New Options for Managing Hotel Public Relations

The Millennial Mindset Gives Power to Instagram

By Leora Halpern Lanz President, LHL Communications | April 29, 2018

Co-authored by Gina Hock, Graduate, Boston University School of Hospitality Administration

Move over Google, because Instagram could be the next best search engine. With 2018 came the ever-growing popularity of the photo-sharing application, and the rise of influential marketers who now have the weight to impact the travel and tourism industry in significant ways.

The social site is no longer only for the millennial generation – those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. As the digital world continues to develop, the platform serves as a social site for everyone, any age. Users may not fall into the millennial generation criteria regarding birth year, however, they can still possess the attributes, desires, and needs of said generation. We call these users "millennial-minded." They form relationships with groups who have common interests, they enjoy personalized experiences, they want to keep up and stay relevant with trends while also posting photos of their experiences on social media sites. With an ever increasing audience, Instagram only grows more powerful. A research study conducted by HubSpot found that the platform features more than 700 million active monthly users, over 95 million shared photos, and is branding itself as a global vehicle for personal and business use. 

Thus, Instagram has shifted from an exchange site to share photos with friends, to a trusted source for the search of goods and services, vacation ideas, and lifestyle trends. Roger Drake, Emmy Award Winning Video Content Producer and Marketing Strategist of Drake PR & Marketing shares his insight. "The visual nature [of Instagram] lends itself so well to especially restaurants to showcase the beauty of their food and presentation. It's a great way to connect with your social users and encourage customers to post their photos and positively influence behavior. When done well, it results in an increase in guest traffic."

According to a 2018 Forbes article, consumers see Instagram travel suggestions as "more genuine" than commercial travel promotions.  With Instagram's "location search" feature, consumers are moving away from Safari and choosing Instagram to search for restaurants, hotels, and destinations. The function compiles the photos taken in that particular location with that specific geotag, giving the user a real-life, nearly real-time perspective on any kind of experience. It serves as a tool for the consumer decision process in the hospitality sector, prompting users to eliminate certain options and fixate on the hotels that meet their needs. If a user wants to book a vacation in Palm Springs, he can simply search "The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage" or "Ace Hotel & Swim Club" to view guest photos, and learn from user generated content how it may be to grab a drink by the pool or enjoy a Sunday brunch, and ultimately decide where to stay.

Such a shift in use is prompting hotels and public relations agencies to quickly react and implement this model as a modern day public relations tool. Once reliant upon sit-down lunches with journalists, phone calls with travel writers, and consultations with third party media experts, the travel PR industry is shifting to a more digital, integrated space, dominated by Instagram users with thousands of followers. The significant following gives these users an established credibility – so they're named "influencers."

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.