Telum Talks To… Esther Ng, SEA PR & Communications Manager, Tourism Australia

Telum Talks To… Esther Ng, SEA PR & Communications Manager, Tourism Australia

Telum caught up with Esther Ng from Tourism Australia to talk about the golden rules of public relations that she lives by, her approach in regional marketing and the recent demand of sustainable tourism.

What are three principles that every PR professional should live by?
Every practitioner will arrive at their own guiding principles, but here are my two (or three) cents. Firstly, always consciously keep your audience at the centre and take time to understand them. It seems obvious, but sometimes you may get sidetracked, and they become an afterthought, when they should always inform your strategic, tactical and operational considerations. At Tourism Australia, we invest in regular research for each market to determine audiences’ key destination drivers and barriers, future travel sentiment and what will drive demand, and where we sit within the purchase funnel relative to other destinations, alongside other metrics. This helps us craft the right messages and identify the best channels to reach our desired audience.

Secondly, get adept at dimensionalising your storytelling - by knowing the full variety of news beats in your market (and what works for each beat) like the back of your hand. Our audiences love travel but also have diverse interests, and I think it’s important to reflect that. For every new launch or announcement, there is a treasure trove of stories to be uncovered, and it may be helpful to think beyond your brand’s immediate sector. In talking about festival tourism in Australia for instance, we have told in-depth tech stories, sustainability stories, business and entrepreneurship stories, arts and culture stories, and many more - all with highly distinct angles but with the single-minded ambition of driving destination consideration. When you apply that lens, you can much more intuitively spot fresh angles, and add a much richer breadth and depth to your storytelling.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, always champion the role and value of PR and communications within the marketing mix. Even within our industry, some may still see PR as a publicity tactic, and it is tempting to look at it as a standalone function. But really it is so much more than that, and an essential first step in the marketing funnel - it can be a great tool for building trust, protecting and evolving reputation, and safeguarding your brand - sometimes, as a by-product, also creating awesome talkability. Work closely with your counterparts along the marketing funnel to design your integrated strategy and collectively bring your vision to life.

How do you market a destination that is so familiar to the region, in new ways?
By staying eagle-eye focused on the strategic destination drivers for each market while mapping agile, data-driven insights and new product offerings to these drivers. In my role, I oversee three markets - Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. As a region, they are highly familiar with Australia - over half of travellers across all three markets are repeat visitors, and the same percentage have been to Australia more than twice. Yet these same audiences have so much more to rediscover about the destination.

We closely monitor their holiday decision-making factors and potential demand triggers. In Singapore, for instance, food and wine has traditionally been a strong driver. Within specific traveller segments that fit our audience profile, we are seeing a pattern where they are becoming more conscious of their food source and more adventurous in their dining selections.

We reflect this in our storytelling - upweighting content and messages that highlight food provenance, value-driven choice, and unique ingredients (many of which are proudly native to Australia - and the heroes of various new Indigenous restaurants). This is just one example, but we apply the same approach to all our other inherent Australian destination drivers such as nature and wildlife, depending on individual market nuances.

With travellers becoming more sustainable-minded, how are you communicating around sustainable tourism?
From a destination standpoint, our research has told us that regional audiences are certainly now much more interested in learning how to travel sustainably. That said, while there is strong latent demand, this growing interest is not quite yet translating as a holiday driver. People appreciate when their trip is environmentally and culturally friendly, but they do not want to be preached to. Our storytelling approach hence focuses on showing them how an eco-friendly holiday in Australia can also look a lot like the holiday of their dreams - from past testing, this approach has been registering effective interest.

From a corporate perspective, we prioritise walking the talk - sustainability is not just a marketing pillar or campaign, nor a “nice-to-have” - it is the underlying requisite of everything we do. To that end, Tourism Australia has appointed a Head of Sustainability and is working to ingrain sustainability as a core business value across the organisation.

What do you wish more people knew about Australia?
That it is constantly evolving and innovating, and what you think you know is always being refreshed - you can never be too familiar with the country! For instance, even when borders were closed during the pandemic, there was incredible infrastructure growth with a suite of notable openings, including 100 new or renovated hotels and an array of new restaurants and attractions. One example is the classic Scenic World experience at the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains - you can now actually climb onto the rooftop of a cable car to take in the unrestricted panorama at 270 metres above the rainforest. This “Beyond Skyway” experience just opened in 2022. And there’s a ton more to rediscover, including epic new hiking trails all around the country. I’m always happy to share suggestions! With all of these within reach for the region - there’s no better time to come and see Australia. 

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