Industry Update
Opinion Article26 April 2019

Cutting Through the PR Chaos (Beware the Shiny Objects)

By Babs Harrison, Managing director of Phoenix based Babs Harrison and Partners

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Talking with fellow travel PR professionals and hospitality industry executives I am increasingly reminded of the scene in the Odyssey where the Sirens shout out temptations to Odysseus and his crew and it is only because he has plugged the ears of the crew and lashed himself to the mast to make himself resist the temptations of the Sirens that he is able to safely sail past them and to continue his journey.

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Seems like many travel PR and marketing meetings of today. We are whipped around by temptations:

Go all in on Facebook.

Facebook is dead, Instagram is a must.

It's all about Snapchat.

YouTube is what matters in travel.

Legacy, print media no longer matter.

Press trips are dead.

Traditional media deliver unique, powerful plusses to those who use them smartly.

Travel PR is dead, it's all about digital marketing.

Digital marketing is a cash sinkhole without tangible benefits.

If you can't measure it it didn't happen.

What's critical are the intangibles that can't be measured.

You want to scream, don't you?

In travel PR and marketing today we are facing a crossroads. Under challenge are all - absolutely all - the traditional techniques and tactics.

But equally suspect are the new tools and tactics that some scream are the road to travel successes..

Let the shouting begin!

There is a way through this. A route that will bring significant rewards to the hospitality professionals who practice this discipline.

Just as Odysseus found his way, so shall we.

It starts here: ignore shiny objects. Ignore the Sirens. Right now there is a stampede of hospitality marketing executives screaming about their property's wellness offerings, how the design is so hip, and, did I mention, there are community spaces that invite in the locals and the vibe is compelling.

Or maybe it's the rush to open yet another rooftop bar, or to put a vegan track on the restaurant menu.

Understand this: there is nothing wrong, in fact there is much good, about wellness offerings, hip design, community spaces, rooftop bars and vegan food.

The question here is are you doing it because you are a dedicated follower of fashion or because you truly care and you know your audience cares?

Success lies with doing what genuinely matters - to us, to our community, to our guests.

One week the dedicated follower of fashion is in polka dots, the next in stripes, and that's how it goes with followers of fashion.

Those who know what matters stay the course.

And knowing the course is the key to seeing what matters and what needs to be done in marketing and PR.

Here's where to start in building a travel PR and marketing campaign: zero in on the unique selling proposition and know that every property, every venue has a USP. Sure, some are better than others (the Grand Canyon vs. a state park in New Jersey) - but every place has a USP. Dig until you know it.

Then ask who will be attracted to this USP. Always there is an audience. Always. Probe until you know it.

Next question: how to reach that audience? What do they read, watch, what apps do they use, where do their eyes go? Research has the answers.

Data matters today. Facts rule. When there are uncertainties - and uncertainty is commonplace in travel PR - get more facts, get more data and know that the path to right knowledge is illuminated by data.

When next you are in a meeting and the conversation is a flutter with today's fashion, call a timeout and shift the focus to the USP, what matters to the audience, and where to find the audience.

Remember too that - for most venues - what will work is essentially what has worked for some years, a clever mix of what's old with what's new. Tilt too much in one direction and that creates imbalance. Go all in on Snapchat and good luck with that. I'd say the same about a campaign that used only legacy media outlets. Mix it up, blend the traditional with the innovative in a proportion specifically crafted for the audience that's needed for this venue, in this moment.

And don't hear the Sirens, don't be a dedicated follower of fashion, and don't fall for the shiny objects.

Success follows. It's not quite that easy. But almost.

Babs Harrison

Babs Harrison is managing director of Phoenix based Babs Harrison and Partners, a boutique public relations/marketing consultancy for select luxury resorts, hotels, and spas. Harrison has 25 years of experience in hospitality and has worked with leading brands in the US and internationally .

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