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Marketing Communications - The Way We Work Now

by Anne Sweeney
April 2012

There have been more changes in marketing communications in the last two years than in the last 20. It’s not just “PR” that’s changed, but everything about the way we communicate, interact and do business.  The pace of technological change can be overwhelming. Our challenge, as communicators, is to embrace those changes with flexibility, open-mindedness and a keen eye for what technologies suit our clients’ purposes and which are passing fancies.
Old vs. New Media
Think of this in terms of inbound vs. outbound marketing. Outbound marketing includes traditional forms of advertising, direct mail, press releases, sales calls, phone, internet, TV, radio, e-mail, etc. Consumers are finding more ways to screen out those messages – caller ID, spam filters, TiVo and Do Not Call and Do Not Mail lists.      
Print media is declining, so there is less advertising and more competition for editorial space. One size no longer fits all media outlets and messages must be targeted and frequent to keep a product top-of-mind.  Sending out a press release once a year is the equivalent of shooting an arrow up into the sky. Even if it hits its target, it rarely is effective long-term.   
Inbound marketing is geared to helping a business reach the audiences that are most likely to use its products and services. An up-to-date, exciting and interactive web site, linked to active, content-rich and current social media pages, plus highly targeted press releases, all working in synergy, are examples of Inbound Marketing.

Social Media – Join the Conversation

Social media helps us to tell our story. The concept evolved in reaction to the impersonal aspects of technology and forged a worldwide community. But today, no one communications technique is enough to position a product. Hotels that rely solely on social media, a web site or issuing press releases to print media, will find limited success. In today’s media environment, an integrated approach is essential.  

You are talking – literally, because social media invites dialogue – to the people who want to talk to you. In seeking you out on the Internet or a social media site, a potential guest already has an interest in your type of hotel and services.     

Social Media has marketed millions of products, including the current President of the United States. It serves as a debating forum for issues, provides instruction, raises funds, distributes news, opinion, gossip, music, film, and offers merchandise for sale.  It provides infinite opportunities for exposure through reposting, re-tweeting and on GOOGLE search engines.  Facebook posts are not limited to one’s own Facebook Page. 

Remember, social media is just that – social.  It’s a community of like-minded people.  For example, a hotel posting on the Facebook pages of various tourism organizations, meetings magazines, airlines, weddings and sports sites, etc. greatly expands exposure, and to a pre-qualified audience. People who “like” The Knot’s Facebook page are presumably people getting married.

Social media is a central key to reaching your target audiences. An effective Facebook page can be expanded to Twitter and effectively integrated with your business web site.  Content and design should also be integrated to support the overall marketing plan. The Facebook page can be more product-focused with daily updates on new products, special offers, events. These in turn can be posted on other social media sites.  An even more effective use of Facebook is to install a reservations function right on your hotel’s page to supplement the web site.

What Kind of ROI Can You Expect?

“If I had only one dollar to spend on my business, I would spend it on PR.” Bill Gates made that statement, and he clearly recognizes that an integrated marketing strategy is the most successful and cost--effective solution. For a minimal investment in time and professional services, a business can expect to generate media coverage worth about three times the cost of an ad. If an ad in a print or online publication would cost $1000, then an editorial placement in the same paper is worth $3000 in paid advertising. With the addition of social media to this mix, the results are impressive, indeed. That same story can be tweeted, posted, retweeted and forwarded to infinity. The best news is, that thanks to increasingly sophisticated technology, those messages can be tracked and quantified.  

These are not the only cost advantages to using social media and integrated marketing.

  • The distribution system is free. You may have to pay someone to keep the page current and should use good photos and design. But there’s no printing or mailing costs. Social media is one of the great communications bargains of all time.
  • Social media drives traffic to your web site or social media page where the purchase is made. Or, you can set up a reservations function on your Facebook page.
  • Results are fast – your message can appear on a web site the day you send it out.
  • Social media lets you build and reinforce your brand to a very targeted audience.
  • Social media can encourage repeat business by reminding guests of the satisfaction they gained by using your product.
  • Increasingly, media turn to social media for information on a product and influences their decision to cover it.
  • Social media tells you what consumers like and don’t like about the property. TripAdvisor is the most important site for hoteliers, but Facebook and Twitter also function as sounding boards and provide an opportunity to answer criticisms - and personally thank customers for their comments.  Potential problems can be nipped in the bud and these comments also help businesses prioritize what products and services need to be added or improved. 
Never forget that technology must be tempered with humanity and executed with honesty to succeed especially when marketing travel and hospitality. Businesses are more than a catalog of merchandise and services, or cold figures of profit and loss.   Hotels have heart, countries have souls and guests have both physical and emotional needs.

Fortunately, the new media and its technology allow us to bring a human face and an authentic spirit to life. Our message will spread in seconds yet live forever in cyberspace. It’s a heady concept, filled with possibilities.

Anne Sweeney Public Relations
3261 Cypress Court
Monmouth Junction
NJ 08852

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