|How to Design a PR Campaign for Your Hotel.|
By Josiah Mackenzie
Friday, 10th December 2010
Today we’re joined by Lissa Gruman, a partner at Gruman & Nicoll Public Relations specializing in getting media coverage for hotels.
Our conversation – shared in three parts – explains how to design a PR campaign for your hotel, the promotional value of stories and unique amenities, and how merging traditional and new media can help you reach more guests.
Josiah: How would you define your job as a public relations specialist?
Lissa: I see myself in three parts: One, advocate for the client; two, representative of their business; and three, as a creative director in communicating with the media.
Josiah: How do you really understand a client’s business?
Lissa: In my experience, the long-term relationships that are extremely integrated tend to be the most successful, unless of course you’re doing a short-term project that has a very clear start and you know exactly what the end goal is.
I can’t stress enough the sharing of information, how important that is. I represent hotels and lifestyle industries, and those industries – as it relates to garnering press – are often related to trends, to activities, obviously any sort of economic climate – recessions – would fall in there as well. But I need information from the client to be a good communicator on their behalf.
Josiah: What are some of the common misconceptions that you feel are out there about public relations?
Lissa: One, that public relations is a fix-all for a problem or a concern in an organization that may have deeper roots. I think that often businesses arrive at the public relations doorstep as a last gasp in trying to figure out what’s wrong with their company, either why they’re not selling more or gaining more traction.
And I think the belief is there that if they had more public awareness, that their business would be driven accordingly. And in some cases, that can impact it. But if there are other issues at play, public relations really is not a fix-all.
The second piece of that is to really realize that the public relations professional in a lot of organizations – if it’s a contract position – is one of those positions that kind of comes and goes. In good times, it’s added. In bad times, it’s taken away. I think it’s often perceived as the fluff part of a communications and marketing strategy. And in fact, it’s really one arm or one spoke in the wheel of a comprehensive program.
Josiah: It sounds like you need to be working on these relationships from the start. Thinking, how can we communicate with the press, with our customers, with our target audience in a very sustainable manner.
Lissa: I think that’s exactly it. In designing a campaign, everybody has to be in mutual and very clear agreement about what the end goal is. And with that end goal, what success looks like and doesn’t look like for everybody.
I have a series of questions that I will either send to a client or go over with the client — typically, it’s one of those that I like to leave with them or send to them in advance — that identifies what the clear goals and expectations are for both parties.
I’m very clear, always, to not make promises that I don’t feel I can achieve. I think if you go into it saying that you can deliver one thing and you’re unable to do that, it creates a lot of animosity and is not really good for the working relationship. As a PR practitioner, your job is to help guide and frame the company persona to the public via the media.
Josiah: I’d like for you to walk us through the steps that you go through when designing a PR campaign. And perhaps we could begin with, how do we identify or formulate this big goal at the start?
Lissa: Good question. I think it requires a lot of discussion. Everybody’s favorite project, mine included, is a new product launch. Those are the best, because everybody is very excited, and it has been unseen, probably unwritten about for the most part. So at that point in time, it’s really about sitting down and getting a full understanding of what is your product or service, what differentiates it amongst other like products and services, and who are the constituent groups that we want to know about your product or service.
With that in mind, with everybody being very clear at the table on who those groups are and where we’re trying to get to, I would typically – and specifically with hotels – look at the different media groups that I want to reach.
For example, what is the business story? Is it the amount of money that has been put into the build of a new hotel? Is it a renovation? And with that, I would probably go to business media accordingly saying, “here’s your business story regarding the financial piece of this.”
If it’s lifestyle, I would try to pull out the exciting features of the property. Perhaps you’ve got a specific designer that you’ve worked with. Perhaps there’s been a commitment to artwork within a hotel property. There may be a spa or a special feature that makes it unique.
Certainly with hotels – with food and beverage being a big part – I would look at the culinary program. Independently of hotels, I represent a lot of restaurants and chefs, so I’m always looking for that hook as we like to call it in the PR world. What is the hook? What differentiates your product and service from your competitors?
In structuring [your PR campaign], look at the different outreach possibilities for media and the key themes or stories that you can put together to pitch to them. And then, drilling down further from that, who within those specific publications – whether they be online or print – do you really want to reach? Where do you get the biggest bang for the buck?
If it’s an existing business, those strategies become more complicated, and at that point you really, really have to be very clear and very honest about what you have to offer that is distinguishing from your competition and your comp set. Specifically with hotels, that’s really important.
Thank you, Lissa!