By Melissa DiGianfilippo

Bill Gates once said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” Smart man. Public relations can be less expensive and far more effective than you might think. Still, the most significant obstacle aside from budget is tickling the fancy of media outlets and your target audience. Without the media, your story is less likely to reach the public. A well-planned and executed PR stunt can generate incredible amounts of interest and elevate your hotel, motel, B&B, or resort to a new level in the minds and hearts of the media, and more importantly, potential guests.

First, you might be wondering what is considered a PR stunt. It’s quite simple. Merriam-Webster defines it as: “something done just to get the attention of the public.” It’s no wonder that PR professionals are always in pursuit of the next great breakthrough public relations campaign! It’s our job to get the right attention for our clients. One caution: if a PR stunt goes wrong, it can damage the brand and tarnish everyone associated with it. Remember when Lifelock’s CEO gave out his Social Security number online to demonstrate the product’s incredible security and then got hacked? That ill-fated stunt took years for the brand to get past. But when things go right, the buzz will not only be intoxicating; the ROI will have you popping corks in celebration!

To create a great memorable PR stunt for your brand means thinking outside of the proverbial box. One of the most successful hotel-related PR stunts in recent memory belongs to the brilliantly produced and managed Converse “One Star Hotel” campaign during the 2018 London Fashion Week. Converse partnered with a property in Shoreditch to create a two-day popup hotel featuring five-floors of curated “anti-luxury” experiences.

Designed to attract and entice the brand’s highly-engaged Gen Z target demographic, the popup hotel room themes were decorated by musicians, rappers, skaters, and other counter-culture heroes. Exclusive Limited Edition sneaker drops, live music into the wee hours of the morning, staff with “attitude,” workshops, and panels rounded out the ‘Instagram playground’ experience that attracted the brand’s core audience, influencers, and the merely curious. The results? Stellar.

According to Campaign US, the Converse “One Star Hotel” brought in nearly 5,400 people who stayed an average of 40 minutes each, generating $50,000 in onsite retail sales. Add in 1.7 million Livestream views, 40,000 new Instagram followers, and a total of 226 million media impressions, much of it through UGC (user-generated content), and it’s easy to see how PR stunts can elevate brands to new heights.

OK, I know you’re probably saying, but wait, that wasn’t a real hotel. Sure, but it’s a jumping-off point for you to begin thinking of ways your establishment can potentially create new, exciting, and engaging experiences in unexpected ways. For instance, consider the Kimpton Gray in Chicago. Their freshest PR stunt sprang from market research showing that the most desired room amenity for Millennials was not fruit baskets, premium snacks, or streaming services. It was houseplants. Yes, houseplants!

Drawing inspiration from the city’s Garfield Park Conservatory, the Kimpton Gray went on to craft a two-day popup “plant hotel” transformation designed to get it noticed by bringing guests closer to nature. The October event created serene settings and rooms that promoted nature, wellness, and provided plenty of Instagrammable opportunities for guests. To round out the event, the hotel treated its guest to tickets to “Fleurotica” – a fashion event held at the Conservatory. What a breath of fresh air amidst all the urban hustle and bustle!

The lesson? Go for a non-traditional media approach whenever possible. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. While you may think it’s expensive, you will quickly find out that professional public relations expertise is well worth your investment and pays for itself. So the only question I have is, “How will you show off your hotel and brand in a new, unexpected, and personalized way in 2020?” I can’t wait to find out. Trust me; there are people out there just waiting to fall in love with your brand, too. Now, go get ’em!