By Al Cohen, PR Consultant
Even the most talented public relations person or firm will have difficulty generating publicity and media coverage without having something to pitch. The ultimate responsibility for finding and developing relevant, timely stories ultimately falls to the hotel itself.
The following tips may be helpful for owners and staff looking for new ideas and new approaches to stories, or who are just embarking on a visibility strategy. For the most part, these tips are rooted in common sense, but they are certainly worth remembering. In fact, taking a common-sense approach is tip number one.
Anything your hotel does that relates to the big news story of the day becomes newsworthy by extension.
- Host political meet-and-greets during election cycles
- Host a welcome home event for returning soldiers and their families
- Collect/mail supplies for soldiers overseas
- During the holidays, host photo sessions or tea and cookies with Santa or the Easter Bunny
- Collect supplies and donations for countries afflicted by natural disasters
Stay Current with Trends and Events
Going hand in hand with timeliness is being aware of current trends in order to tailor your stories to them. Keeping a detail-oriented eye on the news makes it easier to identify those things that your hotel is doing that align with current news trends.
Identify Unique Aspects of Your Hotel
Aspects of your hotel that are unique are newsworthy simply by virtue of being unique. Odds are, you know your hotel’s superlatives better than anyone and many people will find this newsworthy.
- Historic building
- Unique restaurant/bar attached – announce new menu items or entertainment
- Spa services
- Special décor
- Unique amenities/services
Be Relevant to Your Audience
Likewise, anything that is relevant to your target market may not be newsworthy in the most general sense, but can still yield positive visibility results. A business hotel that features state-of-the-art business technology in its meeting rooms may not be a front-page item for the local paper, but may get your hotel listed in a business publication’s top 10 business hotels in your region. This particular bit of press may yield more sales leads than the front-page spot in the local paper.
Leveraging the niche that your hotel operates in is a central part of any visibility strategy. There are a variety of publications serving every niche and even more in the online space. These often present the best opportunity to get your hotel written about. Some ideas include:
- Pet-friendly or special pet amenities (online listings)
- Smoke free (online listings)
- Handicap accessibilities (online listings)
- Truck parking (online listings)
- Location – are you near sporting events, museums, concert halls or parks? Do you have a restaurant?
Emphasize Public Events
Though room sales may be the most important aspect of your operations from a financial perspective, the events that your hotel hosts on its grounds and in its public spaces can be the most valuable from a public relations perspective. These include:
- Car shows
- Local artwork displayed in your lobby
Work with Others
Partnering with area nonprofits can help your hotel gain coverage in media outlets. This sort of in-kind philanthropy is enjoyable to readers and editors and increases the chances that your property will be covered by local press.
- Offer your conference or meeting rooms to groups like Rotary, Lions Club, etc.
- Become a drop-off location for organizations collecting winter coats, school supplies or non-perishable food items for the community
- Sponsor a local sports team
- Make an in-kind or cash donation to a charity that is important to your hotel staff
- Donate your beds, dressers and other furniture to local charities as you replace them
Offer Fun and Creative Packages
News outlets are always looking for fun and wacky promotions! Consider the following:
- Kids Just Want to Have Fun!
Plan in advance by asking for the calendars from nearby school districts (or find them online). You can develop special offers and getaways for families during holiday breaks and long weekends by working with local restaurants and entertainment venues.
As an example:
- 1-night stay at your property – 2 double beds
- Four tickets to a family movie at a local theater
- Kids eat free at a local restaurant
- Weather Dependent!
Having a hard time booking guests during the months that have cold or inclement weather? Give your guests an incentive when they stay two nights. The first night is the regular room rate; the second night is the high temperature of the day before! The lower the temperature – the better the deal!
- Free Fridays!
Guests receive a free Friday night stay when staying two consecutive or more nights (Thursday or Saturday night required). Free Fridays provides a great opportunity to extend a business trip or plan a long weekend with family and friends!
- $10 on 10!
Give an additional $10 off on the 10th of every month or pick another number that corresponds to a date.
Listen to and Get to Know Your Staff
Sometimes your staff will have initiatives or ideas that will be more newsworthy than programs you already have in place. Sometimes staff will already be engaging in newsworthy activities, and your upper management may not be aware of it. The media loves stories about hotel employees donating their days off to soup kitchens. You may be surprised at the incredible things your employees are doing on their own time – and the media might be surprised as well.