Philadelphia to tourists: There's more to see here than the Liberty Bell

Philadelphia's tourism marketing arm has set out to generate more visits and longer stays in the area.

Credit: Photo by C. Smyth for Visit Philadelphia
Credit: Photo by C. Smyth for Visit Philadelphia

Company name: Visit Philadelphia
Campaign name: Historic Philadelphia
Agency Mix: Visit Philadelphia; Red Tettemer; MayoSeitz Media
Duration: Summer 2016 - ongoing
Budget: $2 million in grant support

Visit Philadelphia wants tourists to know that the city is made up of more than just the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Philadelphia’s tourism marketing arm is spreading word about the city’s newly expanded historic district, which boasts 24 attractions.

The Historic Philadelphia campaign involves the rollout of a new logo, website, advertising, and a social media strategy that will help drive attention to the city's latest tourism effort.

In summer 2014, the Lenfest Foundation commissioned Drexel University, with input from Visit Philadelphia, to identify challenges facing Philadelphia’s prized historic district and recommend possible solutions—both in the visitor experience and the marketing of the area.

Although 4.5 million people came to the historic area in 2015, most people only visited the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Independence Visitor Center, explained Paula Butler, VP of communications at Visit Philadelphia. 

"Most other attractions and businesses in the district – and there are many -- were seeing flat or declining attendance," she said. "We began to discuss how we might address this and generate more visits and longer stays in the area."

The campaign team sought out to redefine Philadelphia’s historic district, including its Old City and Society Hill neighborhoods, in addition to Independence National Historical Park and the Delaware River waterfront.

A major goal was to make the city fun and interactive for visitors by emphasizing the unique history of the area, as well as drawing attention to its independent restaurants, nightlife, shopping, and walkability.

To facilitate successful partnerships, particularly those with the 24 key attraction sites, the campaign team has curated a shared Dropbox. This includes key message points, the lead release, a list of spokespeople, a style guide, links to the Historic Philadelphia content page, and the new trail and map. Business owners in the district are being offered a branded window decal to display in their shops.

"We have a lot of stakeholders, including our funders and 24 key attractions in and around historic Philadelphia, and we wanted to be sure they each had a voice in the planning process and helped us craft our messages," said Butler.

The PR efforts leading up to the expansion of the city's tourism district involved media events in New York and Toronto, and a press trip around the historic Philadelphia area with eight national and regional media outlets.

The campaign has beckoned the rollout of a new social media strategy. User-generated content is being encouraged, using the hashtag #HistoricPhilly. Nine Visit Philadelphia social channels, with a combined one million fans and followers, are being utilized to distribute original and user-generated, history-themed content, and engage with fans through organic and paid measures.

As part of the social media tactics, the campaign team is monitoring visitor posts, identifying compelling videos and imagery, and interacting with visitors on social media to encourage exploration.

"Our approach to Historic Philadelphia, like everything we do at Visit Philadelphia, is to start by creating engaging, sharable content – words, pictures, and video – and to reinforce it across all our channels," said Butler. "The emphasis of this content is the history, fun, food, shopping, and everything that can be done in this area."

Video sharing platforms, including Periscope, Snapchat, and Facebook Live, will be used to feature Historic Philadelphia programming throughout the summer. Several Snapchat filters unique to the campaign were also developed.

Visit Philadelphia also broadened its content marketing to go along with the launch of the Historic Philadelphia campaign. The content aims to enlighten tourists on the features of the newly expanded tourism district, and includes articles on top activities to do with children in historic Philadelphia, or what to do over a weekend in the area.

Paid media associated with the campaign includes outdoor advertising, such as bus wraps and billboards, digital placements with online banners, ads on Pandora, and email blasts. Radio spots were also placed on local stations More FM (WBEB) and iHeart Media (WDAS).

Branded Visit Philadelphia websites, such as and, are displaying information about themed trails and articles geared toward different ages and interests to help visitors plan trips to the historic Philadelphia area. The two websites had a combined 18.7 million visits in 2015.

To date, there have been 35 individual media placements about the campaign itself or to highlight attractions in the historic district. These stories have generated about 1.4 million media impressions.

There have also been 550 media placements across broadcast, online, and print media in the pre-launch phase of the campaign, from February to May 2016. These stories, which featured or mentioned historic Philadelphia attractions in various local and national travel outlets, generated 62 million media impressions, worth a publicity value estimated at more than $732,000, according to CisionPoint Analytics.

The campaign team tracked coverage about the campaign’s launch in a variety of local and industry outlets including: The Philadelphia Inquirer,,, NBC10 News, FOX29 News, KYW Newsradio, and Marketing Daily.

Around 3.3 million people have seen the Historic Philadelphia filters on Snapchat, which debuted on May 25.

It is still too early to analyze updated visitor numbers to historic Philadelphia.

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