by Joey Crandall, email@example.com
AJ Frels was handed a brand study when he walked through the door to assume the helm of the Carson Valley Visitors Authority a little over a year ago.
It was specific, detailed and unique.
He, with the help of marketing associate Lila Gomes, has spent the time since enacting a plan to fulfill those same qualities.
“Before I’d come on, they went through the whole branding study and we have worked very hard to stay loyal to it.” Frels, the executive director of the visitors authority, said. “We use the information given us to solifidy that brand, not only locally, but reaching further out to bring people in.
“Rugged, relaxed and reachable. It’s a strong message. It’s become about presenting an authentic adventure, whether it be going for a glider ride, or hiking or riding. There are so many things in this area that fit in that scope. It’s been our job to present those to people looking to travel.”
As part of the “reachable” aspect, the visitors authority has targeted the greater Sacramento area in much of its marketing over the past year.
“Locals may not get to see what we are doing, because our focus has been on a radius of 100 miles or more away from the Valley,” Frels said. “We know up front we aren’t trying to compete with Reno or Vegas. We have so many things to offer that you can just get up and do. So many unique adventures. We market as our own unique entity.”
“Sacramento has been that first stop we felt we needed to make,” Frels said. “Then on futher up into Northern California. We feel that there is plenty of population up there to introduce our Valley to and show what we have to offer.”
Part of that has been establishing a distinct visitors center, which opened in May inside the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center.
The visitors authority introduced the center to the community in an open house last month.
“We pushed the desks down the hall in the middle of May (previously the visitors authority and the chamber of commerce had shared office space),” Frels said. “We received a grant that elevated our sign out front four feet. It has lightning now. It helps. We’ve been very pleased with the amount of visitors we’re getting on a daily basis.”
Among the features is an automated guest book, run on an iPad in the office, that visitors can enter their contact information into to receive e-mails about Valley events and information.
A mobile visitors center (in the form of a 6×12 enclosed trailer) has also been unveiled, with full-color local artwork and graphics decorating the exterior.
“It’s an idea I brought with me that I know from past experience works very well,” Frels said. “We can take it to local events and festivals to aid anyone in the area for those, and we can look at reaching beyond the area with it.
“It’s a convenient set up that we can open up and have an instant clean, professional look. It’s also a rolling billboard going down the interstate wherever we go. There’s a counter for service inside, you can have it set up as a walk-through area with brochures and our literature. We’re very excited about the capabilities it gives us.
“At the moment, we’re looking for volunteers that would be interested in helping promote Carson Valley, whether by manning the counter here or being out with the mobile visitors center,” Frels said.
A large focus in helping to bring new events that fit within the Valley’s “Rugged, Relaxed and Reachable” brand has resulted in a number of first-year feature events this summer, such as last week’s Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo, this weekend’s Genoa Peak Madathon marathon and the upcoming Carson Valley/Lake Tahoe Adventure Moto.
Frels said the visitors authority will be launching a new advertising campaign in the coming month to help reenforce the brand outside the area.
“We knew when we came in that we had to take care of the electronic side because the audience you reach easily is vast,” Frels said. “Lila Gomes has been instrumental in making that work on the social media side. We’ve really beefed up our calendar of events.
“Overall, it’s been a 140 percent increase in our unique visitors over the past year. It’s a great opportunity to get the word out about this Valley as a destination.”
The Carson Valley Visitors Authority is located at 1477 Highway 395, Suite C, in Gardnerville. It can be reached at 775-782-8145 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.visitcarsonvalley.org.