How to Get Your Hotel 15 Minutes of Online Fame
By Ryan Bifulco Founder & CEO, Travel Spike | May 20, 2012
Everyone wants to be famous these days. Maybe that explains the rise of reality TV shows. So don't you want your hotel to get in on the act and claim your 15 minutes of fame? One way to feature your property is with Digital PR or electronic public relations. Think of Digital PR just like you would regular PR except you are focusing on electronic media rather than print or TV coverage. So the goal is to get your hotel exposure in ezines, email newsletters, blogs and other online outlets rather than just the NY Times. Digital PR also entails promoting your hotel to various websites that fit your niche. For example we have gotten exposure for many of our clients in sections of About.com which has 75 million unique users a month. It seems the NY Times also sees where things are heading as they bought About.com.
With traditional public relations you put your press release out across a wire service like PR Newswire which blasts your release to thousands of outlets that are mostly offline. With Digital PR, you are distributing your release to many other electronic wire services, public relations search engines and directories. There are freelancers that write for various websites or blogs who monitor the online wires looking for current events and news for possible stories. Another component of a Digital PR program would be to get these online journalists to visit your hotel in person on a FAM trip or site inspection. You would wine and dine a travel blogger or freelancer that wrote for a website just like you would roll out the red carpet for an editor from Travel & Leisure magazine.
Many people confuse Digital PR with Social Media Marketing. They are related or kissing cousins as my family says but let's review their distinct differences. Social Media Marketing involves promoting your brand in blogs, podcasts, viral videos and social networking communities. Maintaining an active presence on Facebook and Twitter would fall more in the Social Media Marketing category. Pitching your story to online outlets would fall more in the Digital PR category. But be careful when reaching out to bloggers as they usually do not like to be pitched. A better approach would be to spend time reading the blog and making sure you truly understand what it is about. Then you would strike up a conversation with the blogger around your area of expertise or a topic that the blog covers. The blogger usually will not write an entire story just on your one angle, so be prepared to expand your idea to be considered. Bloggers also will not waste their time reading your story if it is not a good fit for their audience. Make sure to target relevant bloggers that would be a good fit for your content. If you have a new chef, then organize a special dinner and invite food bloggers. If you have a pet program, then find some pet bloggers that would be amused by your program.
Now that we have explained what Digital PR entails we need to better understand how to track and measure it.
Let's first review how you measure the success of any traditional PR program. Yes there are tangible numbers to review. But PR is also about associating your brand with the right media outlet and leveraging that coverage beyond your 15 minutes of fame. The Kentucky Derby has become infinitely more than a horse race because their PR team was able to lure journalists to experience the event in person early on. The Derby also invited celebrities to attend and added on social events all weekend which took the race to another level and made it one of the biggest sporting events in the world. So it is tough to put a price on all that buzz and the same applies to a digital public relations campaign. The best marketers also include a PR program to extend their spend on a Super Bowl commercial and that is how you need to think to take your property to the next level. After we got one client featured on a major travel trade website called TravelPulse.com, the client reused the video coverage internally for corporate training and motivation all year long. We had another client that was named the #7 luxury brand on Twitter which they proudly displayed on their homepage to extend that coverage.
In addition to factoring in the buzz from Digital PR, you can also track the dollar amount of all your online coverage. This measurement method is very similar to traditional public relations reporting as it tallies up the media equivalency of all your media hits. For example getting an article featured on About.com might be worth $5,000 while having your hotel mentioned by a smaller blogger might be worth $500. Keep in mind some blogs have a very small audience but that does not mean they are not powerful. Some of the most influential bloggers only have 100 readers but 1 of those readers might be Bill Gates or somebody just as connected. Your ROI just from this media equivalency method alone is usually very strong and we have seen 7 to 1 ROI all the way up to 25 to 1 ROI. Another aspect to Digital PR reporting involves a Web 2.0 Hit which is a way to measure the viral marketing associated with your online exposure. A Web 2.0 Hit applies to a wide variety of social media and other online outlets. For example if you posted your hotel photo on a website like Flickr.com and you had 10 comments then that would be 10 Web 2.0 Hits. Your brand gets extra exposure each time a user leaves a comment. The same would apply to Tweeting your press release to 1000 Twitter followers for additional reach. You can also tally Web 2.0 Hits for submitting multiple videos to YouTube or similar sites. Each video would count multiple times as you extending the number of sites that you submitted to.
It is hard to talk about electronic public relations without covering online video. You can include video with your releases and you can submit your videos to a wide assortment of outlets. There are countless video libraries, search engines and directories willing to accept quality video content. There are some bloggers that have video blogs or video podcasts so you would increase your chance of getting coverage if you had a video rather than just a text based press release. You also could offer to be a guest on their podcast rather than pushing your release or video.