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Learning the Dangers of Hype

My childhood heroes just broke my heart.

If you paid any attention to contemporary Christian music in the 1990s, there was no escaping D.C. Talk, a trio that redefined the genre by blending an unapologetically evangelical message with first-rate songwriting and music production that drew heavily from the rap and rock’n’roll styles of the day.

For young, impressionable music fans like me, D.C. Talk could do no wrong. I nearly wore out all of their CDs and saw them in concert several times. They were “Jesus freaks,” superstars and my musical heroes.

By the late ’90s, there were whispers of tension in the group, and in 1999, after releasing their most mature and ambitious album, the group announced that they were going on break — an “intermission,” as they called it — to pursue solo projects.

A year went by, then two, then five. And while the three always politely deflected questions about D.C. Talk’s future, it became increasingly clear to fans that the intermission was more of a permanent hiatus.

Fast-forward to this spring: After 17 years of silence, the band began releasing hints on its social media channels that a big announcement was coming. Fans went wild. Everyone, including me, was anticipating a new album or a major reunion tour — either of which would be an instant success. There was a perfect mix of secrecy and hype, all building up to the date of the announcement.

Like many other people, I tuned in online right when the announcement went live, and I’ll admit that my excitement level was pretty high. But all that anticipation was quickly dashed to disappointment when I realized that, alas, there would be no new music. There would be no new tour. Instead, D.C. Talk would “reunite” to perform some of their old hits with a handful of other bands on a chartered cruise ship in 2017.

A cruise is not a bad idea — the event is sure to sell out, give the group an opportunity to test the waters for a future reunion and even make a nice sum of money. But like me, many loyal, lifelong fans were severely disappointed by the major hype surrounding the minor announcement. The backlash on social media was swift and severe, forcing the band to make a public apology.

There are a lot of lessons to learn here but only one that I want to leave with you today: Quality sells, but hype almost inevitably leads to disappointment.

When you are recruiting travelers for a church group trip, there’s a temptation to exaggerate the positive aspects of the experience you’re selling. You can call it “amazing,” “wonderful” or even “life-changing.” But if you’re going to use strong language like that, you had better make sure that the travel experience lives up to the hype.

Here’s a better alternative: Instead of hyping what you do, focus on building quality travel experiences that will delight your travelers. Deliver real value consistently, and make sure your trips exceed your travelers’ expectations.

If you earn a reputation for creating excellent trips and meaningful interactions, you’ll have a long-lasting travel program that can make a big difference in people’s lives. But if the only thing you can consistently deliver is hype, you’re going to leave your travelers broken-hearted.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.