Targeted Media Outreach: How to Know Your Customer

By Lanny Grossman President, EM50 Communications | April 01, 2010

If you have ever browsed a newsstand, you know how many hundreds of different publications and media outlets exist, and that's in addition to Television, Radio (now terrestrial and satellite), as well as the vast Internet. Despite the hardships the publishing industry has been facing with shrinking ad pages and lower circulations, the breath and depth of the media options available continues to grow at a rapid pace. This proliferation has been both good and challenging for public relations professionals as it creates more opportunity for exposure but poses the formidable task of choosing the right outlets for the right story and client. Knowing your desired customer is the first step in selecting the appropriate media to target.

The Importance of Customer Data

In deciding which media outlets to target, it is important to have a realistic understanding of where your core customers are coming from and then, if you wish to expand into new markets, that can also be done as a secondary effort. Capturing guest information is essential in this determination. Online reservations have assisted greatly with this but storing, organizing and using the data effectively is up to management. Front desk staff can re-confirm email and mailing addresses upon check-in. If a large percentage of your guests stay through corporate contracts, the address on their reservation may be that of the corporate travel office or company headquarters. Having a thousand customer addresses in Phoenix per se, does not help in determining guest profiles or in promotional outreach down the road. Capture the data and capture the right data.

Once you have captured the information, put it to work. For example, if you are a hotel in the Midwest and you discover a large portion of your weekend guests are coming from within driving distance, when looking to promote special offers or packages, it will be best to reach out to the daily newspapers and other media outlets within that proximity. Promoting a weekend package with parking to outlets in California will be less effective than first concentrating on your target audience. In addition to knowing where people come from, it is important to understand how they book - travel agent, direct to hotel via phone or website, third party online travel site i.e. Orbitz. Understanding your guests' booking preferences will help direct your public relations efforts as far as targeting the appropriate consumer publication or those targeting the trade.

Trade vs Consumer

Each year when a new travel website comes online, industry naysayers run through the streets talking about the death of travel agents. Yes, Internet reservations have grown continuously each year since the launch of web reservations, but travel agents are still essential to hotels and should be seen as a customer, or at least a conduit to customers. When wanting to tell a story to the traveling public, it is important that the story be reformatted to tell the travel agent community as well, who will often act as your messenger. Like a game of telephone, your message will go from hotel to travel agent or trade publication to the agent and then onto the consumer. It will take a little while longer to get there, but the path is effective and important.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.