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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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.