What Defines Hotel Public Relations?

By Doug Luciani Chief Associate, PRofit from PR - Public Relations & Marketing | October 28, 2008

Public relations is more than just media relations efforts. There are other tactics and strategies that can be implemented to reach your target audience.

Ask a roomful of professionals to define Public Relations and you'll receive a number of different answers, and most of them would be a narrow representation of the entire PR picture. Public Relations is not just publicity, working with journalists, or community events. It is about building relationships with the bottom line to a hotel's balance sheet - its customers. Today, getting the consumer's attention to tell them about your property is not easy.

Research abounds on the decline of paid advertising effectiveness. Savvy consumers find ads to be less credible. Furthermore, new tools allow them to remove these intrusions from their daily lives: Tivo, Do Not Call lists, e-mail spam filters, pop-up blockers, just to name a few.

Today's consumers respond to dialogue, relationships, interactions, and honest communications. Businesses in any industry, including hospitality, need to implement and execute integrated marketing campaigns. More and more, these campaigns find public relations taking the lead because PR has always been about relationships with multiple audiences.

There are many tactics in the public relations tool box. Media relations, or publicity, is usually the first that comes to mind, followed by special events. However, the list doesn't end there. Newsletters, consumer promotions, and crisis communications should also be included. New technologies and mediums include blogs, vlogs, podcasts and vodcasts. On a broader level, PR is evolving into content development that helps a business create experiential marketing concepts for consumers.

While most people are familiar with media relations and special events, it's still appropriate to quickly cover what is involved. Media relations, of course, involves building relationships with journalists. The end goal is to get your hotel included in travel articles, business articles, etc. This media coverage creates a third-party endorsement of your property. Regardless of the size of your property, you probably have a story that will be of interest to the press. However, when dealing with the media you need a newsworthy story. Special events include grand openings, ground breaking ceremonies, charity events, or even a media stunt (think Hollywood movie premieres).

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.