About Matt

I'm a storyteller. I’m a creative, insightful writer, communicator, and “content strategist” who helps organizations and businesses succeed in a crowded marketplace. I write to inform, influence, persuade and elevate. I've written and edited for newspapers, magazines, businesses, nonprofits, people, websites, and universities.

I'd like to tell, write, or content strategize stories on a grand stage for you.

In December 2018, I obtained a Master’s degree in Communication from Purdue University with an emphasis on strategic and crisis communication and public relations.

"I love words, their meaning, how they can be used and how when everything comes together there’s a deep, lyrical beauty to them. I love when words I write make people laugh, or sometimes cry, or smile, or nod, but above all experience."



I'm writing and editing. And taking on contract and freelance work.

Based In

Gloucester Point, Va. Think Chesapeake Bay, saltwater and blue crabs. And killer sunsets on the York River.

But Available In

Wherever. Thank you phone and internet.

Things I've said at Work. A lot.

"Less is more." | "Blessed are the flexible."





“Leaders are humble contributors because their interest is in elevating the group, not themselves.”


My clients have included industry-leading businesses in asset management, tech, augmented reality, cybersecurity, and information technology. I've also worked for clients that include restaurants, museums, nonprofits and government organizations. I write and edit press releases, blog posts, website and social media content and thought leadership content. I ghostwrite and contribute articles for trade publications. 

I've provide creative direction on projects that 

include website builds, marketing and ad campaigns and social media strategies and campaigns.

I've also handled strategic media outreach and relations, provided creative direction on client photo shoots, and shot photos and videos.

And I provide comic relief. Often at my own expense.

My work 

Blog Post: Humorous

Here’s a creative use of humor — with an unexpected twist — to let people know about critical upcoming deadlines and how people like Victor Hugo, Herman Melville, and others dealt with deadlines. http://bit.ly/DeadlinesAreDeadly

Feature Business Article

Wes Seigler is an avid Northern Neck fisherman and entrepreneur who thought he could build a better fishing reel than the ones he kept breaking. He did. And then he got sued. Twice. This is the fisherman's tale. http://bit.ly/SeiglerReels

Website Copy & Tagline

Copy for the website for Nix, a startup out of the Harvard Innovation Lab developing a single-use biosensor patch to measure hydration levels, including the tagline of "Taking the guessing out of hydration." nixbiosensors.com

Wrote the website copy and tagline for three museums in rural Middlesex County, Va., that banded together. http://museumsofmiddlesex.com

Copywriter on a nonprofit website highlighting a historic Main Street popular with local residents and tourists alike. https://gloucestervillage.com

Blog Posts: Simplifying Complex Topics

Wrote a series of blog posts for Sera-Brynn, the top-ranked cybersecurity firm in Virginia and ranked no. 7 in the U.S. and no. 10 in the world. My work established Sera-Brynn as the market leader in helping Department of Defense contractors become compliant with new DFARS federal cybersecurity regulations. http://bit.ly/SeraBrynn

Blog Post: Informative

For the Department of Veterans Affairs’ blog VAntage Point, wrote a post about the GI Bill Comparison Tool that lets Veterans see if their college allows priority enrollment. http://bit.ly/FGIBBlogPost

Blog Post: Capitalizing On Media Publicity

For a leading client in the augmented reality sector, wrote a blog post on coverage of Pokemon Go in MIT Sloan Management Review and how it cast a bright spotlight on the power of AR. http://bit.ly/IndexARSolutions

Thought Leadership Newsletter: Creative Idea and Execution

Created, helped design and wrote a monthly thought leadership newsletter for an asset management firm called "The Currency of Savvy" that generated numerous earned media placements.  

News Writing: The Execution of Jerry Terrell Jackson

Writing for the Daily Press, I was a witness to and reported on the execution of Virginia inmate Jerry Terrell Jackson. http://bit.ly/DailyPressExecution

Freelance Magazine Articles

For Portland Magazine, the alumni magazine of my alma mater, the University of Portland, tracked down several men who played football for UP before the sport was disbanded in 1950. http://bit.ly/UofPFootball

For Johns Hopkins Magazine, wrote an article about a rural Virginia community’s effort to restore recently discovered films documenting life on the Northern Neck from 1927-38. http://bit.ly/WhartonFilmsProject

For Archaeology Magazine, wrote an article about the Fairfield Foundations innovative 3D printing project that is bringing one of Virginia’s signature 17th century plantations to life. http://bit.ly/Fairfield3DPrinting

Environmental Reporting: The Costs of Slaking Hampton Roads' Thirst

Writing for the Daily Press, I wrote about the implications of draining Virginia's deep coastal aquifers. http://bit.ly/HamptonRoadsSinking



Social Matt

Follow @jm_sabo



Gloucester County: The Premier Outdoor Recreation Destination on Chesapeake Bay

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Here's my final Project Paper For my Master of Communication Class in Strategic Communication and Social Media

A Social Media Campaign to Market and Brand Gloucester County, Virginia, as the Premier Outdoor Recreation Destination on Chesapeake Bay

Matt Sabo

Purdue University

April 22, 2018



    This paper is a report on a proposal to launch a strategic social media campaign that touts Gloucester County, Virginia, as the premier outdoor recreation region on Chesapeake Bay through the Gloucester County Tourism office. The report includes background information on Gloucester County and its varied and exceptional array of outdoor recreation amenities. The report also gives an overview of the regional outdoor recreation economy and participation in the outdoor recreation pursuits by its residents. Gloucester County Tourism, the vehicle through which the social media campaign will be launched, has a middling at best social media presence. My report reinvents and reimagines Gloucester County Tourism by launching a social media campaign to brand and market the county as the premier outdoor recreation destination on Chesapeake Bay. With a new website that includes a blog, and coordinated social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Gloucester County could build an audience and reach an untapped group of outdoor recreation enthusiasts and draw them to the county. My report includes two unique events to help establish Gloucester County as an outdoor recreation destination that would engage with participants and encourage storytelling and sharing. I have also provided sample social media content in the form of “billboard” style advertisements that are shareable, as well as sample “Instagram-style” photos. Analytics on the social media campaign will be continuously monitored and measured to ensure the social media campaign expands the reach and audience of Gloucester County Tourism and affirms that the effort to brand and market Gloucester County as the premier outdoor recreation destination on Chesapeake Bay is a success.

Overview of Gloucester County and Tourism Demographics

    Encompassing the lower portion of Virginia’s Middle Peninsula along the southwest fringe of Chesapeake Bay, in a region described by Capt. John Smith in 1607 as a “fruitfull & delightsome land,” Gloucester County is poised to become the premier outdoor recreation destination on the bay. With a transformational strategic social media campaign, Gloucester County can capitalize on its tremendous outdoor assets, desirable and easily accessible location in the populous mid-Atlantic seaboard, and future planned state and national parks, to claim the title of premier outdoor recreation region on Chesapeake Bay. The social media campaign will target a vast outdoor recreation crowd that will be drawn to Gloucester County’s 506 miles of shoreline on the bay and its tidal rivers and creeks, white sandy beaches, numerous parks, trails for hiking, running, biking, and horse riding, and both freshwater and saltwater bodies of water for boating, biking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing, as well as many other activities.

    For starters, Gloucester County is one of those rare places where you can watch the sun rise and set on the water; it rises over Chesapeake Bay and sets over a stretch of the York River that is more than a mile wide. Gloucester County also has an incredibly rich history. Plans are in the works to make Pocahontas’ former village along a tranquil stretch of the York River shoreline in Gloucester County a national park and just downstream is the future home of a state park near the haunting ruins of Rosewell, a magnificent 18th century plantation estate where Thomas Jefferson is believed to have written much of the Declaration of Independence. Gloucester County has a quaint, charming Main Street that is home to a circa 1774 courthouse where troops were mustered in the Revolutionary War. It remains the oldest operating courthouse in the United States. Beaverdam Park in central Gloucester County has about 13 miles of multi-use trails, a 635-acre freshwater lake for fishing and boating and other amenities, and an outdoor amphitheater. The county has two campgrounds — Thousand Trails and Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground — three marinas, 14 public boat landings in which many are primarily for canoeing and kayaking, and a park at Gloucester Point Beach with a free fishing pier on the York River, and other outdoor recreation sites and facilities.

    Situated in the populous mid-Atlantic region, Gloucester County can easily reach millions of people with its social media campaign touting its outdoor recreation amenities. A 2016 report by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), as cited in an article by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, notes that 19 percent of the total U.S. participants in outdoor recreation live in the South Atlantic region that includes Gloucester County. It is the largest share of any census regions. An estimated $140 billion is spent on outdoor recreation in Virginia and its bordering and surrounding states of Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, according to the OIA. Virginia’s share is $21.9 billion, with 197,000 jobs directly related to outdoor recreation. The U.S. Travel Association estimated tourism in Virginia generated $24 billion in 2016 and Chesapeake Bay is a prime destination for tourists, pumping billions of dollars into the economies of the states that comprise its shoreline. 

    The Gloucester County Tourism office has an annual budget of $220,000. But it has a limited presence online and on social media. The department has a “Visit Gloucester Virginia” webpage with a list of outdoor recreation amenities that have links to other pages on the county’s website. Its Facebook page has 310 “likes” with sporadic postings — I counted 10 since October — and its Twitter feed has a paltry 346 followers with its last tweet in May 2017. Many of the posts highlight historical and community events in Gloucester and I do not see a coherent branding or messaging plan. No Instagram page exists for Gloucester County Tourism, although it is on Pinterest.

    I propose a rebranding and reimagining of Gloucester County Tourism. My vision is for an integrated campaign that combines a relatively small investment in a website to tout the county as Chesapeake Bay’s premier outdoor recreation destination and a greatly expanded social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This new campaign will remake Gloucester County as an outdoor recreation tourism destination and help Gloucester develop and enhance its tourism presence. The goal is to draw tourists from regional, national, and even international locations to take part in the county’s outdoor recreation offerings and boost its economy along the way. The international aspect is intriguing because Gloucester County is across the York River from the “Historical Triangle” of Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg, a region that is a draw for tourists from around the world because it is recognized as the first permanent English settlement in the U.S. As the former home to Pocahontas, Gloucester County could appeal to these tourists as a place to not only enjoy history, but also partake in outdoor recreation. Additional revenue to the county in the form of meals taxes and lodging taxes could be used to upgrade and create additional recreation facilities to further bolster its image and recognition as Chesapeake Bay’s dominant outdoor recreation destination. 

Campaign Goals and Objectives

    The rebranding and reimagining of Gloucester County as the premier outdoor recreation destination on Chesapeake Bay borrows from Del Vecchio, Passiante, and Valentina, who write in “Toward a Methodology for the Smart Growth of Destinations” of a five-phase methodological framework:

1) Destination local awareness

2) Creation of a destination’s identity

3) Launching of a pilot initiative

4) Consolidation of the destination’s virtual identity

5) Monitoring and feedback

This framework moves from preliminary recognition of Gloucester County’s outdoor recreation assets (destination local awareness) with a website, to identifying key words to be used in a blog on the website and accompanying social media campaign (creation of a destination’s identity), to using visuals, keywords, and hashtags to brand the Gloucester County outdoor recreation experience (launching of a pilot initiative), to growing an audience and participants through an integrated social media campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (consolidation of the destination’s virtual identity), to monitoring the social media campaign with Google Analytics, the analytics tools on the social media platforms, and Buffer (monitoring and feedbacks). In this framework, a sample marketing and branding campaign would be, “Take It Outside — Bike on the Chesapeake Bay,” or “Take it Outside — Paddle on the Chesapeake Bay.” (See Figures 1 and 2 below on p. 13 for sample representations). The branding is simple and could be duplicated for other outdoor recreation activities, whether it is hiking, running, fishing, boating, camping, or other pursuits. The visual elements are striking, colorful, and identify the location of the activity as Gloucester County, Virginia. In the sample figures the website is the county’s, but would be replaced with the website to be built for the Gloucester Virginia Tourism campaign. A domain name search on Squarespace shows that www.GloucesterVARecreation.com is available as a website name and is the name that would be my recommendation. The website would feature strong visuals, including high-quality video footage of recreation activities in Gloucester County, the tagline of “Take It Outside” that emphasizes the recreation opportunities in Gloucester County, and a blog. Search Engine Optimization and keywords would be a driving element behind the website and blog, which would feature weekly posts to keep the content fresh and highlight the seasonal outdoor recreation, and community activities in Gloucester County. The blog would drive the content for social media posts, which could link back to the website.

    A critical component of this transformative branding and marketing campaign is to engage the audience, specifically the outdoor recreation tourists who are actual and potential visitors to Gloucester County. Oliveira and Panic, in an article in Journal of Vacation Marketing, write that a key component of a destination differentiating itself in the market is the “creation, management and communication of a distinctive and appealing image.” The potential for this captivating imagery in Gloucester County is virtually endless and will be a tremendous asset to build momentum for the campaign on social media. (See Figure 4 on p. 14). Branding involves creating a bond that builds a powerful emotional connection, according to Lipschultz (p. 94): “Social media engagement creates real-time opportunities for brand representatives to connect with the public and establish or reinforce relationships.” The social media platforms will invite engagement with recreation tourists who will share the content with their own social networks, as described by Oliveira and Panic. This will lend authenticity to the “Take It Outside” campaign and Gloucester County outdoor recreation branding and marketing efforts, while also expanding its reach and visibility.

    One intriguing concept for social media is to target Millennials by creating transformative experiences as described by Cai, Kirillova, and Lehto in an article in Tourism Recreation Research. Central to these transformative experiences are “triggering episodes” that tend to occur the end of travels. As noted in the figure below, these transformative experiences that are driven by triggering episodes include tourism environments of natural beauty, meaningful social connections, encounters with wildlife, and cultural foreignness. Most of these elements are present in a conceptual social media and marketing campaign to accentuate the “Take It Outside” campaign. It encompasses short, mobile-friendly videos geared to social media. The concept entails young friends who spend the day kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, or hiking or biking in the woods, or all of those, capped by a nighttime bonfire on a beach. A voice over of one of the members of the group says, “I’m not sure if it will get any better than this. I’m alright with that.” The words play into a “triggering episode" entailing: It occurs at the end of the traveling or recreating day, involves intense and mixed emotions, a connection to something grand, and other elements. Its power is the emotional connection to the outdoor recreation experience in Gloucester County.

The strategy for the respective social media platforms is as follows:

—Instagram: This platform is an effective branding tool and the content will be built around striking photos and short video “stories” that tell the story of Gloucester County as a remarkable outdoor recreation destination on Chesapeake Bay. With effective use of hashtags and one to two posts per day, the Instagram account will be focused on building an audience and establishing the county and its amenities as an extraordinary outdoor recreation experiential destination.

—Twitter: This platform will be used to grow the Gloucester County outdoor recreation destination audience. With a combination of striking visuals in the form of photos and videos of 10 seconds or less, along with a fun, playful “voice” on the platform, the goal will be to expand its online footprint and connect with people in the Chesapeake Bay region and introduce them to Gloucester County outdoor recreation. The use of hashtags such as #takeitoutside, #gloucestervarecreation, #chesapeakebay, #paddleonthebay, and others, in two or more posts per day, along with links to website blog content, are expected to expand the audience and move the Gloucester County Tourism Twitter followers into the thousands instead of a few hundred.

—Facebook: A study by De Felice, Mariani, and Mura in a 2016 issue of Tourism Management outlines the strategy. The authors found that posts of around 200 characters in length generated peak engagement. Posting in the evening and on weekends elicited high engagement and “maximum engagement occurs when the daily frequency is low.” The posts will effectively emphasize quality over quantity and range from two to four per week.

    A key component of the social media campaign, which was touched on by De Felice, Mariani, and Mura, is an emphasis on leveraging visual content in a more creative and experimental way. This can be accomplished in the Gloucester County outdoor recreation campaign with the use of cinemagraphs, drone footage, GoPro-style video of actual outdoor recreation participation, and with other means. Lund, Cohen, and Scarles, in a 2017 article on “The power of social media storytelling in destination branding,” describe how destinations are essentially “storyscapes” where stories can transform otherwise indifferent spaces into attractive tourist destinations. Tourists are the central characters in destination branding with social media and a key feature is the tourist’s journey. Interactivity and creating these stories and journeys for the audience to participate in are key elements of the campaign. One way to do that is through two proposed events that would play an integral part in launching the Gloucester County outdoor recreation social media campaign. The first event is a “Paddle, Run, Pedal” event that starts at Beaverdam Park in central Gloucester. The event consists of competitors — either individuals or teams — paddling a canoe or kayak a certain distance on Beaverdam Reservoir at the park, followed by a running event over the park’s wooded trails, finishing with a biking leg from Beaverdam into Gloucester Court House on Main Street. The event would be a way for the community to embrace the outdoor recreation opportunities in Gloucester County and see its potential, while also introducing a wider audience to the campaign to brand and market the county as the premier outdoor recreation region on Chesapeake Bay. Another potential event is a “Seafood and Spirits Crawl” on the water. In this case, a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board cruise on the Ware River from the public landing at the end of Ware House Road in the Gloucester Court House area down to Ward Oyster Co. — a distance of less than two miles on the water — for a participatory cooking demonstration. Ward Oyster Co. has previously hosted the Virginia Chefs Association Seafood Symposium and would be an ideal site for this venture, to be joined by two breweries scheduled to open in Gloucester County this year. These events have the potential to be memorable, entertaining stories that are perfect for social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and could draw participants to share their stories, photos, videos, and memories to help build and expand the Gloucester County recreation tourism brand.

    Analytics on the platforms will be employed to measure the success of the campaigns. Growing the number of followers is the first step of the campaign, followed by engagement. Also, while a number of social media management software tools are available, such as Sprout Social, Hootsuite, HubSpot, Keyhole, and others, I recommend working with Buffer. With just three profiles, the use of Buffer is free and one recent change is that you can post directly to Instagram from your desktop. It is a helpful feature and not common because in the others you can create the content on your desktop but then you have to go to the mobile app to complete the process. Other benefits are that the analytics are right in line with the scheduled posts, leaving out the guesswork and clicking. The app also can sync flawless and immediately to your desktop and once you have scheduled something you can easily make edits to it. In addition, as mentioned previously, analytics on the platforms will be reviewed and assessed and Google analytics will also be used.


    Gloucester County has a tremendous opportunity to claim the title of the premier outdoor recreation region on Chesapeake Bay. With an integrated social media campaign that leverages the power and reach of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a responsive website with a blog, Gloucester County can help thousands of outdoor recreation enthusiasts “Take It Outside.”


Cai, L., Kirillova, K., Lehto, X. (2017). What triggers transformative tourism experiences? Tourism Recreation Research. Vol. 42, 4. Pages 498-511. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.purdue.edu/10.1080/02508281.2017.1342349.

Del Vecchio, P., Passiante, G., and Valentina, N. (2016). Toward a Methodology for the Smart Growth of Destinations. Journal of Internet and e-Business Studies, 1 September, 2016, 1-13. DOI: 10.5171/2016.610369.

Di Felice, M., Mariani, M. M., Mura, F. M. (2016). Facebook as a destination marketing tool: Evidence from Italian regional Destination Management Organizations. Tourism Management, Vol. 54. Pages 321-343. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2015.12.008.

Lipschultz, J. H. (2015). Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics. New York, NY: Routledge.

Lund, N. F., Cohen, S. A., Scarles, C. (2017). The power of social media storytelling in destination branding. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 7 June 2017. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdmm.2017.05.003.

Oliveira, E., Panic, E. (2015). Content, context and co-creation: Digital challenges in destination branding with references to Portugal as a tourist destination. Journal of Vacation Marketing, Vol. 21 (1). Pages 53-74. DOI: 10.1177/1356766714544235.

Schutjer, L. (2017). The Outdoor Recreation Economy in the Fifth District. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond Regional Matters. April 14, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.richmondfed.org/research/regional_economy/regional_matters/2017/rm_04_14_2017_outdoor.

Author’s note: Information on Buffer and comparing it to other social media management software tools was obtained from Sheryl Sulouff, owner of Paraclete Marketing Group in Williamsburg, Virginia. Sulouff has more than 18 years of experience as a digital, social, and traditional media manager. The billboard-style advertisements were designed by Michele Harrison of Moxie Design in Gloucester, Virginia. I have worked in the marketing industry with both Sulouff and Harrison and consider both of them experts in their respective fields.