Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same goes for a PR strategy. Building a strong foundation for press efforts isn’t always easy, but can pay dividends in the long run. Vying with the myriad of competitors for visibility and presence in the market takes time. Unfortunately, the wealth of information poured onto the web daily means that without skilled PR your hotel can quickly slip into obscurity.
The number of hotels and motels in the US is reportedly between 35,000 and 54,000, subject to definition. Regardless of how you classify them, that’s a lot of rooms to sell!ÊWhile to your staff, your hotel is undoubtedly the best, to the rest of the world it is one among many options online. How can you change that perception?
Some would argue advertising is the way to get noticed. Many insightful hoteliers recognize that PR is an important tool for gaining visibility and increasing their occupancy rates.
How do you overcome a syncial world?
With millions of advertisements being served each day, customers have become wary of direct advertising. Many have succumbed to flowery prose promising luxury, only to be disappointed with second-rate service. Or suffered noise from the conveniently forgotten highway running nearby the bedrooms.
It is no longer enough to tell potential guests your hotel is the best. Increasingly, they turn to trusted third parties for recommendations. According to a TripAdvisor study, 93 per cent of people rely on online reviews when deciding at which hotel to stay. Over half the people surveyed wouldn’t even consider a hotel that had no online reviews. This is where PR, not advertising, makes the difference.
Defining PR can feel like catching the wind Ask the management of a dozen hotels to define PR and you could have twelve different answers. PR helps widen the market funnel for guest bookings, aids in building a reputation of trust, and spreads awareness about your brand.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations in the UK says in today’s competitive market, a company’s reputation is its biggest asset. It’s also almost impossible to quantify financially. This might be why the USC GAP VIII report showed over 50 per cent of senior management did not believe PR contributed to their financial success. In light of the evidence, such a viewpoint is often misguided. To ignore the importance of PR can prove to be a costly oversight.
Why is PR crucial to success?
The role of PR is to build a hotel’s reputation and to protect it from damage. It lays the foundation on which marketing and sales rely on to succeed, minimizing and managing the whims of an online world.
PR is essential for locating and identifying your target audience. With 78 per cent of the US population active on social media they are easily found. The beauty of social media is it allows for demographic targeting in ways traditional advertising never could. It is now possible to interact with guests, building a new type of loyalty.
Every hotel has its own unique advantage. PR takes that positive attribute and plays it to a specific audience. This is not traditional marketing but targeted storytelling to an interested segment of potential guests.
How does PR work?
A solid PR plan will keep your customers engaged on social media. Due to the dynamic – and capricious – nature of the markets, PR is an active and ongoing process. Traditional print is still an important part of PR but the way it’s used separates it from marketing. Marketing sells. PR tells a story. Which do you prefer to read?
Let others do the selling but more is involved. Every demographic segment has its preferred media choice, which in turn influences its decisions. Magazines and social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, each have their supporters. Knowing the appropriate media will save you time and money, as it ensures you are talking to the right people with the right message.
Who do you turn to for information and advice?Ê
A source you trust. The majority of people today rely on information they find in blogs. The writers of those blogs can influence perception and reputation in ways your hotel’s marketing and advertising never could. Influencer marketing is proving immensely effective. If a well-known blogger raved about your hotel, their readers would rely on that information.
Who are these bloggers and how can they become involved in your hotel? It is the role of PR to find the appropriate ones and then entice them to write on your behalf. A well-managed PR campaign that uses the right influencers will boost to your hotel’s image. And your bookings.
Turn bad reviews to your advantage
Although over 80 per cent of online hotel reviews are positive, hotels can receive negative comments. Justified or not, a single bad review – online or in the press – can negatively impact occupancy rates in minutes, reversing months of costly marketing.
A TripAdvisor report shows 87 per cent of those questioned reacted favorably when hotels responded to negative reviews. The report further said 68 per cent would not choose a hotel that did not reply to such reviews.
This clearly shows the necessity of taking negative reviews seriously. They have a direct bearing on bookings and revenue. Not all bad publicity comes from online reviews. External issues such as health scares, local crime and bad weather can affect the image of your hotel. How quickly and to whom you send out your messages to mitigate adverse reactions is a critical part of PR’s responsibility.
PR contributes financially
PR as a function has changed over the past years. And it is still changing as people embrace new ways to digest news and information. With a more inter-connected world, comes greater opportunity. This opportunity is not exploited by chance. Planning and work are required to make sure your hotel’s reputation and positioning in the market are what you want them to be.
The USC report cited earlier showed many senior managers did not believe PR contributed to the bottom line. That same study also reported that over 42 per cent felt strongly that it did. These savvy managers are investing both time and money to ensure their businesses stand out. They are reaping the benefits in reputation and profits.
To you, your hotel is the best. By using the right PR campaign your target market can be persuaded to agree.
Arianna O’Dell is the founder ofÊAirlink Marketing, a digital agency that helps hotels, restaurants and travel destinations attract and retain clientele.