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ST. PAUL — Visit Winona and Cynthya Porter, a contract marketer for the organization, received high accolades last week at the Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference for work they do to promote Winona as a destination for visitors.

Porter received Explore Minnesota Tourism’s inaugural Tourism Trailblazer Award for her work on marketing campaigns that modernized and repositioned Visit Winona’s messaging to appeal to a broader marketplace of travelers searching for their next favorite destination.

According to Explore Minnesota, the award was designed to recognize a community, business, or individual that demonstrated superior creative and innovative marketing tactics to benefit a tourism destination, product, or experience. Porter designed advertising plans, marketing copy, and social media programs for the organization that judges called visionary for the way they cut through a cluttered landscape of tourism messaging.

Judges also named Visit Winona’s Facebook Live campaign the state’s outstanding social media effort for its ingenuity in appealing to and energizing people from around the world who love Winona.

Each week, Porter does a Facebook Live segment from wherever Facebook followers decide using an online voting system to give followers a voice on where the next Facebook Live segment will be.

Launched in August 2018, the series has so far traveled from places like Garvin Heights, the Winona Library, and the kitchen of Bloedow Bakery to the top of Sugar Loaf bluff — all based on the whim of the people following the organization’s Facebook page. Judges called the concept a clever, winning strategy for showcasing a community, creating buy-in from followers, and providing a human element to marketing.

Tourism is an important economic engine for both Winona city and county, generating more than $103 million in gross sales in 2017, $7 million in state sales tax, and 2,300 jobs.

This is Porter’s second award from Explore Minnesota Tourism, having been named Minnesota Travel Writer of the Year in 2005. Porter also has served on the Minnesota Governor’s Tourism Council since 2006, working with tourism colleagues in an advisory role for Minnesota’s marketing efforts. The Social Media Marketing Award is Visit Winona’s fourth Marketing Excellence Award from the state’s organization governing tourism.

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