Columbus, Ohio, native Homa Lily Moheimani is the manager of media and communications at the Ohio Restaurant Association. Here, the former Walt Disney Company veteran discusses how her Association helps make Ohio a travel destination.
This is an expanded version of an article that first appeared in the May issue of Strategies & Tactics.
How do travel and tourism relate to the Ohio Restaurant Association and your role there?
The association has Ohio in its name, so we represent restaurant, foodservice and hospitality businesses and professionals across the Buckeye State. That means we’re on the road quite a bit, traveling to visit our members, listen to them and share their stories on our #OhioWorksHere Tour, and to engage prospects.
Associations are traditionally membership-driven and used to be “join because you should” clubs, but we’re more of a consultative firm that finds and drives solutions for our industry’s biggest problems. In addition, we work with local chambers of commerce, visitor bureaus and other organizations to make Ohio a travel destination. Besides visiting historical monuments and looking for the best hiking trails, people want to eat! It’s important for us to keep a finger on the pulse of travel and tourism in our state, because our industry is very much a part of it.
How does travel and tourism helps support Association members?
Our No. 1 focus is to promote, protect and partner with Ohio’s restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industries through our membership. However, when it comes to food and restaurants, the public has a big interest in what we do and who we represent. Who doesn’t love going out to eat? As communications manager and spokesperson for the Ohio Restaurant Association, I always have to consider my audience — whether it’s the public, the media, our members, vendors, foodies, legislators or other stakeholders. It’s fun to play up the idea of traveling across the state to visit and dine at new or longtime-favorite restaurants, but that’s not all we do.
We’re visiting all of our members on a statewide road trip called the #OhioWorksHere Tour, promoting the industry and sharing our adventures with the public through our social media hashtag. We’re supporting our members by meeting face-to-face with them and addressing their tough business issues with our solutions, while also garnering the interest of the greater public to visit Ohio’s travel and tourism destinations.
Any tips for how other organizations can use social media to include travel and tourism in what they do?
Social media is a great tool to highlight travel and tourism and how it relates to your business. If your organization is connected to a destination, be sure to geotag its location on social media and hashtag related topics to generate interest among people looking for similar locations or products. Be imaginative and showcase what it’s like to experience your destination. Even if you don’t sell or promote a product or service that includes a location, you can still promote your business in creative ways. Your online platforms can become your destination.
On the Ohio Restaurant Association’s social media channels, we share various business-related initiatives between posts about our tour and the delicious food our members make. Through organic growth from our engaging content and storytelling, accompanied by photos and videos, we’re able to achieve our business objectives while also including the more fun aspects of what we do, such as traveling on the #OhioWorksHere Tour. Follow the Ohio Restaurant Association’s social media channels on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to find out how we accomplish this.
Another tip I’d offer PR pros: Unless you work for an international, multi-billion-dollar company like Wendy’s or Disney, maintain the perspective that not everyone may know your brand. Write your content as if the audience has come across your social media channels for the first time. On Instagram, use fun emojis and clever phrases. Put the bulk of your hashtags in the comments section, separate from your caption.
John Elsasser is the publications director of PRSA and the editor in chief of Strategies & Tactics.