Mr. Luciani

Social Media & Relationship Marketing

What Defines Hotel Public Relations?

By Doug Luciani, Chief Associate, PRofit from PR - Public Relations & Marketing

Public relations is more than just media relations efforts. There are other tactics and strategies that can be implemented to reach your target audience.

Ask a roomful of professionals to define Public Relations and you'll receive a number of different answers, and most of them would be a narrow representation of the entire PR picture. Public Relations is not just publicity, working with journalists, or community events. It is about building relationships with the bottom line to a hotel's balance sheet - its customers. Today, getting the consumer's attention to tell them about your property is not easy.

Research abounds on the decline of paid advertising effectiveness. Savvy consumers find ads to be less credible. Furthermore, new tools allow them to remove these intrusions from their daily lives: Tivo, Do Not Call lists, e-mail spam filters, pop-up blockers, just to name a few.

Today's consumers respond to dialogue, relationships, interactions, and honest communications. Businesses in any industry, including hospitality, need to implement and execute integrated marketing campaigns. More and more, these campaigns find public relations taking the lead because PR has always been about relationships with multiple audiences.

There are many tactics in the public relations tool box. Media relations, or publicity, is usually the first that comes to mind, followed by special events. However, the list doesn't end there. Newsletters, consumer promotions, and crisis communications should also be included. New technologies and mediums include blogs, vlogs, podcasts and vodcasts. On a broader level, PR is evolving into content development that helps a business create experiential marketing concepts for consumers.

While most people are familiar with media relations and special events, it's still appropriate to quickly cover what is involved. Media relations, of course, involves building relationships with journalists. The end goal is to get your hotel included in travel articles, business articles, etc. This media coverage creates a third-party endorsement of your property. Regardless of the size of your property, you probably have a story that will be of interest to the press. However, when dealing with the media you need a newsworthy story. Special events include grand openings, ground breaking ceremonies, charity events, or even a media stunt (think Hollywood movie premieres).

Some of the other tools mentioned previously may not be as familiar. Consumer promotions are an excellent way to extend an advertising budget while gaining publicity and exposure. Promotions involve no exchange of cash; instead a business simply provides its product on an in-kind basis for media exposure. An example would be a hotel providing a two-night stay to a radio station in a key origin market. The station then gives the certificate away to a listener as part of an on-air contest. These opportunities exist with broadcast outlets, retailers, charity events and more.

Do you have an opt-in email database or addresses, both email and street, of past guests? A printed or e-newsletter is an excellent opportunity to communicate your message. Start a dialogue and find out what information your audience wants, then give it to them. Do they want to know about special packages? Do they want to know about new amenities? Perhaps, your hotel is located in an area with great fishing and it's important to your audience to know which fish are running and when.

In today's world, where information is truly at everyone's finger tips, crisis communications is another key to a successful public relations and integrated marketing campaign. Hotels are extremely susceptible to negative news. Food poison stories and stories about crime against guests often make the headlines. Some stories are completely out of the control of a hotel, such as hurricanes, floods or wild fires. Other stories are investigative reports that media outlets may do to expose flaws like unsanitary practices or unsafe furniture, such as defective cribs. It doesn't matter if they actually find something, perception can often become reality.

It is important to be ready to handle the crisis communications surrounding these types of stories. If handled poorly, a negative story can be devastating to a hotel's reputation and bottom line. An effective response can help minimize this, and in some instances, the response is so well received by the public the business actually grows stronger.

The Internet and new technologies also mean new tactics. Blogs are increasingly becoming mainstream. These online personal diaries provide commentaries on a variety of topics including current events, daily life activities, even a stay at your hotel. Increasingly many businesses are developing their own blogs to share information on product developments, new services or corporate news.

A great example of the use of blogs in the tourism industry is the Pennsylvania Tourism Office. They used blogs as a marketing tool for their summer 2005 campaign, called "Real People, Real Roadtrips." Six couples were selected through help wanted ads and casting calls. Each received a travel stipend to cover three trips, but nothing specific was arranged. Each couple then posted blogs about their adventures on the site. The effort received a significant amount of news coverage, added a consumer experience to the Web site and helped increase site traffic.

Vlogs, or video blogs is a blog that uses video as the primary content. Imagine the impact of a potential guest going to your Web site and finding a vlog to review. The vlog might include clips of vacation fun posted by past guests. Perhaps, your recreation team can post clips of exciting kid's club activities. Honest communications that connect with Web visitors that encourage them to visit your hotel.

The advent of Ipods and other MP3 players has led to the development of the Podcast and Video Podcast. Podcasting is the distribution of multimedia files, such as audio programs or videos, over the Internet for playback on either mobile devices or personal computers. In fact, most podcasts are played on a computer and never actually make it to the MP3 player. The Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau features podcasts with tips on planning a family vacation. The Indianapolis CVB features a regular series of podcasts called "Doing Indy" that highlight various special events and activities. Visitors to the site can subscribe to the feed and get the updates delivered to their computer.

All of these public relations tools are available and can be beneficial in an integrated marketing campaign. As mentioned earlier, PR is evolving into content development that helps create experiential marketing concepts for consumers. Public relations and marketing is moving beyond talking at the consumer. Now, tactics are being implemented that interact with the consumer. A Web site is a great informational tool, but if a consumer only visits once, never to return, its impact is minimal. Imagine a site with updated content from a blog, a site with new podcasts, a site that creates a virtual experience for consumers to return multiple times, learning more about what you have to offer and building a loyalty to your hotel.

However it is defined, public relations is still about building relationships and connecting with your audiences. Large or small, any property can benefit from effective PR efforts. After all, you can't spell profit without PR.

Doug Luciani leads PRofit from PR - Public Relations and Marketing. Focusing on media relations, marketing communications, e-marketing strategies and media training, the Orlando based firm specializes in the hospitality, travel and tourism industries. PRofit from PR's client roster includes hotels and resorts across the United States, and also features businesses in the fields of technology, healthcare, security, real estate and corporate training. As a result of his leadership and success with PRofit from PR, Luciani also serves as the Vice President of Public Relations for Dickinson & Associates Advertising & Marketing and Chief Communications Officer for Florida Vacation Auction. A graduate of the University of Florida, he is a member of the Florida Public Relations Association, Public Relations Society of America and several regional business development organizations. Mr. Luciani can be contacted at 407-850-5096 or doug@profitfrompr.com

Doug Luciani leads PRofit from PR, focusing on media relations, marketing communications, e-marketing strategies and media training. PRofit from PR's clients span the U.S. and feature technology, healthcare, security, real estate and corporate training. Mr.Luciani also serves as VP of PR for Dickinson & Associates, and Chief Communications Officer for Florida Vacation Auction. A graduate of the University of Florida, he is a member of the Florida Public Relations Association, the Public Relations Society of America and several regional business development organizations. Mr. Luciani can be contacted at 407-719-6102 or doug@profitfrompr.com Extended Bio...

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