By Angela Petersen
STR predicts that there are over 17.5 million guestrooms in 187,000 hotels worldwide, and while direct competition will be much smaller than that, it’s more important than ever for hotel management to increase the visibility of their property. Incorporating public relations as part of your hotel marketing strategy can help you attract more potential guests and drive occupancy.
Read on to learn more about the importance of public relations for hotels and the different types of outreach opportunities to include in your marketing efforts.
What is the purpose of public relations for a hotel?
Public relations is an important part of your marketing strategy if it’s your goal to stand out from competitors and increase the likelihood of gaining bookings from potential guests. With growing consumer demands post-pandemic and new hospitality trends such as ‘revenge travel’, hotels have many opportunities to leverage the power of public relations.
Hotel public relations should be used to showcase what makes a property unique. Do you have an award-winning restaurant? A room with breathtaking views? Your hotel‘s story and unique offerings are what will drive a successful public relations strategy.
Different hotels can strategically leverage public relations to boost business during the low season through special promotions, and beat out competitors during the high season based on credibility built on media outlets.
Successful public relations campaigns require creativity, and often hotels turn to PR agencies to help execute these efforts. However, even if you run a small independent property, you can still incorporate public relations into your in-house marketing campaigns to gain visibility for your property.
6 public relations initiatives for hotel marketing
While other marketing strategies are built around getting the word out about your property and brand, a public relations strategy aims to maintain a positive reputation for your business and brand experience as a whole. Thus, the tactics used in a PR strategy will vary from a hotel marketing plan. Some examples of different PR strategies in the hospitality industry include:
Is your property hosting a community event or celebrating a milestone like opening a new on-site bar? A timely event or significant story significant could be attractive to local news stations and newspapers, especially if the topic is relevant to the local community or includes a human-interest aspect. Positive, newsworthy stories will help your brand connect with your target audience.
Are you looking to boost business during the low season or attract guests to stay at your property during an event? Hotel brands will often use PR to announce upcoming deals or promotions. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok can be used to help spread the word and increase the reach of your campaign.
Securing speaking opportunities at hospitality conferences or relevant podcasts that cater to your target market is a great way to create brand awareness and establish you and your hotel as thought leaders in the industry. See if any trade shows or events are happening near you or even some you’re willing to travel to and participate in. Speaking spots can also create excellent networking opportunities.
Apply for awards
The hotel industry is full of award opportunities, and winning often helps bring free publicity to your hotel and brand. You can start by searching for local associations that host award ceremonies or small, locally-sponsored awards within your city or state and work up to more prominent nominations.
Hoteliers can host media press events to showcase new attractions or renovations. These events provide a great opportunity to network with local media personnel and introduce your property’s offerings to them and their audience.
You can also try putting out a press release to make announcements about things like new hires, ways that you’re giving back to the community, or changes that you’ve made to improve the guest experience.
Creating a PR plan
The first step in creating your hotel marketing PR plan is to assess local opportunities available to you. Put some time into researching events, podcasts, and awards to leverage. If you don’t have a dedicated PR team to do the legwork for you, make sure you set aside time on your calendar to proactively search for PR opportunities once a month or so. Remember, your PR plan should include creative tactics to get travelers to visit your property all year long.
The public relations plan you design is only as good as the follow-up communication strategy that drives it. Ensure that you are responsive to contacts that reach out to you and have a press kit ready with materials like your property’s history, a list of awards and press mentions, high-quality images, logos, headshots, contact information, and any other resources that reporters or publishers may need to complete a story about your property. Today it’s common to have your press kit available online as part of your website.
While most of your energy should be spent finding proactive PR opportunities, recognize that sometimes bad reviews and negative stories happen. Include a section in your plan on how to quickly and constructively react to negative press. How you respond to unfavorable situations involving your business could ultimately define your brand in customers’ eyes. Creating a crisis communication plan can be beneficial for your staff to understand the chain of contact and how to address specific talking points.
Free (& low-cost) PR resources
A great PR plan doesn’t necessarily require a significant investment. There are many free or low-cost resources you can use to jumpstart your PR plans, including:
HARO (Help A Reporter Out) – The HARO website connects journalists with news resources and breaking stories submitted by website visitors. You can register as a news resource on the site, and journalists will contact you to let you know if they’re interested in using you or a story you submitted. For example, if you run a ski chalet, reporters may reach out and contact you at the start of the ski season.
Google Alerts – You can set up Google Alerts to receive an email notification whenever new references to your property are used online based on specific keywords – for example, your hotel name. This is an easy way to track where your property is being mentioned on the internet so you can better share and manage the mentions you receive.
Listen Notes — Listen Notes is ‘like Google, but for podcasts’ and includes a classified ads section where users can search for podcasts that are in need of guest speakers. Here, hoteliers can search for any travel, hospitality, or hotel-related podcasts on the hunt for guest speakers.
PitchRate – PitchRate is a free PR tool that sends media requests directly to your inbox. If you feel the request is a fit, you can simply send a pitch to a journalist through the platform.
Mention – Mention allows you to monitor your hotel’s mentions across social media, forums, blogs, news, and website reviews to help you understand and respond to your brand’s online presence.
Canva – Use Canva’s completely free platform to help design your press kit. It comes with beautiful templates, making creating each element of your press kit easy.
3 examples of Hotel PR
Anti aGin at Warner Leisure Hotels: Warner Leisure Hotels wanted to attract travelers over the age of 55 and got creative with their public relations campaign. They found that gin was this age group’s most ordered drink at their hotel lounge, and developed ‘Anti aGin,’ the world’s first anti-aging gin, and offered it in lounges across their 13 locations.
Marc Caulfield, Head of Marketing, commented, “Anti-aGin is a cheeky thank you to our guests for keeping our hotels fun and young.” This campaign resulted in over a thousand pieces of coverage across the world.
Work from a Rainforest at Nayara Tented Camp: Nayara Tented Camp in Costa Rica is a luxury accommodation that made the most out of the pandemic with a unique ‘workcation’ package targeted at digital nomads.
They made the case that why not work from a beautiful rainforest in Costa Rica, with modern in-room amenities such as wi-fi, air conditioning, and french press coffee. This PR campaign creatively addressed a gap in the market that existed at the beginning of the pandemic for unique workcation destinations.
30 Stays, 300 Days at Marriott Bonvoy: Mariott launched a TikTok competition in search of 3 new TikTok correspondents to travel to all 30 of its hotel brands over 300 days. Using the hashtag #30stays300days, content curators submitted TikToks answering the question ‘how has travel shaped you’ and ‘why are you the best person for the job’.
Brian Povinelli, Senior VP of Brand, Loyalty, and Portfolio Marketing, said, “we’re excited for our TikTok correspondents to embrace the transformative power of travel and showcase Mariott Bonvoy as the vehicle to explore the world through this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
This campaign acts as both a creative recruitment campaign, as well as an opportunity for prolonged PR content. The content curators that they hire will be sharing their experience over the next 300 days, with many viewers following along on the adventure of a lifetime.
Hotel public relations is a highly effective hotel marketing tool for generating visibility and new business for your property or brand. Use PR as a way to creatively tell your brand’s story and connect with your target audience on a human level. Start by researching what other hotels are doing as part of their strategy, and create a personalized plan for your business. Leverage free tools and resources to get you started and continually add to your plan as you are exposed to new opportunities.