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How PR can help your independent hotel

Public relations (PR) in the hotel sector is all about raising your profile and enhancing your reputation by achieving free (or ’earned’) media coverage.

The great advantage of learning how to ‘do’ PR is that you start to tell your story in an effective way that can prove highly attractive to guests and help establish a distinctive brand for your business.

PR doesn’t have to be scary. It’s a straightforward process of thinking creatively and understanding what journalists do and don’t want. Here are our top tips on how to get your PR programme up and running:

1. Find the media who matter to you

Which newspapers or radio stations cover your local area? What magazines do your customers read? Do you have something to say that would suit industry press? Begin by drawing up a list of all the publications, websites, or broadcasters that you’d ideally like to feature in. Research their news and feature sections, and learn who’s who on their editorial teams – it’s important to understand who covers what? In a paper it might be the editor or news team. On radio or TV it could be an individual journalist or producer. For specialist news websites, click on the ‘contact us’ section to discover who you should
pitch stories or ideas to.

2. News is new, and different

Remember – no media outlet will produce a story about ‘who you are and why you’re brilliant.’ If you want to go down this route consider paid-for advertising. You need to offer a story or angle that will suit their readers, listeners or viewers, and it has to be factually accurate. Never, ever lie to the press! Firstly, they’ll quickly discover you’re making things up, and secondly they’ll never trust or work with you again. On the whole news is ‘new, quirky or unusual; links into a national theme; has the potential to affect a big group of people; includes strong visual opportunities, and offers charismatic interviewees.’ If you imagine you’re ‘pitching’ a story idea to the media – keep it short and sweet. Offer a descriptive headline and an opening paragraph that tells the whole story. Think about how you flick through a newspaper or magazine and a headline captures your attention, making you want to stop and find out more. Here are a few recent new stories that caught our eye:

  • Edinburgh hotels booked ‘record’ average room rates in June
  • How To Set Up A Pokemon Go Friendly Hotel
  • Hotels fully booked as farm lovers flock to Woodstock for Countryfile Live
  • Airbnb ventures off the beaten track to build small town ‘hotels’
  • Europe’s best beach holiday hotels for summer
  • Hotels embrace smartphones as room key of the future

You might also want to consider the ‘features’ sections of particular media. Beyond the news pages do the media you are looking at review hotels or restaurants? Can you offer a competition stay or meal for their readers? If a journalist is interested in finding out more invite them to your hotel for a coffee and a chat if they have time? Always be polite, friendly and to the point. Never be disappointed if they don’t pick up your story – it’s all part of the learning process.

3. Social Media and websites

If you haven’t done so already invest some time online setting up Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages for your hotel. There are plenty of how-to guides available on the web to explain how to do this, along with best-practise advice on how to make the most of these valuable and far-reaching resources. Keep your online comments updated regularly – one post a day or even week can be enough. Use attractive photography that shows off your hotel, facilities, services and location. Be prepared to quickly answer questions from perspective guests, and thank social commentators for their positive comments. Create a
news section for your website and also post all of your news stories here – remember, these are the sort of things that increasingly web-savvy clients expect to be able to look up and review before committing to book with you.

4. Some PR ideas to start with

Think about your hotel’s history, geography, staff, guests, services and community links:

  • Is there anything that makes your offer different from other hotels in the area?
  • Are you active in charity events?
  • Is there a human interest story about one of the team?
  • Have you reached a milestone in your history?
  • Is there a new industry trend you can predict or comment on?
  • Are you employing new technology to make your guests’ lives easier?
  • Have you had any unusual requests from guests that you now cater to?
  • Are you experiencing a boom in business? Why do you think this is?
  • Is there a local event or nearby tourist attraction that boosts your bookings?
  • For newspapers and television in particular think about the best visual opportunities you have to offer? For radio who is the best person to speak on your behalf – they need to be positive, well-informed
  • and unflappable.

The above represents just a few ideas that your hotel could offer a unique and newsworthy perspective on.

To achieve PR success it is important to develop a long-term programme of activity and get proactive! This approach will help keep your business front-of-mind with both journalists and their audiences. Have fun, be bold and experiment!

Mark Ferguson is Director of More Fire PR Ltd and is PR consultant for accommodation and restaurant online booking experts, Welcome Systems Ltd.