News for the Hospitality Executive
by Anne Sweeney
The Press Release is Dead. PR’s most time-honored tool will soon wind up in a virtual landfill, alongside video cassettes, Hostess Cupcakes and print newspapers. It’s electronic all the way. Press Releases are an anachronism, and the tweets the thing – your entire marketing message in 140 characters.
Most of the PR people who are expressing this view are of an age where they have not had enough experience with the “Old Media” to be declaring it DOA. The press release is not dying; it is evolving, expanding and interacting with “New Media” in many dynamic and effective ways.
Unfortunately, some hotels have stopped sending or posting press releases on their web sites, leaving the task of reaching out to media to their Facebook and Twitter pages. But social media does not replace a website or an on-line press kit. Travel reporters, food writers, business editors, meetings publications and weddings media – all the outlets a hotel wants to reach - will look first to a hotel’s website for current, concise information written expressly for journalists.
The operative words here are “expressly for journalists.” The Five Ws – Who, What, When, Where and Why – still apply. A press release needs to be written differently from marketing copy. It needs to be newsworthy, succinct, factual and to the point. It should avoid editorializing, overblown adjectives, jargon and clichés like "unique,” “cutting edge,” and “paradigm.” The good news is that your clients and partners will appreciate this direct approach, so the press release becomes a sales tool.
Every hotel website should have a Media Section with links to press releases with current and relevant information. There should be a press kit with a general release describing your property and services, a fact sheet and possibly releases on food, meetings, events, etc. These should be up-to-date. However, a recent survey of four- and five-star hotels showed that many did not have any kind of media outreach on their web pages, or worse, had releases on them more than a year old. A journalist accessing a site like this is not likely to do so again. And what does that say about your hotel? Nothing has happened since your Mother’s Day Brunch in 2012?
Press releases are key to gaining local news coverage and mention in relevant trade publications. Even if your property is part of a major hotel brand, corporate communications will not provide that kind of media outreach unless you have a really singular story.
Used properly, the press release is not an anachronism – it’s the launching pad for all your “new media” efforts. E-Mail your release to a targeted, current list of local, regional and national business trade and lifestyle outlets. Post it on your property’s website with a URL that links to the release on the site. Here is where your press release will do double duty on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. Post the link on your Facebook page with a quick comment and an attractive photo and it not only spreads virally but both the Facebook and the web link will show up on Google as two separate entries. Tweet the release out, or better yet, tweet out key statements in increments to extend the life of the release and spread it virally. That’s really the key to social media – the rapid spread of information.
For example, let’s say your Twitter Page has 500 followers. A number of them should be journalists who are familiar with your property and cover travel, food, business and events. They will also be on your Media List. Suppose you tweet out news about a food festival and the restaurant editor of a regional magazine picks it up and re-tweets it to her 2000 followers. Several of her followers pick it up and e-mail it to friends saying, let’s attend. Or, the item is picked up by your state tourism office with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter and even more on Facebook. They cross post to both sites. Do the math! You have over 202,000 potential readers of your press release and post.
The press release still has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Post the link on other Facebook pages with an audience that might be interested in your news. See if your posts would be welcome on the pages of your state tourism organization, the Chamber of Commerce, or the pages of various companies you do business with. These organizations should also be on your press release list.
A growing trend among short-staffed print and online publications is to make you, the sender, responsible for posting press releases, event announcements, and photos. At first, this practice was confined to smaller, local online news platforms such as Patch and topix. But recently, I posted four press releases on the business blog of our state’s largest newspaper. I will still send the releases to reporters and columnists, but this ensures that the news is out there and ready to be picked up by search engines.
The press release will continue to evolve in format and utilization. It may well outlive some of the more trendy social media sites. The Old and New Media, working in synergy, will deliver much more together than separately
About the Author
Anne Sweeney is president of Anne Sweeney Public Relations in South Brunswick, New Jersey. She can be reached at 732-329-6629 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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