As the travel industry gears up for a possible recovery from the COVID pandemic, IHG Hotels & Resorts head of communications Sophie Merven talks with Doug Simon about what that recovery could look like on the latest “PR’s Top Pros Talk” video interview.

“When the pandemic started, we literally could see it move from one end of the world and kind of start hitting market by market as it made its way around, which was the scary part,” Merven says. “But it definitely allowed us to have a look at how the early markets were reacting, and it's been the exact same with recovery.”

She says that has led to “a really interesting sharing of best practices and strategies across the globe,” one that has made the IHG team “really lean on each other and learn from each other.”

The huge impact of the pandemic also made it necessary for IHG to institute organizational changes. “We were used to working on these bigger brand awareness campaigns,” she tells Simon, but the changed marketplace meant that “we had to really start embedding ourselves in the more commercial side of things.”

Another change was a heightened emphasis on IHG’s news bureau. “The news bureau function just really had to double down, and everyone in our team across the globe is tasked with at least a portion of their job as news bureau.”

Merven also cites the need to stay connected throughout the organization, as well as with external stakeholders. She says that IHG made sure “that we were just really connected to the press, to the editors, the reporters.”

She also talks about the difficulties in involved in tailoring messages for a franchise business. “We have hotel owners, we have management groups, we've got general managers, we have guests, we have a variety of audiences. And so, at the end of the day, what the PR team really tries to do, or what we do, is we have to cater to every audience.”

A major initiative that the company is working to communicate is what it calls the “IHG Way of Clean.” Getting that message across, Merven says, takes a multilevel approach that addresses all of IHG’s key audiences. “It's just staying really in tune with all of our different groups and making sure that we are communicating the right thing at the right time with the right method.”

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