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At Aberfield we have a strong track record of working with hotel groups and venues to use PR and marketing to drive sales, establish and build reputations and make a tangible measurable difference to the business.

Posted on Wed 29th Jan, 2020 in: Advice, Evaluation, Industry Comment, Public Relations, Tourism, Travel by Tim Downs

In each case we’ve done this by helping our clients better understand and engage with their key audiences, bringing them closer together. Across the consumer leisure, and conference and events sectors, we’ve delivered award-winning campaigns for everyone from destination marketing bodies to national museums, hotel groups and individual venues. Clients include the likes of QHotels, Malmaison, Visit Leeds, Almarose Hotels, The National Railway Museum and Welcome to Yorkshire.

Drawing on that experience, we’ve decided to provide tips on how to make sure your PR and communications campaigns are as effective as possible.

Identifying your USP

A big issue in hospitality and with venues is that unless you have something unique to offer, you often find yourself playing in the same space as your competitors.

Try and find a hotel group that doesn’t claim that service is what sets them apart or an events venue that claims to offer something “truly different”.

If you are fortunate enough to be like the National Railway Museum and able to offer a venue surrounded by historic rail engines and carriages, your USP is pretty clear, but hotels with conference and banqueting facilities might find it a little more difficult.

In these situations you need to focus on what you do well, and can offer consistently. If it is service driven, be specific. Is it personality, greater personalisation or genuinely going beyond customer expectations that sets you apart?

Working with QHotels, while also a leisure operator, it couldn’t compete with the Hiltons and Marriotts of this world in terms of marketing budget and we know that it’s a race to the bottom in terms of consumers chasing room price. However, across its 26 hotels, each one offered extremely strong conference and events facilities, which meant this was a space as a group that we could help them punch way above their weight. This led to a three-year campaign to establish them as a leading conference and events operator in the minds of corporate and agency bookers.

Identify and influence your critical audiences

If you have your USP, simply communicating this across all your potential audiences won’t deliver results as they each have different requirements and respond to different motivating messages.

Identifying and prioritising your audiences allows for more targeted communications and is therefore more cost-effective by focusing your spend and activity in the right places at the right time.

If your focus is the leisure market, you need to identify what types of traveller and occasions you are catering for e.g. family, younger, older, special occasions, weekend breaks, culture, unwind etc.

If your focus is on the conferences and events space, do you offer the flexibility often required by agencies to dress the venue in a creative way, or the ability to transform from day to night and accommodate delegates, which is often required by corporates and associations?

As an example of this, we used insight that showed a significant shift in the event management industry towards younger bookers, with around 20 per cent now being under 25 years of age, to create a Young Event Professionals Panel. The research also highlighted that these young buyers often hadn’t formed favourite first choice providers for event space. So not only was this a way to tap into this audience, but also to create a strong association for our client. The members of the panel were invited to overnight events to discuss key industry issues and trends, from career progression, to food trends and future technology. This allowed us to produce reports, social content, blogs and news stories in the C&E media and across our own channels. Ultimately it resulted in an uplift in awareness and perceptions of the client as a conference and events provider in industry benchmarking BDRC research.  

Consider operational impact

Working in the hospitality and leisure sector, it’s easy to come up with lots of really creative ideas involving food and drink, new hotel rooms and innovative services. However, PR companies don’t often consider the reality of clients being able to implement those ideas, either long-term or as a one-off stunt.

Creating a weird and wonderful new room type, as an example, can be hugely costly and also takes a revenue generating room of out of circulation. Anything involving the check in process involves training and anything impacting menus and kitchens offers a wide range of issues, not least getting buy-in from the chef (easier said than done is some cases).

Ideas need to be easy to implement, place little responsibility on employees or can be delivered entirely by the PR team and have minimal operational impact.

On the creative front, it’s also far too easy to let a seemingly good idea gather momentum, when in reality it adds little or no value to helping brands achieve their objectives. More often than not these are done as PR stunts but they generally ignore the points made above around targeting audiences and supporting the brand USPs. They tend to be about getting a quick win and not about effective campaigns aimed at generating commercial results.

Which brings me neatly on to how you should measure success.

Setting the right metrics for success

Now more than ever the effects of PR are tangible, measurable and should demonstrate a direct relationship between activity and a commercial return.

PR is not media relations, it creates opportunities to engage with audiences through a variety of real world and online touch points that are perhaps best covered by the Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned (PESO) model.

This integrated thinking allows you to look at a variety of metrics for measuring the success of your PR that go way beyond generating cuttings.

We have measured success for clients in this sector in the following ways, directly linked to our activity:

  • Increased footfall and visitor numbers
  • Increased web traffic both in general and to specific pages
  • Increased Google searches
  • Benchmark research into awareness and perceptions
  • Sales enquiries
  • Revenue and sales
  • Winning awards

Supporting the in house team

The final piece of advice I wanted to leave you with is ensuring that your in house team are well supported. When working with hotels and groups with multiple venues, there often isn’t the resource from head office or the agency to be able to support each venue.

In those cases it often comes down to an individual at the venue to take on marketing, PR and social media responsibilities, in addition to their normal role.

In these situations the nominated person needs to be given the tools and the confidence to tackle what can be quite a daunting task.

Bringing the representatives from each venue together for group training sessions and workshops is a strong way of building confidence and the ability to test what they are being expected to do in a safe environment.

Another good way is to provide a toolkit of comms resources for the person to use. This should include social media guidelines, press release templates, key media contacts, crisis comms processes and hints and tips on simple paid activity, as well as guides to photography and creating media opportunities.

Hospitality is a vibrant and fun sector to work in, but it’s also incredibly competitive, with consumers and business customers offered a wide variety of choices and options to satisfy their needs. Anything that can help you stand out from the pack that isn’t focused on price can make a significant difference and good PR and marketing should do just that.

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