It’s time for a blunt awakening: resort and hotel public relations plans need to better reflect the mobile, social, fast-moving world we now live in – and get the better, richer results they should be producing.
Here’s the core problem: Some PR plans are mired in what I call the fallacy of the three presses – that is, the plans hinge on press trips, press releases and press clippings. All terrific, if it were 1995.
Press trips, for the most part, are passé. When the major media stopped playing – at least 10 years ago – they ceased to produce meaningful results. Just pull the plug on this tactic. Work with target media on an individual basis.
Press releases, as any journalist will tell you, are so overused many no longer read them at all. When there is real news, send one out. But don’t bother when the spa unveils a new seaweed treatment; what is the story? No highly-read platform will touch them.
Press clippings are my passion. I love to see client stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Telegraph, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue. But how often does that happen? A PR plan that is hinged on clips in leading media is probably doomed to fail because those clips can be gotten but not by the bushel. By all means pursue clips in these outlets but recognize they will be few in number and tough to get. Which is of course why they are worth the bother.
Here are six ways to reinvent resort PR for the 21st Century:
Step 1: Start by slotting in creative pursuit of top clips.
Call me an elitist, but I am picky about where I want clients and I don’t believe in pursuing outlets just to flesh out a press clipping report. Focus on the ones that reach the client’s targeted audiences and that help further the brand. Those clips become a bedrock. The hardest part may be convincing hotel GMs and DoSMs to stick with this lean strategy, but it’s worth the fight. Great clips spawn greatness.
Step 2: Build strong, articulate platforms on social media.
Including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Twitter is your option. Tell your story and tell it again. The beauty of today’s social media is that this is where the articulate – the storytellers – shine and so do their resorts.
Work extra hard to win guest postings on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. Call this the foundation of 21st century PR, where your guests become brand ambassadors. They have credibility. When we toot our own horn we don’t, not really. When a guest who just spent $300 on dinner for two in your restaurant takes to Facebook to glow about the meal – that is money, it is gold, it is the PR goal today.
Comments by regular guests are what glues together any 21st century PR plan.
Step 3: Enlist employees who want to volunteer to post on their own social media channels about the resort/hotel.
My advice: give them a daily group of three to five possible Tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram posts. And be lavish in praise for those who agree to play.
Step 4: Practice diligent reputation management on key consumer review sites.
TripAdvisor is mandatory, Yelp is optional. The research is plain: we look to reviews by ordinary travelers to help us decide where to stay and where to eat. Right now TripAdvisor is the 900-pound gorilla in this space, ignore it at your peril.
A lot of TripAdvisor’s success comes down to operations – that is, it is not that influenced by PR – but know that PR can advise on how to respond to guest posts and also when. You will hear formula: “respond to 60 percent of posts,” etc. Rubbish. Respond when appropriate and offer heartfelt, authentic, sincere commentary. If that comes across to the vast TripAdvisor audience, you are in clover. Think honesty.
Step 5: Think custom content.
Create your own informative, fun, highly readable blogs. Become the local expert. Knowledge today has to move from the concierge’s head to the hotel’s website. You will spend money on good content but your competitors probably won’t. You will win.
Step 6: Go mobile.
Stop looking at things exclusively on your 27” monitor. If it doesn’t work on iPhone and Android screens, it doesn’t work.
How hard is any of this? Not especially. Embrace the PR now and success will be yours.
Babs Harrison is managing partner of Phoenix-based Babs Harrison + Partners, a boutique public relations/marketing consultancy for select resorts, hotels, and spas. Harrison has 25 years of experience in hospitality and has worked with leading brands in the U.S. and internationally. You can find Babs on Twitter or LinkedIn.