s like to actually work there.  And, by the way, according to an employee there, Mark Zuckerberg feels that Facebook is only “1% percent finished with its journey.”  How about that?

The two days of the actual conference had 3 separate tracks (you could choose any track at any time) filled with sessions such as:

Brand USA's presentation at eTourism Summit

Keri Hanson, Digital Marketing Manager, Brand USA and Chris Adams, VP Research, Miles present at eTourism Summit

How Facebook Has Evolved and What it Means to Tourism Marketers

The State of Mobile Marketing from a Tourism Marketer’s Perspective

The Changing Role of Travel Bloggers from Journalists to Paid “Wanderers-in-Residence”

Paid Advertising Programs on Digital Platforms. Options Coop/PPC vs CPM, which is more relevant?

The Super Panel: Experts from all four leading digital media brands – Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – offer their insights and perspectives on how travel companies can best use their platforms.

eTourism Summit offers a great deal of content for attendees – all levels of experience learn here.  There is a speed-dating component where those in attendance can connect one on one with presenters as well as each morning you can take part in moderated roundtable discussions during breakfast.  The first morning I moderated the “Kissing Up to Bloggers” roundtable and brought those who participated up to speed regarding TBEX and how to work with bloggers on their terms.

With the size of the conference limited (which means you must register early for this event each year) the opportunities for networking as well as the educational component are exceptional and once again let us say ~ This is a conference that you should put into your budget and plan on attending.  eTourism Summit is so worth it!

Tourism Events, Social Media, and an Outstanding FITA 2012

Tourism events highlights at FITA 2012In tourism, we all want the same thing – more visitors. And to do that we provide a variety of tourism events and great personal experiences.  Nowhere was I more aware of that than at FITA 2012 in Mexico City in September.  As a first timer to FITA, I was amazed by the size and scope of this particular travel trade show.

Tourism events from around the world at FITA 2012


It truly was international with countries from all over the world represented. Now I’ve attended my fair share of global tourism tradeshows over the years, but FITA was mammoth and the booths were the best I have ever seen.

Good Grief!  We have the same tourism events!!

Each country featured their various destinations as well as highlighting their variety of events.  The second day of the show I attended a press conference that is the basis for this post.  The conference, by the state of Quintana Roo, showcased their upcoming tourism events.  Film festivals, jazz festivals, sporting events…they all play a big part in the annual calendar for the state.  If you’re in destination marketing, I bet you’re planning the exact same type of tourism events for your area too.  Riviera Maya is having a film festival followed by a jazz festival featuring jazz great Poncho Sanchez.  Well guess what?  In my small community we do the exact same thing, in the exact same order and this year our jazz festival featured none other than Poncho Sanchez.  How many of you are in the planning stages for your next film and jazz festivals?

Our tourism efforts are all fairly similar

Yes, we all seem to be working on the same things with regard to tourism.  FITA 2012 really brought to my attention how similar our tourism efforts are globally.  But why are some destinations more successful than others with their events?  Yes, you can say budget plays a big part in how successful events are, but I don’t think that has to be key anymore.

Promotion, connection, and engagement are what make events successful these days.  By using all social media channels, you can build your audience and build the success of your event.  Utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, even Foodspotting you can reach a variety of audiences and grow your attendance.

FITA 2012 did an excellent job with their social media

Tourism was on display at FITA 2012

FITA did a tremendous job via Facebook and Twitter this year.  Their posts, 3 and 4 times per day, got me excited before I went – their Facebook presence in particular was stellar.  FITA also retweeted the tweets I made from the event almost immediately. I would give them no less than a 10 for the job that their social media team did.

So as we’re all planning tourism events, remember that so many of our events are the same and tweak your thinking as to how you can grow your attendance by being more social, by engaging more people and continually building up your event via social media.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much money you put towards something, it’s the extra mileage that you receive from those who you excite that can make or break your event.


Social Media Listening – Toby Keith Rocks!

Social Media Listening by Toby Keith


One of the best parts of social media is listening.

BUT, there are plenty of social media participants who aren’t listening.  I had a super experience a couple of weeks ago when someone listened (along with a whole bunch of other people) and it was such a nice surprise.

We had tickets to see Toby Keith at San Manuel Amphitheater in Southern California.  Now I knew Toby was filming a video for his new song at the concert.  It was broadcast that everyone should make a sign.  I made a clever (at least I thought it was clever) sign for my husband to take.  The afternoon of the day of the concert I checked out the Twitter stream for Toby Keith and there was an announcement to tweet a photo of your sign.  So I did.

About an hour later my phone started going crazy as I was getting congratulatory tweets from fans across the county.  Toby’s social media team had seen the photo, they were listening to the social media chatter, and suddenly my seats were upgraded.  Now, HOW COOL is that?!?  We had a great time, loved our seats and loved connecting with so many other Toby Keith fans across the country who had witnessed what transpired.

Are you listening to what’s happening around you via social media?

I’m sure you know you need to, but are you making listening easy on yourself by using Hootsuite or Tweetdeck or any of the other social media listening tools available?  This is something vital that you absolutely must do.

Just think how happy you would make your customers if you responded to what they were saying and doing via social media, just like Toby’s people responded to me.  I know how happy and totally surprised I was that his social media team was listening.  While I already was a big Toby Keith fan, I will always use every opportunity I can to tell others what an awesome experience we had.

What kind of cool social media listening experiences have you had?  Hope you’ll share below!

Social Media Training for Tourism and Hospitality

 Leslie McLellan joins Tourism CurrentsHave you heard of Tourism Currents, where tourism and hospitality professionals learn to market using   social media?

If you’re involved with a destination marketing organization (DMO), convention and visitor bureau (CVB), chamber of commerce, resort association or involved in tourism and hospitality social media in any way, you’ve probably crossed paths with Becky McCray and Sheila Scarborough.

Tourism Currents is expanding and I’m so excited to say that I’m joining Becky and Sheila to help tourism and hospitality professionals enhance their marketing via social media.  As a DMO and a user of social media for marketing since early 2009, I’ve been where many tourism marketers are right now – struggling to make the most of their limited marketing dollars.  When integrated into your marketing program, social media can be like Winning the Lottery.  I know this, as it made all the difference in the world to me and Lake Arrowhead, CA.

I made a short introduction video for Tourism Currents followers ~ here it is for you to see:


So if you don’t already follow Tourism Currents via social media, here is how you can connect and be sure to sign up for the newsletter:

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/#!/TourismCurrents

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/TourismCurrents

Newsletter:     http://www.tourismcurrents.com/newsletter-sign-up

Let me say once again how THRILLED I am to be joining Tourism Currents and I look forward to partnering with anyone in tourism and hospitality who needs a little help getting the word out to bring visitors to their destinations and businesses.


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