Bob Hazlett, director of online marketing at the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, is a proudly converted Memphian who promotes the city as a travel destination.
“I feel that if we can get someone to come to Memphis, they fall in love with the city,” Hazlett said. “I’ve lived in a couple of different places, and I think that for all of the bad things that are said about Memphis, there are so many positive things that are going on. It’s not a rhinestone, but it is a diamond in the rough. If you seek things out, the city will reveal itself to you.”
He moved here in 2006 from Springfield, Ohio, near Dayton, following his wife-to-be, who had transplanted here a year earlier.
Hazlett has a background in finance and marketing, working with Fifth Third Bank before coming to Memphis. He moved here for an opportunity with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and began working with ALSAC’s Corporate Alliances department that puts on the organization’s gala Thanksgiving campaign each year.
As social media emerged in 2005-2006, his department grew from just two employees and he began to develop an impressive skill set in the digital marketing arena.
“Now they raise $100 million a year online, if not more,” Hazlett said. “There were two of us to start, and now there are probably 30 to 50 people there that are focused on doing things online. It’s a growing team that does great work.”
Hazlett joined the Convention & Visitors Bureau in March 2010.
“I was looking for some more challenges and to take a new step,” he said. “My big thing is about learning and growing.”
Today his responsibilities include overseeing online and mobile strategy, content on www.memphistravel.com, creating and managing Internet marketing, email, advertising, mobile and PPC campaigns. He also oversees all social media, including Kerry Crawford’s “I Love Memphis” blog. In his time at the Convention & Visitors Bureau, he has overseen a complete website overhaul, developed a new smartphone app and implemented new, tech-driven initiatives.
“When I came here they were talking about redesigning the website, which I thought may have been a little short-sighted considering the trends and the way things were going,” Hazlett said. “What we took on was to develop a platform that both visitors and our partner organizations could use, while also generating revenue for us in addition to the hotel/motel bed tax.”
A portion of the hotel/motel bed tax makes up 80 percent to 90 percent of the annual revenue for the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
In developing the new platform, Hazlett took a holistic view of all of the company’s product offerings.
“By developing a platform that would help generate and drive the website, it would also help us develop mobile applications and even perfect our print guides that you can pick up at hotels,” he said. “It can all be run off of one platform or database, and it allows local businesses like The Peabody or Kooky Canuck to advertise in all of those platforms.”
The result has been successful, as traffic to the www.memphistravel.com website grew by 45 percent last year, generating $230,000 in new revenue.
Mobile iPhone and Android apps have approximately 25,000 downloads since debuting in October 2011.
For social media, the Convention & Visitors Bureau focuses primarily on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google Hangouts, where so far they have done a couple of fun user-generated interviews with University of Memphis coach Josh Pastner and Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen.
“We have users submit questions, so you can find out why Josh Pastner doesn’t cuss or what Tony Allen is listening to on his headphones, things you won’t hear on ESPN,” Hazlett said. “Instead of the traditional media where you are just pounding users with ads, we give them something to talk about and to get excited about.”
He finds a challenge in keeping Memphis top-of-mind in such a competitive destination marketing field.
“You have to be creative and find different approaches. Sometimes it can be like juggling 10 balls at once,” Hazlett said.
This year Hazlett’s team is focusing promoting the city’s outdoor destinations like the Shelby Farms Greenline and Mirimichi golf course, and is also capitalizing on the Stax Museum’s 10-year anniversary with a “Find Your Soul Mate in Memphis” spring and summer campaign.
Outside of work, he is an adviser for The Orpheum Theatre Next Generation Board.
He and his wife just bought a new home a year ago, and they are expecting their first child in October. They can be found at local farmers markets or new restaurants on the weekends.
“We like to be out in the sun and exploring Memphis,” Hazlett said.