By Melissa DiGianfilippo

With the rise in competitive marketing, hospitality brands seek unique and creative ways to keep their names at the top of consumers’ minds. But what if the most effective way to market a brand isn’t through strict marketing-only efforts?

In an industry that’s increasingly driven by consumer opinions and reviews, it’s imperative to be in control of your brand’s perceptions and the stories being told. If you want current and potential customers to embrace, love and recommend your brand, you must build a solid connection with them first. How? By telling a consistent story about your brand and values that will resonate with your ideal customers. This is where effective PR strategies can help.

Public relations practitioners can skillfully illustrate your brand’s essence and experience in a way that engages and educates consumers in a very personal manner. Vivid and impactful storytelling will help sell your story in credible, authentic ways that engage consumers. This media-focused approach provides important third-party credibility that helps legitimize and expand the visibility of your brand. Here are some key steps to building effective public relations strategies:

Define Your Purpose Through PR While many brands can get lost in the monetary goals of selling their products, more consumers are gravitating towards supporting and buying goods and services from companies whose motivations remain genuine and transparent. Studies show that consumers feel a stronger connection and are more loyal to companies that take a position on major issues, and less to those who choose to lay low and stay out of the line of fire. Companies that ‘give back’ also enjoy increased brand loyalty. If your company hasn’t already done so, it’s a great time to revisit and solidify corporate values and decide where your brand stands on issues important to your consumers.

Authentic brand stories should stem from deep values shared by an organization and its consumers. And more and more brands are taking strong stands on social issues, no matter the potential backlash. Travel and tourism and the hospitality industry at large have an unparalleled opportunity to tell stories of inclusion, culture and communities. PR can also work to highlight specific areas within your company that deserve attention, including community service awards, nonprofit partnerships and employee recognition. Working closely with a PR specialist to determine the best story angles to pitch can certainly help your brand gain favorable free press to build credibility in the eyes of the consumer.

Select a Specific Niche Audience to Target Choosing a particular demographic you plan on targeting can be extremely effective for sharing your brand’s story. Staying up to date with the latest trends and tailoring your brand’s engagements to parallel current events can also help to draw positive attention to your brand’s efforts. Your PR practitioner can work to help ensure that your brand is mentioned in publications that align with your brand’s objectives and also attract a specific type of consumer.

Find a Friendly Face A brand does best when it has a friendly face associated with it. The more relatable, the better. PR efforts to identify employees or happy customers who can speak on behalf of the company and share their personal stories and unique points of view is a great way to ensure your brand is painted in a positive light.

Draft a Crisis Response Plan No one wants to imagine the worst-case scenario happening, but it’s easier to plan ahead of time than scramble and feel unprepared if something does happen. At the most basic level, this plan should break down who the crisis communication team will be (with contact information), include a list of stakeholders who will need to be communicated with, define a process for talking with the media and for disseminating information on social media, and a response action plan. Make this plan readily available for your on-site team/s to access in case of an emergency.

Finally, a reminder – there are abundant opportunities to tell your brand stories. Don’t ignore them, embrace them! Engaging a PR professional or agency can help you draft a plan to achieve the above outlined steps and more. When integrated with the overall business strategy, a solid PR plan will elevate your brand in the minds and hearts of the people you want to reach, and boost your overall sales and marketing efforts.