The truth is, hotel marketers think very traditionally. And unfortunately, this means regarding the discipline of marketing as an expense item, rather than as a return on investment.
The ‘expense” philosophy usually means spending your marketing dollars, over time, on ad placement in media, to communicate your message. This is certainly important, but unless your results can be measured or tracked, this may not be the most efficient way to get your message out there.
When marketing tactics involve public relations, direct mail, sales, e-marketing, website maintenance, and then media placement, your dollars can be allocated so that they are more focused, more targeted and more effective.
What is public relations? Hotel public relations includes activities such as press relations, special events planning, targetted outreach for focused editorial coverage, organization of press familiarization trips (so that travel writers can experience your venue first hand), newsletters, community relations, and philanthropy.
Ironically while marketing budgets have decreased over the last few years, it was public relations that usually took the hit, even that it is a less expensive cost item than the other marketing tactics mentioned above, and that it produces more beneficial results. It’s just that it is usually considered an afterthought, rather than as a core marketing tactic.
The power of public relations is well proven. It’s the most cost-effective method for promoting a travel product, establishing third-party credibility, and getting your name in front of the trade industry and publications, and of course, the public. Placing stories with press releases, articles, and columns is your link to countless national and local newsrooms, editors, and journalists. And the media provide significantly more credibility than expensive traditional display advertising.
How should you get back into the p.r. game? How can you get started using public relations if we haven’t in the past?
- First, take a look at how public relations has shaped the development of your company. Have you been taking advantage of the P.R. opportunities provided to you by your brand or your Convention and Visitors Bureau? What are the images, perceptions and messages already out there about your hotel or establishment? Are they accurate? Is it the message you want the public to know? Does that message need to be modified? Strengthened?
- Determine which marketing, sales, and public relations disciplines will work in tandem with one another to support each other’s messages. Will direct mail to a targeted pre-determined audience support editorial coverage in the publications this group reads? Will direct contact by your sales director help support the messages you want shared? Will web-marketing and e-mail marketing be the tactic used to support the p.r. effort at this time?
- Agree upon your public relations objectives and dedicate monies to make public relations work for you. It’s always amazing to see how hotel operators and owners expect a lot when they give a little. “P.R. can handle it, and we don’t need a whole lot of funds.” Well, you may not need as much as you would for advertising, direct mail or image advertising, but there should be a budget allocated for press release distribution, photography, special events, clipping services, opportunities to entertain the media, and so on.
- Do you have someone on staff to handle media relations? If funds allow, this is an excellent strategy to maximize awareness and gain the utmost exposure. In-house public relations can be so strong for a hotel, resort, destination, as it allows a spokesperson to really focus and dedicate efforts for promoting your product. But don’t use this individual to handle all the miscellaneous activities unrelated to public relations. It is not unusual for a really good p.r. person to be an excellent jack-of-all-trades. And that is because good p.r. people are very resourceful and always can find a contact or an answer to any issue. But don’t allow hotel management to always “throw anything” their way. Let the p.r. person concentrate on press relations, special events and media.
- If resources for P.R. are limited and you can’t afford an on-site person, consider bringing in an outside public relations expert to focus on specific proactive tasks, serve as the liaison with writers and editors, and assist your hotel with publicity efforts.
Remember, public relations demands a professional with the experience, writing skills, public speaking skills, and media relationships to capitalize on. This effort should not be left to a sales secretary or the general manager’s assistant to simply “handle.” The p.r. activities should not be thrown on to someone as created additional work. Public relations truly requires a polished, refined and intelligent presentation from the professional dedicated to this discipline. The time, organization, creativity, skill, and media contacts required for a successful effort, takes experience and know-how.
How does public relations fit into your marketing plan?
reprinted with the permission of National Hotel Executive