I am starting the week very happy with the memories of the Human Brochure weekend. It will be hard to get back to reality. We certainly have been living it up. And I miss my fellow foodies already.
I met wonderful people who are all interested in food, culture and Australia's history, and of course, being connected. They just *got* social media. It was ok to carry on a verbal conversation while having another conversation on Twitter. It was ok to take photos at the table and delay the eating process! I think I have made some great friends. And I was impressed with the organisation, service and attention to detail we received. The hotel, wineries, restaurants, gallery, botanical gardens, and Human Brochure staff - all so impressive.
It was not all about getting free stuff and cash for comment as many perceived (by traditional media and also perhaps the non social media savvy?). The written and pictorial narratives on social media was genuine. While the very large majority was positive, there was some criticism of service. Which reinforces the authenticity of the participants in the initiative.
It was about working with government, food and wine providers, national icons and tourism bodies to create awareness about our capital city.
It was about breaking down stigmas about Canberra being boring and being the burden of Government decisions that some may not agree with.
It was about learning through experience, and subsequently teaching. I learnt about Indigenous art, wine making, Canberra's history, food and our country's participation in war. I also learnt about the lives of my new friends. They are passionate, intelligent, funny and interesting.
It was about appreciating local produce and hearing the stories behind these producers. They are passionate. We all indulged. But the food and wine was good quality. And we also saw where some of it was grown - right in the garden of the winery!
It was about getting humans to connect face to face - bringing loved ones, online friends and strangers together for quality time - and FUN! It was so great to see families, couples, friends and strangers having fun together! My new blogging friend turned travel buddy Tash got to know eachother better too. when was the last time you took time out from your lives to have fun, and essentially play?
And it was about engaging in a groundbreaking event of experience-based social media marketing. I would like to see this initiative run in other cities.
Australian Capital Tourism could have spent $1 Million on getting a celebrity to spruik Canberra. They could have spent it on a TV or newspaper ad. But they didn't. They chose to get real people from a range of ages and backgrounds to experience what Canberra can offer, and share their experiences on social media. Australian Capital Tourism is a government agency. I think this initiative is so progressive and edgy for the government. It is also a risk - what if the exposure on social media went wrong? What if the service or products we experienced were poor? The impact on tourism following this initiative is yet to be seen (and there is another tour in February), but I saw fantastic reactions from the Humans on the tour - both in person and on social media. I also saw Canberrians loving that we shared their city with the world. How courageous of Canberra's government to take this risk.
We all knew what we were there for - to promote Canberra - but we could do so as balanced, frequently and across as many social media platforms as we chose. There was never any pressure from Australian Capital Tourism to share our experiences, but I believe that we loved it so much that we wanted to share it with our networks. It never felt false from the inside.
Personally, as a blogger, I always feel 'on'. Observing, photographing, note taking, talking, listening, storytelling and promoting. Everything is a story. I was chosen to take part in the Human Brochure initiative, and I wanted to do it justice by sharing the best of Canberra with you in an honest and exciting way. The trip was fully paid for. The very best was showcased, an this was to be expected. I also thought there was a difference between what we spruiked - local family owned businesses and government assets - compared to big corporate multinationals. This made me feel more comfortable about promoting what I saw and experienced. I wasn't remunerated to be there, but I worked as though I was. I don't take opportunties for granted. Tash and I both provided honest balanced feedback to the team, but on the whole, our experience was positive.
I feel so proud and privileged to be a part of the Human Brochure initiative.
Ian Hill, head of Australian Capital Tourism left us with a quote from Benjamin Franklin.
"Tell me and I'll forget
Show me and I might remember
Involve me and I'll understand"
This quote sums up our weekend. We did stuff, we learnt new things, we enjoyed it and so we shared our experiences. And our opinions were valued.
The Human Brochure is a new way of marketing. It's not much different to a sponsored blog post or conference. It's not much different to a travel review. It is a lot like a blogger receiving free stuff for review - though it's not just a dress given to one blogger and then promoted once with a blog post. This was a holiday given to hundreds, as a prize in a competition, and promoted en masse. It's social media that partners with face to face experiences.
Disclaimer: All of the commentary on this post and future posts about Human Brochure are my own thoughts about the city. This trip has been paid for by Australian Capital Tourism. I was chosen to participate in the Human Brochure initiative because of my strong social media presence.