Published on June 11, 2012
Gillian Marx accepts her Go Getter award at the Canadian Tourism Commission GoMedia marketplace awards ceremony. — Submitted photo
Published on June 11, 2012
National Geographic Traveler magazine named Newfoundland “one of the best-kept tourism secrets” in a 2010 story. Now Gillian Marx has received an award for her work promoting the province through media relations. — Telegram file photo
Travel writers award local tourism public relations star
Gillian Marx connects journalists from across North America with the sort of travel experiences that make magazine cover stories.
She’s a media relations person with Tourism Newfoundland, and it’s her job to pitch travel stories to journalists and publications across North America, as well as ensuring journalists have everything they need to write great travel stories.
“It’s the best communications job in government,” she said.
It’s the sort of work that results in things like National Geographic Traveler magazine naming Newfoundland “one of the best-kept tourism secrets” in a 2010 story that ranked Newfoundland at the top of a list of coastal travel destinations.
Now, Marx has received an award of her own for promoting the province to journalists across North America.
She was recently recognized for her efforts by the Canadian Tourism Commission at the GoMedia Canada Marketplace awards, where she was given the Go Getter award, recognizing excellence in the field of public relations as nominated by travel writers from across North America.
The GoMedia awards recognize excellence in journalism, and the public relations award is a new addition.
“I guess they realized that doesn’t really happen without good public relations,” said Marx.
Across the country, public relations people are doing a lot of good work, said Marx, and many are deserving of winning an award.
“There were some great nominations from my counterparts across the country and there are some really talented people in this country, so it was really an honour,” she said.
As part of her work, Marx attends about four or five media marketplace events each year. Each one is two days of targeted meetings with journalists in the markets Tourism Newfoundland is trying to reach, with each meeting lasting 15 minutes.
“We call it the speed dating of tourism,” she said.
Like a dating website, each journalist has a profile listing their interests, publication and where they’re from. From that list, Marx chooses who she wants to speak with in the hopes of convincing the person to write about Newfoundland.
“You go through, you read the profiles, you find out where their areas of interest are, you find out where they publish, and as long as that’s all sort of focused within the target market you request a meeting. Based on that, you pitch your story ideas.”
It was one of those pitches that ended up getting Marx nominated for the Go Getter award.
“The woman who nominated me, I called her and said, ‘We have this winter product and now there’s a festival around it so there’s all kinds of really cool activities with amazing things to do, the cornerstone being our ski hill. I think you are the person to experience this and write about this … and your audience would want to read about it.’”
That call was made to Liz Fleming, who agreed with Marx, and ended up travelling to Marble Mountain to write a travel piece for the Ontario market.
“When I bring somebody in normally I will tailor an itinerary and connect them with the operators who can deliver them the experience they are looking for,” said Marx.
Her attention to the needs of travel writers has benefits for the province through increased media coverage, and that is integral to maximizing awareness of Newfoundland and Labrador in key tourism markets, said Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation Derrick Dalley in a statement congratulating Marx on her award.
“Receiving this award clearly demonstrates Gillian’s passion for her work as well as her commitment to the overall goals of the travel media program. We want travel journalists to come to our province, see for themselves why Newfoundland and Labrador has become a destination of choice, and then share this with their audiences,” said Dalley.
Sharing all the province has to offer, and the stories to be found, is something Marx really enjoys about her job.
“It’s about the good stories, it’s about the great experiences, it’s about telling great stories every day,” she said.
Whether visiting the province for the first time or playing tourist in your own backyard, Marx has a list of things every person should see in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of places, and this is still my favourite place. There are things I’ve done in Newfoundland and Labrador that have made me grow as a person, and I think that’s what travel is all about nowadays. It’s the experiential aspect of travel.”
In Newfoundland, the things that are seen on nearly every travel poster and TV ad that really do need to be experienced to be appreciated.
“If you’ve never been here before, then the iconic stuff is essential,” said Marx.
For those new to the province, she suggests whale watching, iceberg viewing, and hiking either the east coast or west coast trails as well as sea kayaking along the coast.
But what really makes this province so special, she said, are the people.
“If you don’t take the time to stop, get off the highway, and go into some of our outports, and meet some of the most tremendous people anywhere, then you’ve missed out.”