Measuring Public Relations Success - A Guide to Understanding the Return-on-Investment

By Gini Dietrich Founder & CEO, Arment Dietrich Inc. | February 16, 2010

Raising awareness of and gaining additional exposure for your property is one thing. Being able to prove the efforts behind such an increase in market visibility and occupancy is a direct result of a public relations campaign is quite another. The difference lies in identifying and tracking the effect of a public relations campaign on your business, and the biggest factor is measurement.

Public relations is a powerful tool in the hospitality industry. From establishing or repositioning a brand to drawing attention to a hotel opening or the addition of a new amenity, public relations can be one of the most value and credible communications tools around. Not only can a well-executed public relations program raise awareness, but it also can be a highly influential force with current and potential guests. These efforts contribute to and ensure the success of a hotel.

The first step in this process, however, is for hoteliers to understand what they should expect in terms of return-on-investment (ROI) for a public relations campaign. There was a time when displaying placements was enough to demonstrate the effectiveness of a public relations campaign. The old adage of "any publicity is good publicity," however, went out the window a long, long time ago - with good reason, too; it just is not sound business.

The key to understanding the real ROI for a public relations program lies in establishing mutually agreed upon, quantifiable results. The bottom line is king and placing monetary values and concrete measurements against a public relations campaign is influential for an hotelier. Public relations professionals need to translate successes into a form that every hotelier understands, appreciates, and values.

One of the best ways for public relations practitioners to demonstrate the legitimacy of their efforts is to calculate a current advertising equivalency for each placement. Very simply put, advertising equivalency is the amount of money a client would pay to place an advertisement in the media outlet in which a story runs.

For example, let's say a story runs in a local paper with an advertising rate of $100 per column inch. Say the story spans three columns and is 10 inches long, for 30 column inches. Multiplying this number by 100 would result an advertising equivalency of $3,000. Similarly, if a story airs on radio or television station for 30 seconds, the advertising equivalency equals the cost of running an advertisement for 30 seconds during that same broadcast.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.