COLUMBUS’ architecture has long been a magnet for tourists from around the globe, thanks in large part to generous helpings of publicity from national and international media outlets, such as The New York Times, which spotlighted the city in its travel section earlier this month.
That publicity did not come about by happenstance. While Columbus and its architecture have had a strong presence in the media for decades, the city also has done a good job in promoting itself and its attractions through the Columbus Area Visitors Center.
The center has formed partnerships with other entities in getting the word out. Typical of that approach has been the collaboration with the Indianapolis Museum of Art in promoting the Miller House — the Eero Saarinen-designed home of the late J. Irwin and Xenia Miller — which was turned over to the museum by the Miller family.
The museum contracted with a New York public relations agency to promote the home, especially in preparation for the launch of public tours in May 2011.
That arrangement resulted in extensive publicity from a number of significant media outlets that reached audiences numbering in the millions. Around the same time the Visitors Center facilitated a visit to the city by the crew of the CBS “Sunday Morning” television program, which featured Columbus in a series of segments.
The result of that public exposure was immediate and gratifying. Tours of the Miller House were sold out months in advance. There was a spillover effect as well. The Miller House was not the only destination chosen as a result of the publicity blitz. There also was a significant uptick in the sale of tickets for the overall architectural tour.
In fact, the Visitors Center has been able to track the effects of such publicity through a system that provides officials with information on tour ticket sales, hotel reservations and revenue from purchases at the gift shop.
The tracking system goes beyond purchases and can provide quick feedback in such areas as how well a particular article is read.
For instance, The New York Times article was posted on the center’s Facebook page and had 8,868 views by 10 a.m. the following Monday.
A typical viewership of an article on the center’s Facebook page is seldom more than 4,000. By last Thursday, viewership of the Times article had climbed to more than 14,000.
That’s only a small fraction of the number of people who have seen the article in other formats, such as the print and electronic versions of the Times.
There also is convincing anecdotal evidence to back up the value of this kind of publicity.
In the past week, the Visitors Center was contacted by a business executive from a major firm who had seen the article and made reservations for four to take both the Miller House tour and the overall architectural tour. He also booked two rooms for two nights at the Inn at Irwin Gardens.
That small party is likely to spend several hundred dollars in Columbus, not just in tour tickets and lodging but for meals and gifts at local businesses.
Columbus tourism is getting a boost from this kind of publicity, but the overall economy in the city benefits as well.