Selecting the Right Public Relations Professional
By Didi Lutz President, Didi Lutz PR | October 28, 2008
Most hotels, regardless of size, rank and diamond award, have a dedicated employee as a press contact, who manages and coordinates all media requests and on-site visits. More often than not, public relations employees in hotels have a title of Marketing Coordinator, or Manager and their position usually falls under Sales and Marketing.
Assuming that all three fields of Sales, Marketing and Public Relations are mutually exclusive disciplines, hoteliers tend to mix them all into one department to keep costs low. Once that happens, not only do job responsibilities become hazy, but also the hotel could suffer because it does not necessarily reach its publicity potential. That is when outsourcing public relations agencies and consultants come to play.
Choosing a successful publicist in hospitality can be difficult because there are not that many agencies or independent consultants who specialize in the hotel industry and know its media environment well. To begin with, when recognizing the need to outsource, hoteliers must establish a budget for public relations that will not only include service fees, but also the traditional "wining and dining," complimentary room nights for media, subsidizing press trips, and the cost of article reprints and permissions for their use on websites and press kits.
Because public relations agencies that focus on hospitality are harder to come by, their prices tend to be higher than others. Most of them have multiple hotels and restaurants, and are able to leverage their media relationships to establish, and hopefully maintain, their client's desired image. Other agencies are even more specialized in boutique, hi-tech hotels for example, located in a specific geographic location. The alternatives and variety of outsourced public relations firms in travel and hospitality can be exhausting.
After the budget has been established, thorough research must be done to find the appropriate candidates for the job. To this day, the best way to find good publicists is through word of mouth and networking. Also, by discovering what your competition's media presence is, the hotelier can determine what the property's desired image should be. And sometimes in order to achieve this it makes sense not to hire an agency but rather an independent media relations professional. Independent professionals tend to have more time to spend on the hotel's publicity, and are usually much less costly to the operation.
During screening and interviewing, hoteliers should have Sales Directors and Marketing Managers present at the meetings, since these departments work with Public Relations closely and facilitate their requests much more than other departments. It is also an opportunity for the hotel not only to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each agency, but to also observe the rapport between employees and the outsourced firm. In many cases, an agency with a strong resume can present a superb strategy, but if the chemistry with the hotel employees is not there, hoteliers should take that into consideration before hiring their services. It is crucial to pay close attention to what each of the agencies or independent professionals have to say, because these are the people who will be representing the hotel and carrying out the message to the media.