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Tourism Department uses food bloggers to spread word about NM

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The state Tourism Department paid for five food bloggers to take a culinary tour of New Mexico earlier this month. (COURTESY OF NEW MEXICO TOURISM DEPARTMENT)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jessica Fiorillo writes a food-themed blog that’s been recognized by Self Magazine. She boasts an Instagram following of 16,600 and has active Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

And now, after a trip to New Mexico funded by the state’s tourism department, she’ll turn to those channels to convey her newfound enthusiasm for the Land of Enchantment and its food.

From meeting a Truth or Consequences-based chef who also works as an instructor for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts to savoring some Hatch chile eggs benedict in Silver City, the “Feed Me Dearly” blog author found herself pleasantly surprised by her New Mexico visit.

“It was one of the best trips of my life,” Fiorillo, who lives in New York, told the Journal earlier this week.

And now, of course, the Tourism Department expects her to share her take with the world, part of a new push to lure visitors with the help of “social influencers.” The department recruited Fiorillo and four other food bloggers from around the U.S. for an all-expenses-paid trip to travel — and taste —their way through New Mexico, where cuisine is considered a chief attraction.

The bloggers each toured a different area, following a carefully prepared itinerary designed to highlight the state’s culinary assets. They combined to visit 44 restaurants and other food-related sites and traveled an estimated 1,650 miles in about three days.

They Tweeted and posted Instagram photos during their visit using the hashtag “NMTrueFlavors.” The tag had 1.6 million Twitter impressions and 1.2 million Instagram impressions by the final afternoon of their tour, according to tourism spokeswoman.

They will keep generating online and social content in the weeks to come — the contract requires at least three blog posts from each by June 20.

Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham said it’s the first time the state has tried a social media influencer campaign but noted they are growing in popularity and “you can reach travelers in a completely different way.”

The campaign cost the state an estimated $30,000, according to Jordan Guenther, the department’s advertising and marketing director. (Various partners, like Heritage Hotels, helped by comping the blogger’s hotel rooms.) In comparison, Guenther said the state has paid about $85,000 for an ad in a national food magazine.

But what would happen if these influential visitors didn’t, in fact, enjoy their time in New Mexico?

Fiorillo — who also works as a freelance brand ambassador — said she would never blast the state.

“When I work with brands, I don’t say anything that’s really bad. If I do have a bad experience, I will gloss over it, but I won’t be super-positive,” she said. “I think there’s an authenticity when you say something very positive about something; it just rings true. And I think people will hear that in my posts about New Mexico. It’s going to sound very enthusiastic.”

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