When it comes to promoting your hotel or resort, few things can compete with the reach and influence of the media. Being quoted in a travel magazine or featured on the evening news will do more for your reputation than a thousand ad views. It’s the kind of exposure that can really move the needle for an independent operator. But rarely does it happen by chance.
Earned media (aka publicity) is something that usually results from a carefully planned and executed public relations (PR) campaign. And while you might think PR is only for celebrities and politicians, the truth is that your hospitality businesses can benefit a lot from strategically managing how the public perceives your brand.
Since I’m not an expert in public relations for hospitality, I decided to have a chat with Joe Arends, founder of Chicago Marketing Consultancy and a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry. Arends is a certified digital marketer with the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI). His company offers full-service digital marketing and PR services.
What is the importance of public relations to the tourism and hospitality industry?
It cannot be overstated how valuable PR is, especially now. As we are finally (fingers crossed 🤞) climbing out of the pandemic, we need to restart the PR engines and bring some goodwill back to the industry. Amplify the messages of perseverance, teamwork, and innovation and hopefully bring some much-needed talent back to the industry.
How is PR different from marketing?
Public relations should be thought of as a key piece of the overall marketing mix. A well-planned, thoughtful marketing campaign will have some sort of PR effort involved to amplify the campaign messaging and help grow your brand to new audiences.
Why might it make sense for a hotel to shift some of its advertising dollars to public relations?
Revenue-generating, lower-funnel, bookings-focused tactics are, for the most part, a no-brainer. But I think, even on the individual property level, hotels and resorts need to strategically think about how PR can also play a role in bringing new travelers to their properties.
PR campaigns tend to have more of a lasting effect. After all, are you more likely to remember an ad in your Facebook scroll? Or an interview with a GM highlighting his 25 million dollar renovation?
Plus, (sorry to nerd out for a second) there’s organic SEO value in creating new, relevant backlinks to your site when your PR campaigns work effectively. Those links can positively affect your rankings for years to come!
What is needed for a successful PR campaign?
I’m going to simplify this answer and say two things. One, you need to have thoughtful and credible news to share. Ask yourself: Is the content that you’re looking to push out, really noteworthy? A new painting in the lobby or a new breakfast menu is probably better served for a social media post vs. an actual PR campaign. Now, if the new breakfast menu is from a Michelin-starred chef and features a $500 gold-encrusted lobster tail, then you might have something. 😊
Second, would be the need for appropriate tracking. Unique tracking codes should be utilized to identify how regular PR efforts are performing versus other digital advertising tactics. I’ve seen great PR campaigns become good PR campaigns, simply because the agency sent all of the traffic to the hotel’s home page without any unique identifiers in the URL. With limited measurement, it only becomes harder to justify the expense to leadership.
Thank you for your insights, Joe. If you'd like to connect, you can find Joe on LinkedIn.