If you’ve ever been on a Carnival cruise ship, you surely know John Heald.
As the Fun Ships’ “senior cruise director and brand ambassador,” Heald’s job is really about engaging the customers. And after 30 years of practice, he’s pretty darn good at it; his blog has 152,000 followers and a reach of 1.3 million. So on a recent cruise on the new Carnival Vista, TMR editor Cheryl Rosen pulled him aside and asked for some tips to help travel agents build their own brands.
Here’s what he suggested:
1. Make it true.
Engaging people isn’t about changing who you are; there’s no need to try to be someone else. The best cruise directors are the same offstage as on. For travel agents, just as for cruise directors, the moment people think you are on automatic, you have lost them. The skill is in making the people listening to you feel like you are talking just to them.
2. Even in this age of the internet, the power of conversation is as strong as ever.
Speak from your heart. Don't be frightened to say that not everything in the garden is rosy; tell a story that shows you have learned from your mistakes. And always make it as personal as you possibly can.
3. Be an ambassador for yourself first and your company second.
When people buy travel on the internet, that's about as impersonal as you can get. So while being on social media is important these days, personalizing it is even more important. Invite people to your page and show them ‘Here I am with my family; we had a great time on our Carnival cruise.’ I once put up a video of me just sitting on a balcony and listening to the sound of the sea—and in 46 minutes it got 9,000 hits.
4. Feed the beast.
I just post what I think and what I see, and I find that the more I post, the more thirst people seem to have. I probably post 10 times a day, but I don't want to pretend that is normal. Just do what you can. And always make it like you are speaking to one individual person.