In April 2009 Tourism Australia introduced the Visiting Opinion Leaders Program (VOLP), as part of its increasing emphasis upon generating word of mouth advocacy about Australia. The initiative was developed as a way of addressing the changing communications landscape and targeting digital opinion leaders who have a vast audience and an influential voice.
The program works in the same way as we have conducted our highly successful International Media Hosting Program for more than 20 years; the key difference lies in who we target.
Rather than traditional media outlets and travel journalists, the VOLP targets new media opinion leaders, such as bloggers with extremely high traffic and an audience who is often spread across several of our markets.
A key benefit of the program is that the output from one visit may reach a far wider audience than editorial resulting from a journalist visit from a traditional media outlet, thereby delivering a strong ‘bang for our buck’.
Whilst traditional media is still very relevant in promoting Australia to the world, we recognise that these new and emerging opinion leaders such as high-traffic bloggers are successful in reaching our target consumers – Experience Seekers – who are very active in the digital space.
A key and additional aim of the program is to extend Tourism Australia’s messaging beyond the traditional travel media sector, into diverse interest areas or ‘passion points’ such as fashion, music, sport, food and wine or nature.
This helps position Australia as destination with new and diverse audiences, which is extremely valuable when times are tough and competition between destinations is fierce.
Selection criteria for potential VOLP visitors
The following are some of the measures Tourism Australia considers in selecting VOLP visitors:
- Are they non-traditional media? I.e. not simply representing a traditional print or broadcast channel.
- Do they engage others in conversation?
- Do they inspire others to continue the conversation and to expand the circle of engagement?
- Do they participate consistently to maintain a timely conversation?
- Are they seen as credible by his or her audience to speak about the issue/interest area at hand?
- Do they compel others to want to hear what he or she will say next?
- Do they create content that is remarkable/worth remarking on?