Over its two-decade-long history, the Queen Charlotte Lodge (QCL) has established itself as an angler's dream.
Nestled in British Columbia's Haida Gwaii, on the province's majestic north coast, the area has long had a reputation for world-class equipment, professional guides and spectacular fishing – this season's biggest Chinook salmon weighed in at an incredible 79 pounds.
But the five-star resort also boasts the kind of luxury not often associated with a fishing trip: QCL has fine dining, a well-stocked wine cellar, a spa and a humidor, which are perfect not only for the elite sportsman, but for family adventures, romantic getaways and corporate retreats.
So, over the past five years, the lodge executed an ambitious rebranding strategy that has expanded its media outreach, diversified its target demographic, and even put the company smack dab in the middle of a one-of-a-kind reality TV series.
"I've always said that when people come up to a place like Haida Gwaii and all they do is eat, sleep and fish, they are denying themselves a lot," says Duane Foerter, QCL's marketing manager. "The rebranding that has taken place over the past five years has been an accelerator."
Mr. Foerter has been with QCL since day one, and he says that ever since managing partner Paul Clough took over in 2000, the lodge has benefited from Mr. Clough's strong vision for driving the company forward. The challenge was not only to elevate the overall experience, but to get the word out in bigger and better ways. Going beyond traditional outreach methods of referrals, sporting trade shows, and fishing programs, QCL worked with a local public relations firm to attract coverage from mainstream media.
"By tapping into (our PR company's) resources, we were able to open ourselves up to the outside world a little bit and reach beyond the normal channels," Mr. Foerter says.
QCL also worked with a local producer who had a successful history in fishing programming to secure an HD reality TV show based on the lodge's operations. Docu-reality series The Lodge, which airs weekly on the World Fishing Network, is about to start its second season.
"The show is really about behind the scenes and what it takes to make a remote, fly-in wilderness fishing lodge really work. Fishing is the central focus, but the show itself is more about the people," Mr. Foerter explains.
The TV show, he adds, has enabled the lodge to expand its audience, with more successful outreach into Ontario and Quebec – an area the lodge had not focused on before.
"Over the past year the TV show has actually attracted a new market of people. It is getting the QCL brand into thousands of homes that would have never heard of it.
"We're constantly surprised," Mr. Foerter continues. "We had a phone call this week with a potential client that one of our sales reps called… and when he made the connection through the TV show, all of a sudden he just warmed up to us by another 50 per cent – this special relationship developed."
There is no doubt QCL has established itself over the years as a Canadian tourism icon – it is well-known and respected for its incredible fishing and unique offering of luxury in the wilderness.
We're learning more and more that reality TV isn't only for singers, dancers, and people looking for love. We also know that not everyone can have a TV show. The key message here is storytelling: companies that have a good tale to tell should share it, whether it's on television, through the media or on a podcast or blog.
Your company may be experiencing success in your niche market, but that doesn't mean you've reached your peak. Strive to do what QCL has done by reaching out further, sharing your story creatively, and elevating your brand to unmatchable heights.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies.