Aisling promotes St George’s with zeal
If there is one thing Aisling O’Connell is enthusiastic about, it is the Town of St George.
She has lived there for most of her life.
As a child, coming home on the bus, she would often advise the tourists travelling with her.
“I would tell them what they could see in St George’s,” she said. “I would tell them where the best fish sandwiches were. It feels like I have been promoting the town my whole life.”
So when she started her own online marketing company, Zeal Designs, last month, it felt right that one of her first clients was her home town. She now maintains the town’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
Every day she posts photographs and information about town businesses, history and landmarks.
“It is a bit of a passion project of mine,” she said. “I am trying hard to push the fact that things are open in St George's. Come down. There are businesses and people. St George's is great. Don’t forget about us.”
Some of the places she posts about on social media have been in the same location for more than 200 years, yet people message her saying they had no idea that was there.
They also write to thank and encourage her.
“One business owner and manager reached out to thank me,” she said. “They said, ‘You are doing such a great job, and people are coming in.’ That felt good to be making a difference.”
She would like to see more businesses in St George taking advantage of the town’s social media platforms.
“They are free,” she said.
She said that as the summer tourism season gears up, exciting events are rolling out. For example, the Annual Marine Expo in St George's kicks off on April 24, after a two-year hiatus.
“That is something being put on by the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation,” Ms O’Connell said. “They are trying really hard to show that things are open and things are happening, and summer is right around the corner. I have been working with them a lot.”
But she feels that the Government needs to do more to help Bermuda’s former capital.
“There is so much community down here,” she said. “The revenue could be so amazing.”
But she said there is no common pot that stakeholders can dip into to organise events to draw people in. And there is a lot of red tape when people want to improve their properties or the town.
She said that Bermuda’s visitors are genuinely interested in St George, the oldest continuously inhabited British town in the Americas.
“My mother, Nikki O’Connell, runs three Airbnbs,” she said. “She is fully booked until August.”
Opening Zeal during a pandemic has had its challenges.
“Covid-19 has definitely been a game changer for everything,” Ms O’Connell said. “People are much more careful about how they spend their money. I feel like as someone who has a business, you really have to sell yourself, and push your unique selling points.”
She emphasises that paying for marketing help is an investment rather than an expense.
“I had a business approach me that was really interested in me taking on their social media,” Ms O’Connell said. “They were running it, doing everything including creating content. I said sure, here is a package I can do up for you. I did a mock-up of what I could provide for them. They said oh yeah, that seems wonderful, but we don’t have the funds. I am finding that a lot. People often don’t have the funds because their business has slowed right down during Covid-19. But they need the extra help. Marketing is huge for a business.”
She said some new business owners underestimate how big a task it is to effectively maintain social media feeds and carry out online marketing campaigns.
“Having someone do it for you takes a lot off your shoulders,” she said.
Some businesses tell her they do not need marketing help because they already have a customer base.
“I say that is great, but why don’t you expand your customer base?” she said. “Now is the best time to do it.”
She got into online marketing after handling social media marketing for a wedding planner.
“I was her social media manager,” Ms O’Connell said. “I was her PA. I was her e-mail marketer. I did all online stuff. I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of things at once but you could see how it helped her business. It was interesting to look at the analytics.”
That inspired her to open Zeal Designs.
For more information check out @stgeorgesbda on Facebook and Instagram. Also see www.zeal-designs.com or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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