Tanya ScalisiTanya Scalisi

“There’s no ‘I’ in team.” “No man is an island.” “Teamwork makes the dream work.” However cliché, there’s an inordinate amount of truth in the idea that combining talented minds toward a mutually beneficial goal will result in success. And in the PR profession, particularly in industries like travel and hospitality, there are vast opportunities to defy categories and color outside the lines to make an impact. Simply put, we’re better together.

O'Dwyer's Jul. '19 Travel & Int'l PR Magazine
This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jul. '19 Travel & Int'l PR Magazine.

As the hospitality space has grown over the years, hotel and travel brands are actively seeking out synergistic partnerships to elevate, activate and generate ongoing relevancy. In hospitality, we have the advantages of large—and often, many—spaces, a captive audience in our on-site guests, and the loyalty of the surrounding communities. Partnerships, which can manifest in several different ways, offer a chance to get in front of a new audience of consumers, media and decision-makers, and in today’s marketplace, are a necessary component of campaigns. The impact of partnership development and execution can be heightened awareness and word of mouth, increased digital traffic, increased bookings, added revenue, new social followers and engagement and event attendance, all of which can be measurable ROI for a brand, hotel or organization.

A partnership can be as simple as consistent, transparent conversation with an adjacent organization: a hotel and its destination CVB communicating regularly with each other is a partnership that will, ideally, drive business for both. A partnership can exist with a contracted third-party—a hotel’s in-room amenity line—or can be proactively sourced short term for the sake of storytelling. In our business, the client/agency relationship is most certainly a partnership, as is the agency/media/influencer relationship. Each exists separately, but working together effectively enhances everyone’s role and success.

Partnerships can be an essential piece of a new hotel launch to rise above the crowded space—more than 1,000 hotels opened in the U.S. in 2018—or they can re-energize an established travel brand. New or new again, here are three high-level steps to take to ensure it’s the best use of time, resources, and manpower:

Goal-setting. Narrow in on what you want to accomplish: driving revenue, data collection, more website traffic, maximizing underutilized space, repositioning and reaching new audiences? The path varies depending on the ultimate goal, as does determining which brands will be the best fit.

Activating. Determine your best partners and activations, make a connection, create a contract, make it happen! Is it a rotating pop-up retail shop in the lobby? A cocktail using a new infused water on the menu for a limited time? Regardless of how “big” the partnership is, a level of planning, division of responsibility and preparation is involved.

Maximizing. Market to get the message out before, during and after through media relations, content creation and activation invites. PR is just one piece of this puzzle as marketing and sales teams should be engaged as well. At completion, tracking the results helps to determine the benefit.

Here are some examples of hotel partnerships from the last 12-18 months that measured success in different ways:

Exposure-driven

When a popular Northeast resort needed to give travelers a reason to visit in its colder off-season, PR got one of Manhattan’s buzziest beauty shops to pop-up on site. The resort offered an opportunity to bring the brand to a new market, and the beauty brand offered an experience not currently available even in the same state. The partnership drew in a crowd in a slow time of year, awareness from media participation, real-time visuals from influencer attendance and social engagement. The resort and beauty company had a similar customer and saw value in aligning their brands and the result was mutually beneficial exposure.

Customer-driven

A luxury Jersey Shore hotel was game for trying something new to raise its profile with New Yorkers. A business challenge the hotel faces is transportation, as nearly the only way to get to this resort is to drive and Manhattanites don’t always own cars. So, PR connected the resort to a luxury car brand with a rental division, aligning the brand pillars of both and creating a guest incentive for car rentals so each brand’s customers—and business—could benefit from the relationship.

Message-driven

A well-visited resort in Florida was striving to be a leader in holistic wellness to complement its already well-received luxury travel experience. To cater to their goals, the resort enlisted PR and destination support to coordinate a Wellness Festival at the property. Influential wellness and fitness brand partners led keynotes, panels and classes, media was brought in to cover, and packages were available for consumers. Dozens of media placements and social posts helped solidify the resort’s commitment to wellness on-property and led to the event becoming an annual festival.

Partnerships are generation-proof. Meaning, there are brands, organizations, experiences out there that appeal to every age group, income level and type of traveler. That means there’s a chance to use the partnership tactic regardless of your demographic. The supporting public relations campaign and marketing efforts should lean different ways depending on the target, but the concept of a partnership overall has mass appeal — and trackability. Here are some stats to consider when game-planning on your outreach. Google shared a statistic in June that by 2020, 85 percent of content consumed online will be video. This directly correlates to the Gen Zers who absorb the majority of their news and entertainment online, on social media, and through sensory engagement.  Business Insider shared insight from a recent survey by the Reuters Institute that says digital outlets serve as the main source of news (64 percent) for those under 35. So, announce your partnership on social media (for those under 35) and traditional media (for those over 35).

With dozens of new hotel brands manifesting in the last five years—the most common themes being wellness, lifestyle or residentially-inspired designs—it’s more important than ever for mature brands, individual resorts or companies in any industry to look toward differentiating. Partnerships offer the chance to do something new, and in many cases, temporary, to maintain relevancy on an ongoing basis without much commitment. Not every partnership needs to be brokered by PR or a third party. Amazing connections may already exist and simply need some strategy and insight to maximize their potential.

So, associate, collaborate, cooperate: there’s never a bad time to create the human connection and partner up on storytelling, content creation or innovative experiences.

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Tanya Scalisi is a Senior Director at J Public Relations in New York.