Skift Take

As the relationships between brands and publishers grow closer, to the benefit of both, it will be fascinating to watch the impact on consumers and whether they care more about quality content or how it was created.

Content is the marketing language of today’s tourism boards, hotel brands, and booking channels.

But even after a brand tackles the challenge of creating quality content that engages and informs consumers, it often does not have the distribution channels to reach new potential customers.

It’s this new marketing reality that led to a partnership between Visit Florida and legacy media brand National Geographic Travel. The partnership, announced earlier this week at the Florida Governor’s Conference, is described as “content partnership.”

National Geographic approached Visit Florida about a tradition media buy, but the tourism board spotted an opportunity to broaden their marketing efforts for Florida’s outdoors.

“They came to us with a standard media buy and we counter-pitched them. We want to reach their audience,” explains Susannah Costello, Visit Florida’s vice president of global brand.

National Geographic will be sending writers, photographers and videographers to the sunshine state to cover “the non-Orlando side of Florida” as part of the multi-year deal. The resulting content will appear on and as well as pushed through both brands’ social media channels.

“What we love to hear is that they actually want to celebrate the outdoors and activities. That’s what we do and cover in any place,” explains National Geographic Travel senior vice president and editor-in-chief Keith Bellows.

“There was a like-minded approach and that was how this started.”

An ad campaign as well as labeled sponsored content will run adjacent to National Geographic Travel’s original articles and photographs.

Visit Florida’s Marketing Chops

Visit Florida has already proved itself a leader in content marketing, hiring a senior editor from the St. Petersburg Times two years ago to leads its storytelling efforts.

“We’ve developed a really vibrant publishing platform,” Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe explained to Skift earlier this month.

“I don’t think there’s any travel publication in the U.S. that creates as much professional content as we do. We have 100 writers on contract and 12 Florida Insiders that focus on specific topics and create daily content.”

This new collaboration will bring a trusted brand, high-quality content producers and hefty social media channels into the mix.

Visit Florida has 80.5K followers on Twitter, 627K fans on Facebook, and approximately 630,000 visits to its website in August 2014.

In comparison, National Geographic Travel has one million followers on Twitter, 3.2 million “Likes” on Facebook, and 3.2 million visitors to its website in the same period.

It’s easy to see why Visit Florida would opt for high-quality content pushed through National Geographic’s ad channels in place of a traditional media buy of boxes and banners.

However, the deal calls into question the thin line that publishers and brands now tiptoe.

“I think you get to make a choice. Do you want to control everything or do you want to have truthful storytelling? Fortunately for Florida, we’re in a position where the stories are pretty darn good. We don’t have to worry that they’ll find bad stories,” explains Costello.

“The stories are about Florida by land, Florida by sea. They’re not talking about housing, politics, aging population. They’re reporting outdoor adventure opportunities.”

Bellows echoes her sentiments, revealing a innate characteristic of travel media.

“All of the content that we create could be used for the marketing benefit of a destination.”

Bellows notes that although their goals are similar, Visit Florida will provide access to outdoor locations and locals rather than control the storyline or actual producers.

“Their goals are very similar to our goals but they’re not parking their message inside our content,” he says.

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Tags: national geographic, visit florida

Photo credit: A panorama of a Florida sunset. Nate Bolt / Flickr

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