Bell Pottinger Wired to boost South Africa tourism with digital PR drive

South Africa's tourism board has awarded Bell Pottinger Wired a three-year brief aimed at modernising perceptions of the country among UK travellers following a five-way pitch.

South Africa: Bell Pottinger Wired to change perceptions in UK (Credit: Gerald Garner)
South Africa: Bell Pottinger Wired to change perceptions in UK (Credit: Gerald Garner)

The digital PR brief, understood to be worth a six-figure sum, is "a deliberate shift" in the country's marketing strategy as it aims to build its profile in the UK as more than just a safari destination.

Commenting on the new strategy, South Africa Tourism chief marketing officer Jan Hutton said: "[It will] focus more on genuine integration of digital, driven by content marketing that establishes the right relationships with the right people.

"Destination marketing is often more of a publishing role and with Bell Pottinger Wired we’ll be mastering the art of storytelling and measuring the right numbers to keep ahead of the curve."

First reported by PRWeek in May, the initial tender asked for an agency to support the tourist organisation’s digital work alongside retained PR agency Kallaway.

South Africa Tourism has adapted the brief to integrate its digital and PR activity with Bell Pottinger Wired, focused on content marketing and influencer engagement. It has also parted ways with Kallaway.

Some aspects of the initial brief such as website development will be handled by South Africa Tourism’s retained global creative agency Universal McCann. However, Bell Pottinger Wired MD James Thomlinson did not rule out the agency's potential involvement in digital product development over the next three years.

Thomlinson added: "The next three years will be an exciting time for South Africa in terms of tourism potential and development, and we are delighted South Africa Tourism has chosen us to represent them. We have an ideal opportunity to really change the way the country is perceived and experienced by travellers, through multiple channels."

The agency will create and implement multi-channel content marketing campaigns and drive influencer engagement, targeting specific consumer segments across fashion, design, music, arts and food. It will also drive engagement around specific events such as Cape Town’s status as World Design Capital in 2014 and the country's celebration of 20 years of democracy.

South Africa Tourism aims to attract more than half a million UK visitors to the country this year.

In addition, travel PR specialist Sarah Longbottom has been drafted in by the agency to lead the account as an associate partner. Longbottom has previously worked on campaigns for the tourist boards of Abu Dhabi, Jamaica and Las Vegas at 80:20 Communications, McCluskey International and Rooster PR.

Thomlinson said: "Sarah’s extensive travel background, in both PR and journalism, coupled with her digital knowledge, make her an ideal fit to lead the South Africa Tourism account. She will provide a strong support to the team to ensure we continue to deliver market-leading and award-winning campaigns."

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