Monday, we were notified that a local blogger created and shared a post noting insensitivity with the current campaign utilized by Visit Billings for the last 18 months to recruit tourists to our community.
The Forge Your Own Path campaign is designed to celebrate the warm, genuine, hardworking people who possess a perspective on life that is uniquely Montanan. The campaign, specifically the phrase “Onward Pioneers” was used to encourage our visitors to explore all of Montana; to make today all you can make it and tomorrow, too. To not let a day go by without living it to the fullest. The character of our community is the very foundation of our brand, and we didn't go far enough in representing the entirety of the community and region.
This is an important lesson for Visit Billings and the Billings Chamber of Commerce. While not the intent of the campaign whatsoever, we now see that the campaign reads insensitively. This is very upsetting to our employees, our stakeholders and our leadership and we appreciate the perspective offered to us. Therefore, Visit Billings and the Billings Chamber of Commerce are responding with utmost urgency to amend and revise the campaign immediately. As of this writing, the following actions have already been taken:
- We placed an order to remove the billboard creative on the signage to the east, west, and south of Billings. These will be removed by the billboard owners and high priority has been noted.
- We are dismantling the core elements of the campaign that are insensitive, including removal of significant portions of the VisitBillings.com website and the Visit Billings Guidebook until the content can be evaluated and corrected.
- We connected with the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development and their Tribal Tourism Officer to share this experience and ask for guidance in doing better moving forward. We are also working with them to secure recommendations of people whom we can hire to audit our website and guidebook. We will engage a Tribal consultant(s) who will help us ensure historic accuracy and proper promotion of the reservations.
Going forward, Visit Billings and the Billings Chamber of Commerce will be extremely mindful of social progression in all aspects of our work. This is an opportunity for our organization to elevate our responsibility and consciousness as a destination marketing organization and through our community development efforts.
We appreciate the larger conversation the blog post has generated regarding inclusivity. We will take this opportunity to be better; to do better for all, and to understand all of the diverse viewpoints creating the fabric of our region.