There’s never been a better time for the travel industry in terms of exposure opportunities for hotels, airlines, cruises and destinations. From the tried-and-true traditional methods of magazines and newspapers to the equally-important social media platforms and video options, the vehicles for raising awareness for travel entities have never been so plentiful.
Additionally, as hotels and the like offer so much visual content, the travel industry has been one of the business sectors to benefit most from social media and video platform opportunities.
This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jul. '17 Travel & Tourism PR Magazine
As travel industry professionals, having these additional avenues to spread the word about our clients has made our jobs more exciting, yet also more challenging; with more outlets to understand and manage, the potential for fast-moving exposure presents potential liabilities.
The good news is that experienced travel PR professionals are more valuable than ever, provided they have the ability to leverage a traditional media approach — which remains crucial — alongside the evolving world of social media and many new avenues of exposure these visual platforms provide.
It’s not enough to employ an either/or approach of traditional outreach vs social platforms; the combination of the two ensures the widest reach possible of the target audience, and the ability to effectively tell the story of a property’s or destination’s many facets in the most creative way.
At our agency, we’ve tripled the size of our digital team over the past year due to demand from clients, who have recognized the necessity of pairing traditional PR efforts with a targeted digital strategy. It’s not enough to simply throw up a Facebook page or post some pretty photos on Instagram; without a thoughtful plan for increasing engagement, haphazard social media postings will do little to build awareness.
One client, Grace Bay Club in Turks & Caicos, asked us this year to develop a strategy for increasing engagement on their social media platforms. As an agency, we also felt that a more integrated approach between traditional media relations and social media content was key to our success moving forward.
Grace Bay Club in Turks & Caicos, where Magrino was able to deliver a 45 percent increase in Instagram followers in six months employing a targeted digital strategy.
Through our efforts on digital for Grace Bay Club, we’ve introduced new audiences to the resort through targeted influencer visits to the property, generating exposure for the hotel among coveted groups of affluent travelers based on influencers’ core followings. Over the past six months, we’ve grown the Grace Bay Club’s Instagram following by 45 percent, with nearly 1,500 new followers, and the resort’s Facebook page following by 15 percent, with over 900 followers.
Award submissions are a great example of traditional and social media working in tandem to maximize awareness. While awards fall under the traditional media relations scope, we’re able to solicit awareness among key constituent groups and loyal guests to solicit votes and increase the property’s chances of being included in coveted roundups such as Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
We also pay close attention to our clients’ social media platforms to help us develop traditional print and broadcast angles.
We note which posts get the highest -engagement, including comments and -other feedback, and use that data to craft story angles that we know will resonate with -consumers.
As much as social media platforms help hotels and other travel businesses raise overall awareness, there’s the other side of the coin, with every traveler being a travel critic who has access to TripAdvisor and other highly influential digital platforms. Getting even one less-than-positive review on one of these sites can spell disaster for a client, based primarily on the reach of the review platform and the PR company’s ability to minimize any fallout.
Recently at one of our hotels, a guest with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter started tweeting that she was unsatisfied with the housekeeping in her room. Our social media team quickly picked up on the tweets and alerted the hotel management team on site. The team moved in to contact the guest and rectify the housekeeping situation, additionally offering the guest a free night’s stay. The guest was thrilled with the quick response and deleted her negative tweets, instead tweeting that she loved the hotel and would definitely be back again soon.
The rise of social media platforms has also made digital-savvy travelers increasingly influential in all aspects of travel, from the amenities travel companies are offering to where hotels are being built. While in the past, hotels often focused on travelers with a higher disposable income in the 40-plus demographic, there’s a switch toward focusing on a psychographic rather than a demographic.
Those travelers who have a fluency not only with social media platforms, but also with mobile booking and online travel planning, are shaping how the travel industry is evolving. As such, travel PR campaigns need to speak to these travelers, and an integrated social and traditional media focus is essential.
The travel industry has had to adapt to a tech-savvy generation of travelers, and that has had huge — mostly positive — ramifications for travel PR practitioners. We now have more tools than ever at our disposal to raise awareness, allowing us to speak to consumers in whatever medium they’re most comfortable, be it via a traditional magazine, a social media posting or a video on YouTube.
This plethora of outlets for disseminating news can be a double-edged sword, in that we all now have more to monitor and manage on the media front, combined with the rise in user-generated content. While our jobs as travel PR practitioners have become increasingly complex, it’s clear that our role is more crucial than ever in helping hotels, airlines, spas, cruise lines and destinations navigate this brave new digital world.
Allyn Magrino is President of New York-based travel and lifestyle PR and marketing agency Magrino.