News for the Hospitality Executive
There is something to be said for integrated efforts of PR, marketing and advertising. In fact, these distinct disciplines are so interconnected that they are often practiced by the same staff, and governed by the same aims.
Nowhere is this more evident than in hotels. In lodging operations, where every resource is (properly) devoted to the generation of room sales, public relations, marketing and advertising are often lumped together. There may be different personnel titles and different codified duties, but the fact is that most hotels don’t have truly separate marketing, advertising and PR departments, they have one large ‘outreach’ department. Integration is good; arbitrary homogenization of this sort is not.
Partly, this is a function of uniform aims: If the goal of any initiative – be it PR, marketing or advertising – is to increase room sales, there is a natural inclination to categorize and treat each in a similar manner. But this approach is short-sighted, and does not capitalize on the individual virtues of the disciplines. Moreover, it often fails to give PR its due.
Some of this derives from a misunderstanding of what public relations actually is, and some of it stems from a blurring of the line between PR and marketing. Hoteliers tend to view marketing efforts as direct and measurable, and PR initiatives as soft and nebulous. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Public relations is, at its core, about generating awareness and visibility for an individual property, hotel chain or brand. It’s about telling a story – a compelling story – that will generate interest and enter into the consciousness of potential guests. It’s about gaining recognition and mitigating negative attention. It’s about defining who and what a hotel is.
These are fundamental concepts for any going concern, be it a hotel or a hot dog stand, and if they’re neglected, it only means that they will manifest outside of management’s control. And that, in turn, means that other sales generation efforts – like marketing – will be working against public perception instead of in concert with it.
Building a solid public relations strategy isn’t as daunting as the industry’s lack of participation might indicate. Unlike marketing or advertising, PR is not resource-intensive; there are no media buys or direct mail blitzes associated with it. Just stories – good stories – that come from the best aspects of a hotel’s operations.
There are a few key components to an effective PR strategy for hotels, and they are separate and apart from those strategies that might provide for a successful marketing or advertising campaign (though there may be some overlap). Here are the five most important:
For PR purposes, the fact that your staff does great charity work with underprivileged children is a better story. So is your property’s upcoming milestone anniversary. Or even its occupancy rate over the last six months compared to other properties in your comp set. Being cognizant of the difference between what’s newsworthy to the general public and what’s important to management – and emphasizing the former – is fundamental to good PR.
Put your best foot forward
Know your audience
Likewise, business media has much crossover appeal. People who read stories about hotels’ financial health or day-to-day operations tend to travel, and creating awareness among this audience can pay immediate dividends. Stories that appear in the local nightly news or in the New York Times can be few and far between, but trade and business stories can recur often and in multiple outlets. Widen your net and you’ll catch more fish.
Manage expectations of PR’s magic
In that same respect, expectations as to what PR efforts can deliver apart from sales must also be managed. No PR campaign can guarantee front-page coverage on the New York Times every month. Instead, look for the longer-term impacts of PR on your hotel, including how your hotel is perceived locally and nationally (and internationally), and how levels of awareness of your property change in different markets.
For many hotels – far too many in our opinion – public relations is either an afterthought or a luxury, and either way not a central aspect of the hotel’s operational strategy. If more hoteliers understood the benefits an effective, comprehensive public relations strategy could confer on their properties, PR would shed its stigma as an expendable line item in the sales and marketing budget and emerge as a key aspect of a hotel’s operations.
A strong public relations strategy is achievable for every
hotel, and there is a good argument to be made that PR actually is more
beneficial than a muddled ‘outreach’ program, or a strict marketing and
advertising strategy. The keys to making PR work for a given
property are to understand PR, develop and put forward newsworthy
programs and initiatives, manage expectations and define a target
audience. Any hotel can do this, and in doing so, can reap the
benefits of PR.
Reprinted with permission from Hotel Interactive.
About the Author: