Does Your Hotel Need PR? Know Before You Spend
By Didi Lutz President, Didi Lutz PR | November 14, 2009
Since 2004, when I started writing my columns for Hotel Business Review, I have been on a mission to convince hoteliers that while PR should work together with Marketing, it should also stand alone as its own self-functioning department. The reason is simple: your public relations team is the eyes and ears for your hotel, your competitors, your community, and, most importantly, PR monitors the news environment in print and online.
As the information gatekeepers of your property, your PR team is usually the one who issues news releases, and anything that should become public knowledge. Whether it is an agency or an independent professional, or your own in-house department, it is essential that PR should be notified first of any changes within the property; from something as trivial as a special rate gimmick for one day, to something as serious as ownership change. PR can then strategically respond on behalf of the hotel to the media, the community, and even internally to employees.
How do you know if you need PR and why? I hope the arguments here will convince you of this small department's importance!
First of all, I can't tell you how many properties are making this mistake: either not having a PR presence at all, trying to substitute it with assistants or interns, or if they do have a PR team place, it isn't functioning propertly. Why? Because PR is usually not the first department to be informed of most things that happen in a busy hotel – causing a communication breakdown in the department.
For example, say a celebrity checks in unannounced, and the front desk supervisor finishes the process, hands the key over with the standard pleasantries, and then decides to only tell his manager about who the surprise VIP guest is. Five minutes later, the phone rings at PBX from the local society paper asking to speak to the PR department. PR takes the blind call. "So and so is staying with you, do you have a comment about such and such?" says the reporter. The PR person handles the call by not revealing anything, however, s/he doesn't know who just checked in, has not been notified appropriately, and therefore is not prepared to fully respond.
The point is: the PR person potentially missed a placement opportunity to plug in the hotel strategically, because s/he wasn't immediately informed.