An epic undertaking: thoughts on Visit Wales’ Year of Legends

I’m sitting here full of ideas after last week’s epic briefing session from Visit Wales. Suitably hosted by North Wales’s second capital of heritage, Caernarfon (naturally I’m biased as Conwy is just a stone’s throw from Stori HQ), the day-long event was intended for local tourism businesses, big and small, to start getting their heads around 2017’s strapline campaign ‘The Year of Legends’.

An epic year

As many of you already know 2016 is the first of three ‘Years of…’; marketing campaigns spearheaded by Visit Wales to promote our treasured homeland on the national and international stages. 2016 has led the charge with the Year of Adventure; 2017 heads back in time with the Year of Legends; and 2018 dips its toes into the Year of the Sea.

The Year of Adventure has met with impressive success (helped massively by Bale and the gang at the Euros) and Wales, North Wales in particular, is enjoying a renaissance of touristic fortunes the likes of which we haven’t seen… well, ever, if I understood the stats right!

While I enjoyed the Year of Adventure and everything it stood for, it doesn’t compare to the excitement and anticipation I have for the Year of Legends. Those of you who know me, in whatever capacity, quickly get to know about my passion for history, heritage and all things olden.

For me, The Year of Legends, is tailor-made and I’m so excited to get started on it – my clients are in for a real treat next year! I actually attended the briefing along with a client and work colleague and she was delighted to have her pet copywriter with her to bounce ideas off as the briefing progressed.

The speakers went to great lengths to stress the brand values embodied by Visit Wales but also took time to explain to delegates how this could be incorporated into their individual marketing strategies. The endgame? Simple, to ‘create, curate and celebrate an epic year of legendary experiences’ by tapping into our almost bottomless pool of history, myths, legends and stories.

Telling tales

Wales has long been regarded as the home of storytellers and, in fact, the inspirational Angharad Wynne, hosted the greater part of the briefing. Angharad, as well as being a big cheese at Visit Wales, is a professional storyteller – yes, they have professionals now. A pastime as old as the hills needs specialists!

And this is what got me thinking. We live in a land of stories but many of us have lost (if we ever had it in the first place) our innate Welsh ability to tell stories. The Irish are well-known for spinning a yarn but us Welsh – the true bards – have seemingly stopped talking.

For the the Year of Legends to be as successful as the Year of Adventure this needs to be tackled quickly. No more of the humble, self-deprecating ‘little old me’ attitude many of us have in buckets. Instead we need to become Merlin and stand atop the mountains sharing our love and passion (which we also have in buckets) for Wales with all who venture here. Yes, here be dragons but, you know what, here be storytellers too!

Now, Visit Wales aren’t expecting us all to light a campfire and start regaling visitors with tales of Arthur, Alice or the Afanc (although this will form part of many marketing plans for next year – fantastic!) but there are countless other ways they want us to tell our stories: through content, through images, through our attractions and workplaces.

For humankind, content – the written word – is a natural form of storytelling. Not the first, mind you; the oral tradition – the spoken word was telling stories aeons before pen ever touched paper. Following the development of writing, the oral tradition evolved into the written word. Not the oldest form of storytelling then but, hey, second place aint bad.

Most businesses understand the importance of content to their marketing strategy but I imagine a lot of people left the briefing brimming with ideas, but unsure of how to bring them to life.

Angharad asked delegates to share with her words they associated with North Wales. These were the responses: variety, hospitality, history, experiences, mountains, coastline, folklore, wildlife, adventure, peace, fresh air, escape, art.

I wholeheartedly agree with each and every one but pause for a minute and think of New Zealand, think of France, think of England even! All of these associations can and are made with many, many other destinations and, as Angharad rightly pointed out, ‘if they can’t differentiate, they can’t choose’.

Our quest in the Year of Legends is to differentiate Wales on an international stage and make that decision an easy one. The way we will do this is by sharing our Wales, our secret history if you like.

Our big players – Arthur, Merlin, Dwynwen, Llewellyn, St David, Glyndwr – all have a part to play but it’s the supporting cast that will really draw the visitors in. Stories and history only we know because we live and work in Wales. Insider knowledge that will make visitors feel part of Wales and reward with the ‘legendary experiences’ Visit Wales hint it.

Sense of place

Angharad spoke at length about the need to convey a ‘sense of place’ in all our marketing efforts but this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

For a writer it’s part of the job but for non-writers it can be a very difficult thing to grasp. Why? Well, sense of place is a feeling we’re all well aware of and innately understand but struggle to put into words.

It’s a sensual thing in that all five senses need to be switched on to engage with it. Explaining sense of place is like explaining why your favourite meal is your favourite meal. You know exactly why; you remember where and when you first ate it, who you were with, why you chose it, how you felt when you ate it – it’s more than just food. It’s the whole experience.

Stori are wordsmiths, we have an above average command of language; we can help master your sense of place and the way you convey it through your content marketing efforts.

I’m raring to get started on my colleague’s content plan for 2017 – we brainstormed some exciting angles for her project that no one will be expecting but everyone will want to know about, true to the ‘bro y byd’ ethos of Visit Wales.

If you didn’t attend the briefing but want to know more or if you did and want to chat through your ideas or even mine me for some inspiration, get in  touch and we’ll do coffee.