By Jennifer Nagy, President
Since hospitality businesses’ financial success depends so strongly on consumer awareness, it is important that these businesses are using every marketing dollar as effectively as possible. One of the most effective (and inexpensive) ways to increase awareness of your property or hospitality business is public relations – and the most important aspect of good PR is good stories.
This article will give you seven strategies to ensure that the stories that you pitch are newsworthy, thereby increasing the ROI of your outreach. Each of these qualities is important, however, it should be noted that each quality does not have to be included in each pitch in order to make it effective and newsworthy.
The most important way to create a newsworthy story is to consider the audience of the media outlet that you’re pitching. Often, internal PR and marketing departments can confuse what messages are exciting/important internally, versus what messages will be of interest to the reader of a newspaper or to the viewer of a news program. Is the publication’s readership a trade audience? If so, create a story that would appeal to what other hoteliers would be interested in reading. Is the publication’s readership mostly consumers? Are they business or leisure travelers? Again, make sure that you tailor your messages to suit the audience that will be reading the articles in the publication you’re pitching.
Another key element in creating newsworthy stories is considering how timely your particular pitch is to what is currently happening – in the world as a whole, in the industry, in your destination, etc. Anything your hotel does that relates to the big news story of the day will become newsworthy by extension.
In order to find timely stories, be aware of current (and upcoming) trends in your destination/business marketplace. Look for popular topics in the news – be it in consumer or trade media – and upcoming local events, and find a way to fit your hotel within (or find a unique perspective on) that story. Which leads me to my next point…
Effective PR in a fragmented media landscape is often dependent on finding and highlighting a hotel’s most unique features, amenities, services, etc. If your property is a historic property, or has the only five-star spa in the county, or if you’ve just recruited a chef from a Michelin-star restaurant, then tell media those stories because they are the ones that will make you stand out from the hundreds of pitches that journalists receive each day.
As well, it is always newsworthy if your property or business is the first to do something, whether it is being the first hotel to offer 100% green facilities or the first to offer a particular discount/package. Whenever possible, create stories around these firsts to ensure that they are of greatest interest to media.
Though room sales is probably the most important aspect of your operations from a financial perspective, the events and conferences that your hotel hosts can be the most valuable from a PR perspective. As well as big corporate meetings and events, galas, charity balls and large parties provide a glimpse of your property to people who aren’t already registered as guests, and provide the opportunity for media to cover the event – and your hotel – because of it.
Leveraging celebrity patronage
Media cover every element of celebrities’ lifestyles, from what they eat, to where they party, to where they stay. If you have had a celebrity (or two!) stay at your property or eat at your on-site restaurant, definitely share that information with media. Although it may not be enough of a news hook for a stand-alone news story, it does increase your credibility with the outlet, giving you an advantage for future stories related to the hotel industry.
Another added benefit is that consumers are more likely to stay at a property that has had celebrity clientele because, again, it gives greater credibility to your property. Consumers want to be able to say that they have something in common with celebrities so if they can say that they stayed at the same hotel, it’s definitely a selling point.
Anything related to nonprofits and charitable donations is a very newsworthy story for media, especially when done at a local level. Editors and journalists love to hear about businesses that care about giving back to the community, and readers/viewers are always very receptive to “feel-good” stories such as these. An added bonus – these types of stories not only increase awareness of your property, but they also raise goodwill for your hotel – an important part of creating brand loyalty.
An important part of making a story newsworthy is pitching it to media who report on the specific coverage area in which the story takes place. For example, If you are pitching a local newspaper about your property, your story will need to have a local hook – i.e. something that makes it an interesting story to people who live and work within the community. The same applies if you are pitching a story to a national newspaper, like US Today or The New York Times. You will need to pitch a story that will be of interest to the entire US readership; the story needs to be relevant and, ideally, impact a large number of people to be newsworthy for a large, national publication such as these.
Think beyond management
While some PR or marketing teams may think that only employees at the management level should be pitching stories or creating exposure in the media, the opposite is actually true. The media loves stories about hotel employees doing something interesting – if your employees are donating their days off to soup kitchens or getting involved in a community event, definitely get in touch with media ASAP to share your story. You may be surprised at the incredible things your employees are doing on their own time – and the media might be surprised as well – so don’t forget to mine those valuable internal resources for story ideas as well.
Become an expert
It is possible to create media opportunities by pitching your property’s spokesperson as an expert in the hospitality industry (or perhaps a subset of the industry, such as revenue management or human relations). The title of ‘expert’ was once only used to describe long-time industry experts, who had been slogging along for years, establishing themselves in an industry. Today however, becoming an expert can happen much more quickly as long as you can actually back up your claims of expertise. Make sure that your spokesperson is contributing relevant, interesting items to the right publications, at the right time.
This strategy is very effective because it gives media the opportunity to contact you for comment on any subject within your area of expertise, instead of covering only one specific story. While expert stories may not directly inform about your product or property, this strategy is a very effective way to increase your company’s credibility in the minds of both consumers and media, opening the doors for future bookings and media opportunities.
As well as pitching your expert to media for stories that they are writing, consider creating your own content and submitting it to media outlets for consideration. Many publications – especially online trade publications – use content from industry experts and suppliers, as long as the article is vendor-neutral – meaning that you aren’t using the article to sell your product or service. The article must be informative and provide information that other hospitality companies can learn from.
One final tip – For the most effective and newsworthy PR pitches, abandon the press release
Unfortunately, many companies (and PR agencies!) still rely on the release for the majority of their media outreach and associate this document with the practice of public relations itself. Savvy marketers are now recognizing that press releases are no longer the most effective PR tool for generating media coverage. Yes, it’s easy to plop the specifics of your new story into the tried-and-true press release format and then press ‘Send’, waiting for media to email or call for an interview, but it’s not realistic anymore. The press release doesn’t create the kind of engagement and excitement that any of the strategies above can, and it doesn’t offer the depth of meaning and message that a story can provide, especially when media are receiving hundreds of press releases daily. Make your property stand out by creating newsworthy stories, not boring press releases.
There you have it… the top seven ways to create newsworthy PR pitches and stories. By following the above, hospitality companies and hotels will find that media are more interested in finding out more about their offerings, and should see an increase in PR coverage and consumer awareness over time.