This blog posting should be about how small ship and tour operators achieve great marketing value when they support and publicize their affiliations with worthy non-profit organizations.
And it is. But it is also about penguins. So we’ll talk about the penguins first, since everyone loves penguins.
What inspired me to write this is the current Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to produce an educational film about the critical work that Ron Naveen and his organization Oceanites are doing in Antarctica. It’s a project that counts.
“Ocean-eye-tees” – the scientific name for a specific type of oceanic bird – has been counting penguins in Antarctica for nearly 20 years – Gentoos, chinstraps and Adélie Penguins. And that’s counting the old-fashioned way, with a hand counter not so different from those used by your city’s traffic department to tally cars driving through busy intersections.
Despite the low-tech gear, this ongoing census has resulted in the monumental Antarctic Site Inventory, which serves as the basis for important scientific research and even policy decisions made by the Antarctic Treaty System, which provides governance for the White Continent.
(By the way, the Antarctic Site Inventory can be downloaded free as a PDF file from the Oceanites website, and is an excellent resource for anyone thinking about a trip to Antarctica – it tells you what penguin types you might to see at various landing sites.)
This past season, Filmmakers Peter Getzels, Erik Osterholm and Harriet Gordon shot over 71 hours of Ron and his team at the Antarctic Peninsula going about their painstaking business of counting. Now they need your help, and the help of anyone else you know that loves penguins. The filmmakers must now edit a cut – and that means scripting, editing, music voice-over, sound mixing, etc. – so that it can be submitted to film festivals around the world. The film will tell the story in ways that only a documentary can, and thus help Oceanites continue its fine work.
I join them in asking to “count you in.” Your donation will go through Oceanites’ non-profit science & educational foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) organization and is thus tax deductible. With a deadline of October 10, the campaign is about halfway towards its goal. All the details are here, and you can pledge as little as $5.00.
UPDATE: Great news! The Kickstarter program was a big success, so thanks to all those who contributed. The goals were achieved!
Five mutually beneficial reasons for tour and cruise companies to partner with non-profit organizations
Now for the marketing and public relations value in supporting and highlighting admirable not-for-profits on your website. Here are a few observations and recommendations:
- Your support helps shape the perception of your company as more than just a commercial enterprise. Sure, this is basic PR 101, but all tour and ship operators can find ways to support non-profit organizations, some international in scope, or smaller ones in the areas where they trade. It might be a wildlife foundation, local museum, conservation area, historic preservation group – your imagination and sincerity are the only limiting factors here.
Some cruise and tour operators have even created their own philanthropic foundations – Abercrombie & Kent, Lindblad Expeditions and G Adventures' Planeterra Foundation come to mind – and this is great. But even if you are doing this on a much smaller scale, the organization should be one that you believe in and can commit to for the long haul, and one where you feel your company’s regular support can make a difference. And, of course, there should be a logical connection between the organization’s mission and what you as a tour or cruise operator are doing. It becomes part of your brand.
All other things being equal, wouldn’t a prospective customer prefer to spend their money with the tour operator that is supportive of a cause he or she deems worthwhile?
- Pay it forward. Supporting charitable organizations provides welcome exposure for their work with your customers and prospects, some of who may very well be interested in the same mission and objectives of the organization that attracted you. Your connection with the organization might be the first time your customer has ever heard about it, and his or her interest in your company may very well blossom into a relationship with the charitable organization as well.
- It can make your travel program more interesting. Most non-profit organizations are keen to provide assistance to the travel companies that support them. This can range from the simple – e.g. providing informative handouts – to having experts, such as conservationists, authors, curators, historians, conservators or scientists speak to your guests about their work.
Naturally, such pitches can’t be heavy-handed, and must first and foremost provide a cultural and educational dimension that enhances the experience for the traveler. Many expedition cruise operators, for example, carry scientists to research facilities or remote field sites on a pro bono basis. In turn, these scientists present unique lectures to the guests and answer questions while aboard, providing a different perspective or topic about the destination than what is offered by the ship’s expedition staff.
- Incorporate the connection into your social media schedule. While quite a few cruise and tour operators provide a logo and link on their websites to the charitable organizations they support, they’re not always easy to find. Even fewer have incorporated these connections into their social media postings. This can include postings to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs – especially blogs.
And pictures are worth a thousand words. Such postings contribute valuable and informative content that will bring exposure to both your company and to the organization you believe in. It helps make your “social” socially conscious.
- Keep track of your support. Everyone is familiar with the value of measurement. Your connection with an organization benefits your company even more if you can document the contributions you and your guests have made. Length of time associated with the non-profit, amount of money raised, number of visitors exposed to its mission – all of these statistics help you tell your story as a company that is passionate about the organization and the work that it’s doing.
For example, member companies of IAATO and their passengers have contributed nearly $3 million over the past ten years to a host of Antarctic-related charitable organizations. That’s something to be proud of, and makes a bold statement to external stakeholders about IAATO members’ commitment to safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic.
Now back to the penguins. Take a look at the video above that further details this worthy Kickstarter cause. It’s a neat little trailer for a documentary that you or your company can be a part of. Or look for another worthy cause that you and your company can support for the long haul. Paying it forward is the way to go.