5 PR and Marketing Strategies for Hotels
I was so fortunate to become the PR lead for the luxurious Golden Door wellness resort in an exciting relaunch after a long-time guest purchased the property. She had a clear vision to bring this legendary property back to life after years of floundering under corporate ownership. While we had exciting major news, along with a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion to share with the world, we knew that the ultimate goal was two-fold: Attract new guests, introducing our property to a younger audience who would become life-long return guests, while simultaneously not abandoning our older long-time guests. Challenge accepted!
While there were so many moving parts in bringing Golden Door back to life, there are five key hotel marketing strategies we used that will help you attract guests to your hotel whether you are a launching a new property or need to breathe new life into an existing one. These 5 PR and marketing ideas for hotels are all strategies we used to successfully put Golden Door back on the map as the Most Iconic Spa in the World, as named by Conde Nast Traveler!
1. Have a Clear PR and Marketing Strategy with Enough Lead-Time: The PR strategy for a hotel launch is way different from the PR strategy for a hotel that has been open for a while. If you are launching a hotel, you have the luxury of having very big news, so one of the most important things to give your PR team is lead-time. Remember that the press works 2-3 months out on a local level (i.e.Modern Luxury) and 4-5 months out for long lead national press (monthly magazines like Conde Nast Traveler and Departures). You need two weeks minimum for online outreach, but a month is ideal. In order to pitch the media, you need professional images, so make sure you have the property photographed as soon as possible.
The media loves new and noteworthy, so if you have been around for a while, you are going to have to get creative to stay relevant. This can be in the form of new programming,a renovation/refurbishment, new on-trend spa offerings, or hiring a local mixologist to curate a happy hour menu. Essentially, you need to find a way be part of the conversations that are trending in your niche that could appeal to a local audience (getting customers to spend money at your hotel for a few hours) vs. travelers (who will choose to stay at your hotel over another one).
2. Utilize Influencer Marketing: Love it or hate it, influencer marketing is here to stay. While there was that one viral article about the disgruntled hotel owner who lashed out an influencer for daring to ask for a free hotel stay, ultimately what influencers offer is word-of-mouth marketing to a captivated audience. It can be difficult to measure the success of an influencer campaign if you haven’t set up clear goals before you begin. Ask yourself the following: What am I trying to accomplish? Do I want to build brand recognition or do I need to sell a certain number of rooms by a certain date? There are influencers who are great at selling, and others who are great at showcasing an enviable lifestyle. Some can do both, but it’s not enough to just pick someone who has a million followers. If you are going to offer someone a free stay, lay out reasonable and clear expectations beforehand and then let the influencer have a lot of creative control in the photos and messaging. After all, they know what their audience will respond to best. In vetting influencers, we generally choose people who have more to offer than just pretty photos.
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3. Find Local Tastemakers: While it can be extremely beneficial to have the right influencers posting about your hotel, start thinking outside the realm of instacelebrities and look for tastemakers in your area who can help spread the word. For example, I have invited celebrity stylists, makeup artists and celebrity managers to a property that I represent and even though they may not have huge followings themselves, the followers they do have are the right followers. We’ve done the same thing with entrepreneurs in certain sectors that we are trying to reach. I have also invited big name entrepreneurs because while they aren’t considered influencers, they are tastemakers within their niche, and run in hugely influential circles. We have also invited the hosts of relevant podcasts with a large following. Afterall, they are a mouth piece to a niche audience that we would like to reach. All of these people want to travel and are more than happy to tell their friends and clients how great your property is if you invite them for a stay and give them the VIP treatment for a few nights.
4. Create Strategic Partnerships: Collaborating with other brands means that you are introducing your property to the audience of that brand and ultimately building brand awareness without having to pay a penny. It essentially means that you can cross promote each other on social media, in newsletters, and create more buzz than you could on your own. Make a list of brands that share your vision, and reach out to them with a thoughtful idea of how you can collaborate. For example, I executed a Striiike popup at Golden Door, where guests got to book hair/makeup/brows with the renowned celebrity trio. We cross-promoted the event, and the owners got to spend a week utilizing our programming in their downtime.
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5. Build a Social Media Strategy: It used to be that posting a gorgeous photo on social media was enough to build a brand and ultimately gain followers. That is no longer the case. The biggest mistake I see hotels making on social media is not serving the audience that they currently have. People want to feel included and part of something. Your social media team needs to respond to everyone who posts about your property with a thoughtful comment. One of my favorite hotels, The Kensington in London, used to respond to me every time I tweeted or posted to IG about them with a very personalized message—even calling me by name. It made me feel like they cared and I ultimately kept going back. Alternatively, I paid full price for a hotel in Austin, not asking for a single free thing, and when I posted multiple gorgeous photos of the property on IG and wrote a blog about how great they were, they didn’t even like the photo. It was a real turn-off, and made me feel like they couldn’t have cared less. How you interact with your customers and potential customers on social media can determine whether or not you turn a one-time guest into a lifetime fan. This is the number one most important thing you can do on social media, and I am someone who cares a lot about aesthetics and captions.
In conclusion, you need a 360-degree approach to your hotel marketing strategy to attract guests and promote your hotel. As I always tell my clients, you should never rely solely on media relations these days or just social media. They have to work hand-in-hand to keep your property top of mind on a consistent basis.