Hotel Communications: Working With Journalists

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

It's important to be media savvy in order to communicate your message. This applies to both good and bad news. Do you even know what constitutes a good news story? What about any bad press that may come your way? Are you prepared to handle it?

In the hospitality industry, there are numerous ways to work with the media. You can send out news releases to alert the media to new amenities or packages. You can host travel writers who will then include you in their stories. If your releases and hosting go well, writers may then follow up with you for an interview. This may all sound easy to deal with. But, take it from someone who has been a journalist and now works with them daily, the media can be finicky.

Let's start with sending your news to journalists. The first question you have to ask, is this really news? Just because it is important to you, doesn't mean it is news. If you are continually sending non-news or fluff to journalists, they will very quickly begin ignoring you and your information. That will make it tough to communicate real news when it does come along. One question you can ask yourself when sending something to the media, will their audience care? After all, that's what the journalist will be asking. Will my readers, viewers or listeners care? How does it impact them? Be sure to be honest with your answers and review it objectively.

Once you've determined you have news, the next step is to get it to the media. If you are going to draft and distribute a news release, it is important to be sure it is well written and contains all the facts. It is also important to go easy on the heavy sell, or as I call it, brochure language. Your news release shouldn't read like a brochure or sales kit. Journalists just want the facts. I also recommend writing a release in AP (Associated Press) format.

When sending out a release, be sure to get it to the right person at a publication. If you are using email, do not send it as an attachment, just cut and paste into your email text box. Also, it is important to know and respect a journalist's deadlines. If you miss their deadline, they don't get the story and you don't get the coverage. If you are dealing with magazines, be sure to know their lead time. Some magazines publish two, three, six months out. If you wait until December to send them a holiday package, you will have missed the opportunity for coverage.

If you are responsible for handling the media relations for your property or travel business, you've probably been contacted by travel writers seeking assistance with accommodations, meals or activities. Individual media visits are one of the best ways to introduce journalists to your business. This gives them an opportunity to truly experience a resort or attraction firsthand. When working with a writer, it is important to remember, they are not meeting planners, travel agents or tour operators. They do no respond well to a hard sales pitch. It is important they experience the resort as a guest would experience the property.

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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.