Wanted – Social Media Marketing Experts To Boost Shaftesbury’s Visitor Numbers

If you have social media marketing or design experience, you’re being invited to apply for work to encourage more visitors to Shaftesbury. The Town Council is altering its tourism approach as it aims to keep our town’s economy vibrant.

“We’ve always had tourism as one of the key strategies within the council,” explained Shaftesbury Town Council business manager Brie Logan. “This is about looking at new ways to inspire more people to come to Shaftesbury. Tourism is the lifeblood of the town. We have a lot of independent shops that rely on that extra footfall from Easter through to the end of the summer holidays. And we get tourists all year round.”

Brie says maintaining and increasing visitor numbers is a priority for the Town Council because tourists do help to keep our high street busy. “80% of our shops are independent. To prop up that economy we do need to have that additional spend of the visitors. That’s the reality. We are an iconic town that has a lot to offer. Just imagine if we could get our visitors to spend an extra few hours here or, even better, an overnight visit. That way even more money would be spent locally,” said Brie.

Brie Logan

Social media is playing an increasingly influential role in promoting tourism destinations. A quick Instagram search reveals that the hashtag #GoldHill has been used to label pictures of our scenic slope 21,000 times. That’s why the Town Council has decided to devote its tourism marketing budget to online activity only, with an emphasis on pictures that show the beauty of Shaftesbury’s scenery.

“Times have changed,” said Brie. “We know that social media has a massive part to play. People live busy lives and they do online searches, looking for places to stay and go. We want to use several different methods to attract people to come to Shaftesbury. There will be a blend of different options.”

Brie has helped put together a brief for companies or individuals who want to pitch for this contract. The successful applicant will be given access to a brand-new website and social media pages and accounts, ready for them to start sharing images of our scenery and stories about Shaftesbury events and things to do.

Local, professional photographers will also be approached and asked to donate landscape images that can be used to help promote Shaftesbury and the surrounding countryside. “We will use good quality imagery and photographs to showcase Shaftesbury at its best, nationally and globally,” said Brie.

Cyclists stopping for a break on Gold Hill

This is a new approach for the Town Council. Recently, the BVTDC, who look after the Tourist Information Centre, have been paid a set annual fee of £8,000 for delivering agreed tourism services. Their marketing material has included leaflets, but paper and printed material won’t feature as part of this new contract.

Councillors have decided that any company or experts, including the Tourist Information Centre team, should be offered the chance to apply for this new, three-year arrangement. “There are so many hidden talents in Shaftesbury, so we want to be able to invite anybody who has got branding experience or digital marketing experience to come forward. We will look at every single application that comes in,” said Brie.

Brie says interested parties will be sent a document that asks them how they would address Shaftesbury’s tourism promotion. Applicants will be asked to name their price for the level of service they propose. That sum could be more or less than the current £8,000 annual payment. “We will have a look at what applications come through and see what value for money we can get as a council and make decisions according to that,” said Brie.

The Town Council’s Visitor Experience Advisory Committee has overseen this process. VEAC consists of a panel of tourism and marketing experts who work with Gold Hill Museum, Shaftesbury Abbey, the TIC, Swans Trust, Shaftesbury Arts Centre, Walking For Health and ThisIsAlfred.

The volunteers undertook a detailed visitor survey during Summer 2018. The VEAC committee has decided that tourism promotion should focus on two themes – online marketing will highlight our town’s value as an arts destination and Shaftesbury’s countryside and the opportunities our setting provides for walking or cycling is the second theme.

The stunning view of Gold Hill will continue to form a vital part of the town’s visual promotion but references to Hovis will be dropped. It’s felt that the 1970s TV commercial means little to people aged under fifty and the advert is often unknown by overseas visitors. As part of this new tourism approach, there will be closer working with attractions and activities across the Wiltshire border, in places such as Tisbury, Wardour Castle and the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Using social media to market a destination is considerably more complicated than putting up nice pictures on Facebook. Last week, Alfred revealed that students who are enrolling for Champion Football Academy’s two-year courses at Shaftesbury Football Club will be schooled in social media marketing. Brie hopes that the process might uncover some experts within the ‘Premier League’ of online promotion who live or work within our community.

“Digital marketing requires a skill. We want to be able to use that skill to reach out to more people. It’s a tactical process of making sure we are targeting the right people and making sure that we have a very clear plan of how we manage that messaging,” she said.

Applicants will be required to perform a test as part of their assessment. “The person, organisation or company that we select will need to produce a catalogue of their previous work, to make sure that we are hitting the right coverage,” said Brie.

The Town Council is also asking companies or individuals to pitch for work to create a brand identity, which can be used to promote Shaftesbury. Part of this project will be to design a logo for social media and the new tourism website. Brie says the Town Council hopes that a ‘Shaftesbury brand’ will help our town stand out.

“There are some instantly recognisable companies, such as Apple. Everybody knows what they stand for. They know their values, logo and typography. We want to benchmark Shaftesbury with a logo that people recognise instantly as well as the way that we write things about Shaftesbury. It all blends in together,” she explained.

Gold Hill

The approved design will need to work in print form, on letterheads and will appear on signage, too. New signs encouraging visitors to come to Shaftesbury are being proposed. Detailed plans have not been agreed yet, but they are likely to include waymarkers, directing drivers from the A303. Once visitors arrive it is hoped that better signage will encourage people to explore and spend more time in the town.

“In days gone by, we used to see lots of coaches coming to Shaftesbury and we still get coach parties coming. Visitors will get off the coach, go for a cup of tea, have a look at Gold Hill and go back on the coach to the onward destination. How do we get visitors to stay longer in the town? Once they have been to Gold Hill, can they stay for lunch or go for a walk to Castle Green? Can we navigate them to wider areas across the town? We want to create a natural route, so people can explore Shaftesbury at its best,” said Brie.

If you are interested in applying for the branding or digital marketing opportunities, or both, then you can request the application documents from the Town Hall by emailing BrieLogan@shaftesbury-tc.gov.uk. The closing date for submitting tenders is by 5pm on Wednesday, 18th March. It is likely that the contracts will be awarded one week later.