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Top Ten “Must Do's” for a Successful
Luxury Hotel Opening
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By Karen Weiner Escalera, December 2004

Who said that a celebrity studded gala, a million dollar party, or other big price tags are the only ways to get a new deluxe hotel or resort noticed?

Effective public relations launches don’t have to “break the bank”.  Whether it's a launch or a repositioning of a brand, a technology, a destination or a hotel, certain principles are fundamental to each new challenge: know the competitive environment, plan early and remember the adage that first impressions are lasting ones. Successful PR programs for upscale products just need to have the finest basic ingredients and a big dose of creativity. Here are the top ten “must do's” for a successful launch:

1. Start early, a minimum of nine months. Monthly magazines work as much as a year in advance so to meet deadlines, early is better. Plus, you have to allow time to research the information (always more difficult in a pre-opening situation) and for development of the press materials. The pre-opening period is critical to getting the “buzz” going.

2. Get your positioning right. What sets this property apart from others not just in your destination, but worldwide? What are the points of difference, why would the media care?

3.  Make sure you have at least one top image to go out with the pre-opening press and sales materials. Set up a mock spa shot, get an impressive rendering, or maybe it'll be a photo of some unusual service or facility. The image can sell the story, especially in this age of copy-light and image-heavy media.

4.  Invest in top writing. Terrific account staff or corporate PR departments aren't necessarily great writers, and brochure copywriters don’t know journalistic style. You need a Great publicity writer.

5. Hire a pro who has a track record in upscale travel products and knows the upscale media, a niche within a niche. Plus, you’re known by the company you keep and will benefit from an association with other luxury products on an agency’s client list.

6. Lists are everything (well, almost). Invest the time in putting together the best possible list that includes freelancers who specialize in upscale products. A good freelancer can do multiple stories.

7. Do a professional public relations shoot right after opening to get a few sensational images, and don't use the photographs you're using for the brochure. PR and advertising image needs are totally different; the former needs images that tell a story, the latter is all about mood.

8. Forget the gimmicks in the mailings. The important media are not allowed to accept gifts of value and even if they can, have no place to put them. Save the money and invest it in photography or video footage.

9. Mine for Gold. Look closely at all angles to find hidden stories. For example, is the hotel's head concierge a legend in the business with the stories to make it interesting? Any unusual facilities or services that enhance the luxury quotient for guests? Some of the angles we’ve had great success with --- unusual concierges (soap, sleep); spa treatments; hotel as art gallery (“museum hotels”); water features (the resort with 40 pools; a river pool longer than the Empire State Building is high); special services (a butler who irons a newspaper; over the top pool amenities and iPod minis).

10. Instead of the million dollar party offer the million dollar package, "ultimate" guest package(s) or experiences not found anywhere else. Our favorites? A vacation for a billionaire, a $10,000 martini (martini on the rocks as in diamonds), a $1000 omelette. Even if Bill Gates is the only person who can afford it, the PR interest it can generate is invaluable .Or, you might take the opposite approach, positioning your hotel or resort as the place to be “unplugged” and totally low key.

Everything builds from a strong foundation so once you implement the ten tips, you've laid the groundwork for a successful public relations program. "Program" because to really reap the benefits, there must be a sustainable effort and that effort will see results increase exponentially in year two and beyond. So give yourself the luxury of time, allow for creativity and invest in the basic needs of good writing and photography and you have the ingredients for PR success.

About the Author
For 26 years, Karen Weiner Escalera has spearheaded programs for brand leaders such as Hyatt and Peninsula Hotels to high-end individual hotels and resorts worldwide.

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Contact:

Karen Weiner Escalera
KWE Group Inc.
Tel. 305.476.5424
escalera@kwegroup.com
www.kwegroup.com


 
Also See: Luxury Makes a Comeback in Travel / Karen Weiner Escalera / November 2004
Mandarin Oriental, New York Presidential Suite Deal: $50,000 for Two Nights / September 2004


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