Hospitality Communications Survival Guide in the New Tomorrow

By Shae Geary— Senior Communications Strategist
The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic making strategic hospitality communications more important than ever for our hotels, resorts and destinations. While press trips and event promotion may be paused, there’s a critical need for hospitality communications that build trust and confidence around visiting your destination or property.

Prioritize Safety

Visitors won’t return if they don’t feel safe, and it’s not enough to assume that your guests know what you are doing to maximize safety, cleanliness and hygiene. A good place to start is a dedicated landing page on your website with detailed information, then linking to this page in your direct-to-consumer communications. In the age of visual shopping, you may even want to consider creating a video like this one that we created with Welk Resorts.

There’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace right now and by appropriately highlighting your company safety standards and new protocols, you’ll help visitors feel confident and secure in their decision to vacation with you.

Emphasize Social Distancing

In the age of pandemic, it’s no surprise that outdoor-oriented, uncrowded activities and settings are top priorities for potential guests. Your hospitality communications should be updated to reflect this trend.

Take time to assess your content library. If your images and messaging are lacking, consider a refresh now. Imagery that includes hotel room balconies, for instance, may be much more attractive to potential visitors than an interior guest room shot. Restaurant images that emphasize open-air patios and socially distanced tables as well as shots of outdoor activities like bike riding also will appeal to today’s consumer.

Consider using these images prominently on your website, social media and guest communications.

Embrace Local and Drive Market Media

With reduced budgets and staff, it’s critical that time and energy are directed to hospitality communications efforts that result in the highest return on investment.

With road trips and local travel recommended as the safer option in the short term, a priority should be placed on working with travel media and influencers in your closest drive markets. These media professionals are eager to help travel recover and know that there is pent-up demand for getting away. Use them to help deliver your safety messages and information about what to expect during a visit. People know that the experience won’t be what it was pre-pandemic and are ready to embrace the positives in what is being offered.

Third-party recommendations can go a long way toward ensuring potential visitors that a visit can meet social distancing requirements while also being fun and relaxing.

Monitor NIMBY Concerns

According to the most current destination research, a majority of residents remain wary about other travelers visiting their communities. As tourism reopens, it’s important for hospitality communicators to monitor the local sentiment and potential negative pushback, while being prepared to develop campaigns showing the positive impact of tourism and its vital contribution to the local economy.

Proactive outreach as well as savvy online reputation management are a must.

Don’t Overlook Internal Communication

During a crisis, especially a prolonged crisis, it’s important to deliver regular updates and expectations to your employees. These communications can include everything from information about what’s open to safety protocol reminders and even helpful tips for dealing with difficult situations unique to the pandemic such a visitor refusing to wear a mask.

Delivering these on a regular schedule in a snackable format can help reassure staff and avoid harmful speculation. Furloughed employees, especially if you are intending to hire them back, also should not be overlooked. Periodic check-ins, even if nothing has changed in terms of business status, can go a long way toward building continued loyalty so that they will return when you need them.

Retain Hospitality PR Professionals to Help

Strategic hospitality communications are essential for navigating your business rebound during these exceptional times. If you need help getting started, developing a strategy, or determining best practices, a hospitality PR agency is a great solution for maximizing your budget, even if it is just for the short term. Give us a call or email for a free consultation or to discuss your needs.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Business Social Media During a Pandemic

By Chloe Janda — Communications Coordinator

business social media dos and donts

Just as “stay-at-home” and “shelter in place” orders have changed how people spend their free time in the physical world, it has also changed how people behave in the digital world. According to the New York Times, the use of video chatting services has spiked, news outlets are seeing triple-digit percentage increases in web traffic and, unsurprisingly, time spent on social media sites is up across the board. With more people spending more time on social media and actively participating on the platforms, there’s increased opportunity for marketers to capture attention.

But with opportunity comes risk. Brands slammed for tone-deafness on social media is as old as social media itself. Nonetheless, some brands are nailing it. To make sure your business is talked about for the right reasons, let’s explore how to adapt your business social media strategy and get ahead.

The Do’s

DO Adapt and Re-strategize: A large part of this “new normal” is a need to adapt business operations, and your social media content needs to reflect that. Sharing what your team is doing adds a human element to your brand, shows successful examples of business adjustments, and connects with your audience in a real way. Recently we shared a screenshot of our weekly meeting on LinkedIn that was hat themed and tripled our average number of post engagements and quadrupled the average reach. 

DO Try Longform Content: IGTV (Instagram Television) and Instagram Live are all over everyone’s feed because people have time to create and consume long-form content. Videos on Facebook always perform the best and reach an older audience and YouTube and TikTok are most popular with Gen Z. Virtual concerts, Q&A’s, how-to’s, workouts, interviews, and conversations with people of influence are the most common formats because they work.

DO Engage Your Audience: Overcommunicating and sending messages that are succinct with your company is going to help your posts be seen. Every channel is congested with content, so the more you share the more likely you’ll be heard. Try adding in a call to action (CTA) for your audience to engage in a discussion with you in the comments. Make sure its relevant to the content of the post and that what you’re asking them to share is something you’d ask in a conversation. Try CTAs like “comment and share your experience doing ___” or “tag a friend and share a story you had ____.” If your engagement is struggling, check out HypeAuditor’s analysis of which topics are performing the best and the worst at this time and see if your brand can align with any of the growing ones. 

DO Use Legacy Content: Legacy content, aka content never shared or years old, is particularly prominent with sports accounts lacking new content or storylines to leverage. Sharing a huge past success or your brand’s “highlight reel” is a great way to keep your audience engaged without producing new content from scratch. 

Other than sports, celebrities and musicians have been posting old or never-before-seen performance videos, like Chance the Rapper. This content might seem old to you, but it’s new to your audience and will keep your brand relevant and forgotten.

DO Team-Up: Partnerships with brands or companies (e.g. giveaways, live videos, webinars) boost the coming together as a community idea to get through this strange state of affairs. The social media channels are oversaturated, but with a partner, you can cross-market two unique audiences and increase your following. We recently facilitated a product giveaway with an influencer whose requirement for giveaway entry was to comment the first thing you’ll do when quarantine is over. This resulted in over 350 comments, increasing her overall engagement rate and expanding our client’s brand awareness while positively rallying the community.

DO Check Your Performance Data: Maintaining a pulse on metrics, KPIs and what people are saying about your brand helps streamline strategy and clarifies what is working or what is not. Apps like Hootsuite and Sprout Social can make this process a lot easier, but each social channel also has analysis tools for business profiles. Check out these 10 Metrics to Track When Analyzing Your Social Media Marketing and see what method might work best for you so you can continuously evolve your messaging framework.

The Don’ts

DON’T Go Dark: Going completely dark, aka not posting anything, on a business social media account can cause a lot of harm. Not only will your engagement and reach dramatically drop as other similar businesses gain traction, but you’ll also risk looking out of step and panic-stricken. Even if it’s just one post a week, it’s better than nothing.

DON’T Use Pandemic Buzzwords: If you’re not in the healthcare space, avoid any posts directly giving information about COVID-19/coronavirus. “Self-care” and “unprecedented” are also overused buzzwords right now and while acknowledging that things are tough and your brand/company is supportive, at this point the messages surrounding these buzzwords are kind of moot. Never forget why your audience began following you in the first place. Stick to what you know and give them the content they want!

DON’T Push Sales Too Hard: The economy is struggling and so are sales but pushing the bottom line too much can be ill-received. Instead of straight forward sales messaging, try offering something to incentivize buyers. Many B2C brands are seeing successes by offering free shipping, discount codes, personalized messages, and self-care goodies included in shipped orders. If you’re a nonprofit, it’s okay to ask for help because those who can want to rally around the community. 

DON’T Get Political: Avoid reposting anything that could cause a political debate. No one needs more politics and you don’t want to start a flood of comments that are off-topic from your brand.

Overall, creativity maintains relativity during this pandemic. If your brand can create content that provides some enjoyment and distraction, you’ll find success, expand your consumer base, and strengthen your digital presence now and after this pandemic.

Reach out to us to discuss strategic business social media and communication planning at info@wrightoncomm.com.

The best video conferencing software? It depends on what you have to say

By Shae Geary — Senior Communications Strategist

Now that most of us are working virtually, video conferencing has become the new normal. But not all video conferencing software is created equal or suits every purpose. As communicators, we know that the vessel used to communicate is just as important as what we are communicating. In that spirit, we’ve taken a look at four video conferencing software solutions with our best advice for when and how to use them. Full disclosure: This is not a comprehensive list of video conferencing apps, rather those with which we’ve had some personal experience or knowledge.

FaceTime Takes the Place of the Office Drop In

Video conferencing software hardly gets easier than Apple’s FaceTime. Platforms like FaceTime are great for quick check-ins with co-workers or clients. However, they often have limited capabilities for anything other than chatting. In the case of FaceTime, all participants have to have an iPhone or Mac. Some people also find FaceTime’s group chat distracting since faces zoom in and out depending on who is speaking.

Alternatives: Alternatives do exist for Windows and Android users. Facebook Messenger has a video chat option and is easy to use with people in your follower network. Google’s Duo works across Android and iOS devices and allows you to chat with up to 12 people. Subscribers to Slack also have the option of video chats.

GoToMeeting is Ideal for Team Meetings and Smaller Group Presentations of 250 or Fewer 

The team at (W)right On Communications has been using GoToMeeting video conferencing software on a fairly consistent basis. This is a paid platform, with a free 14-day trial, and has proven easy for our weekly company-wide team meetings and client partner meetings. Users have access to features such as screen share, text messaging with other participants and the option to highlight just the speaker on screen.

One feature especially useful is the choice of computer audio or audio via a dial-in phone conference line. In a household where several of us are using Wi-Fi bandwidth at the same time, the dial-in conference line allows you to continue to hear the conversation even when video may pause due to slow connection time. Another helpful feature is the personal join screen prompt. This provides you with the opportunity to adjust camera angle and background clutter before joining the call.

TIP: Find a list of video chat best practices in our blog post, “7 Tips for Pitching TV Reporters During the Coronavirus Outbreak”

Alternatives: Skype has many of the same functionalities and is free for up to 50 people to meet and collaborate. Microsoft Teams, which has video conference capabilities with Skype integration, is another alternative for those who use the Microsoft Office suite of software. G Suite users have free access to Google Meet, which supports multiple users and doesn’t require separate software installation.

Zoom Supports Large Group Presentations and Gatherings

Zoom has quickly emerged as the most popular video conferencing software. Quick growth has not come without controversy including security concerns (hello Zoombombing!) and allegations of sharing private user data with Facebook. Challenges aside, basic Zoom features can be used free of charge with paid plans offering enhanced video conferencing features.

While Zoom can be used for just about any purpose and has all the functions that you’d expect—shared screen, appointment setting and ability to invite people to chat on the fly—it has quickly become a standout for meetings and presentations to larger audiences. The video conferencing software offers a number of handy features for larger group conferences. Examples include non-verbal feedback (such as hand raising), screen annotating for both presenter and viewers and ability to record a session direct to your computer. I particularly like the virtual background option, so people don’t have to see that you are actually calling in from your bedroom!

For instance, check out these beautiful vineyard backgrounds from our client partner, Visit Napa Valley.

Invite Your Co-Workers to Happy Hour with Houseparty

Let’s be honest, all work and no play are no fun. When it’s time to just socialize with your team, Houseparty is where it’s at. This video conferencing app alerts you when friends are “in the house” and allows users to jump in and out of chats as desired. There are also some fun features like games, including Heads Up!, Quick Draw and trivia, so you’ll feel like you are at the local pub for happy hour!

Strengthening Connections in the ‘Stay Home’ Era

By Licia Walsworth — Communications Strategist

How businesses can adapt via the virtual world

Individuals and businesses alike are experiencing a profound shift in reality, with life feeling more and more like the plot of a novel or movie. Organizations have seen their entire workforces confined to their homes. Schools and universities stand vacant. Small business owners have no customers coming through their doors. Friends, colleagues, teammates, and extended family members suddenly find themselves isolated from one another.

But a remarkable thing happens when people are faced with a challenge: They become innovators, problem solvers, and out-of-the-box thinkers.

Physical Distancing – Not Social Distancing

Technology makes it possible to keep the economy moving. It enables us to remain connected in ways that would not have been conceivable just a decade ago. In a world where coworkers had typically been spending more time with one another on a weekly basis than with their own families, the virtual world is now providing people with a unique opportunity for valuable human interaction — on a personal level, as well as on a professional level. Companies are adapting to virtual team meetings and telecommuting on a grand scale. If carried out correctly, these shifts can result in a greater sense of engagement and self-worth on the part of employees.

Connecting online actually does more than keeping us connected. It is strengthening connections by creating more personal or intimate interactions than coworkers could ever have had before. On a video conference call, for instance, coworkers might glimpse one another’s kids, pets, and home-based work spaces. This levels the playing field in a new way; it makes everyone human and more than just a title or job description. This increases the emotional investment coworkers, managers and direct reports have in each other. The old adage stands true: You work harder for those you care about and those who you know care about you.

That quick knock on the door to ask a question or to chat briefly has been replaced by such platforms as Microsoft Teams or Slack. The ability to quickly bounce ideas back and forth without multiple emails or an extended meeting makes for more efficient communication and a valuable savings on time.

Business-to-client interactions have seen a dramatic change, too. Marketing messages are more mindful, taking on a human element over sales-driven campaigns, as businesses of all kinds recognize that everyone is living in a new state of reality. Communicating to your target audience may mean pulling back from your business-as-usual marketing, but it does not mean sacrificing your brand. As client and customer priorities change amid crisis, companies must take the time to coach them through this next phase — whether that means making sure a client’s business keeps running or reassuring a customer that you will be there for them through the thick and thin. Interactions in this new reality matter; relationships strengthened in a time of need will continue to prosper moving forward.

From Karate to Cake-Making

Communicating in new ways is forcing innovation everywhere. Karate instructors are using Zoom to hold virtual classes. Schoolteachers and principals are using Twitter to stream book read-alouds or to recite the Pledge of Allegiance first thing in the morning. Grandparents are sharing cake-baking lessons with their grandchildren via Google Duo. Maintaining that level of interaction with students, loved ones, and your community during this time is crucial.

Business owners at all levels can find similar ways of engaging their customer base, strengthening connections in the virtual world, in order to continue moving their work forward and ensure they remain financially stable. That does not mean that you need to push your products or take advantage of your customers during a difficult time; it means staying true to your brand and what you can do for your audience. Consider distance learning education companies that are sharing strategies and tools for free not only with teachers, but also with parents who now find themselves homeschooling. Airlines and hotels that are waiving change and cancellation fees for travelers. Keep your loyal customers and be an example of goodwill during a time of crisis.

This is the time for strengthening connections to push a heightened sense of community and trust, to serve as a resource to your clients, and be an example in the virtual age to your team.

A. N. C. – It Matters Now More than Ever

ANC - Aviate Navigate Communicate

By Grant Wright, CEO

When I learned to fly, my instructor beat into my head a simple phrase: “Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.” The idea is simple, but powerful – fly the airplane, figure out where you’re going, then tell someone. It speaks to priorities.

There’s little sense in figuring out how you’ll get from A to B if you haven’t first corrected your nosedive that’s about to render your flight obsolete. And once the plane is stable, there’s little point chewing up valuable mic time until you know where you’ll next point the plane to conclude the flight safely. Pilots have unfortunately been so distracted with their heads deep in a map or talking with controllers that they failed to notice the fuel gauge or mismatched engine readings at the root of their problem.

In the years since my training, I’ve realized this lesson applies to so many other areas of our lives. In this unprecedented time of a worldwide pandemic, it’s easy to get caught up in talking about the drama without realizing we’re not yet actually taking the priority actions. Case in point, our President bungling his communications while not yet role modeling the avoidance of handshakes let alone practicing social distancing. Or our Vice President prioritizing the lavishing of praise on our President versus using all of his precious communication time with an audience of millions to relay information people actually need.

In times of crisis, there can be a tendency to subordinate communications in favor of less important things. But other than remembering to actually fly the plane and figure out where you’re going, what’s important to remember is that among many other things communication is the third most important thing to do!

In business, this means quickly stabilizing things to a new but temporary operational norm and planning next steps to emerge as strongly as possible once things play out. By definition, both need solid communications to achieve. And solid communication also means, for example, adapting marketing messages now to avoid tone deaf messages because they were programmed three months ago; acknowledging fears and anxiety; and contributing helpful information into the national discourse when possible. It also isn’t the time to attempt distracting news desks with an unrelated PR hook for brand mentions that don’t help. In other words, now is not the time for newsjacking the coronavirus.

With operations and planning in hand, communication itself then becomes the next most important focus. Those organizations that move more quickly than others through the grief stages will emerge stronger than those organizations that act like a deer in headlights.

While the current pandemic is an unprecedented threat, and events are playing out with startling speed to which we’re simply not accustomed, it isn’t hyperbole that we’ll get through this. Unprecedented action is being taken the world over and ‘this too shall pass’.

At (W)right On, we’re assisting our client partners with their temporary operational adjustments and plans development. Communication isn’t slowing, it’s being redirected to support the aviate and navigate priorities. But recognizing that as inevitably as the wave is coming it will recede, and that post-pandemic attention for marketing messages will be a scarce resource, some are already beginning to explore more creative communications to take advantage of competitive opportunities to emerge. With solid aviation and navigation in place, our client partners are already planning to increase marketing communication in the weeks and months ahead to ensure that, as the wave passes, they are poised to protect and increase their market position. Like those that wait to deal with operations and navigation, organizations that unduly subordinate or arbitrarily delay marketing communications won’t do as well.

Pundits are hoping for a slow smolder in the USA with a peak to come in the months ahead after which life will begin returning to a new normal. In the marketing communications world, this timing is relatively imminent. It heightens the importance of not only embracing communications now to effectively aviate and navigate, but embracing communications to, well, communicate.

At (W)right On, we’re solidly behind our client partners and team members to move through this together, and following the guidance of experts and community leaders to ensure we help remain part of the solution. Comment below and/or let us know how you’re adapting your communications to rise to the occasion called of all of us, and to rise to the opportunities that will inevitably emerge as the wave passes.

Is the Influencer Influential? How to Find and Vet Influencer Marketing Partners

By Chloe Janda — Communications Coordinator 

Finding the right influencers for your brand is like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s doable, but it takes a lot of time and effort. Except today’s social media haystack is more of a field… the size of Russia.

New influencers popup every day, and some aren’t even cognizant individuals. I’m not just talking about bots, catfishes, and dogs; I’m talking babies with blue checkmarks. Have you seen DJ Khaled’s son Asahd who recently released a Kid’s Foot Locker collection with Jordan’s?! Or Bretman Rock’s niece Cleo Mae who does nothing but be really cute and has a promotion inquiry email in her bio?!?! What. Is. Happening.

Okay, rant over.

Let’s get to the juice, how do we muddle through the real accounts with influence and avoid the #FakeViews AND find someone who will not only increase your brand reach but ultimately boost your conversions and sales.

As Communications professionals, finding the right partnership is an ever-evolving art where we factor in engagement, audience psychographics, influencer genre, whether partnership content can be both promotional and feel native, and how the partnership will reflect on our client’s brand. At (W)right On, we’ve got a few tools, tips and tricks to vet these internet mavens before ever recommending them to a client. Below are our six essential criteria when vetting an influencer.

1. Type of Reach – Is it the target audience for your brand?

Determining which demographics an influencer’s audience consists of (e.g. Millennials vs. Baby Boomers; Fitness Buffs vs. Parents) is the first step when vetting because you want to align your potential partnership with your goals.

For example, say Nike was looking to do a social campaign for a new clothing line and wants to reach a sports-focused audience. Two of the top sports social influencers are ESPN and Barstool Sports. Although they aren’t influencers in the sense of one person, they as publishers have an influential status in the social media realm and highlight differences in the type of reach.

ESPN’s content has a more professional, traditional and news focused tone and their audience demographics are 76% male with a median age of 48. Barstool Sports still has a mostly male audience, but their content appeals to a younger base because it is more edgy, flippant and a little crass.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Heading into work tomorrow morning after drinking a million beers this past weekend @oldrowofficial (Via @Braccoz @nboccab )

A post shared by Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) on

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Russ is still holding off Lamar in our experts’ latest MVP ballot ???? (via @espnnfl)

A post shared by ESPN (@espn) on

Since ESPN’s content and audience aligns more with Nike’s target customers and overall brand tone, they’d likely choose to partner with them over Barstool.

Depending on your brand or client partner, there are types of influencers that will be better suited for your goals. At (W)right On, we often work with influencers for our hospitality clients, particularly setting up site visits for Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite and Welk Resorts. Both destinations are ideal for families, so we’ll partner with Mommy bloggers and travel influencers.

A very handy tool we use to ease this vetting process is HypeAuditor. With their free account, you can view a brief analysis of audience demography and interests. For example, below is Asahd Khaled’s audience stats and to the right is 52 Perfect Days, a blogger we’ve partnered with.

P.S. HypeAuditor is a great tool, but it only analyzes Instagram and YouTube so depending on your campaign it may not be as helpful.

2. Are they considered an authority on certain subjects?

HypeAuditor’s audience interest report (shown above) is a great at-a-glance option to see which topics the influencer is most known for. For example, in the hospitality space, we target travelers and lifestyle influencers who are consistent in this focus.

But more than just interest, you want to be sure that the influencer’s “lane” aligns with whatever your message is for the campaign. For example, if your client has a high-end razor, you’d want to partner with an influencer who is known for their luxurious lifestyle. If your client is offering a cheap shoulder season vacation package, you’d target a budget travel influencer.

3. Audience Authenticity – Reach vs. Impact

When finding influencers for your brand to partner with, you not only want folks whose follower demographics match those of your brand but also ones with an authentic audience filled with real people actively visiting their social channels. When researching, check for:

    • Are there any boughts or bots? HypeAuditor’s one-off reports are $30 and offer a full analysis of true followers, but the free one also shows a chart of yearly follower growth. Here is 52 Perfect Days’ stats:

4. Engagement vs. Followers – Are they responsive and growing?

To get that high ROI, your message needs to be seen. To do so, check for:

  • What is the quality of the comments? Are they spammy or real people?
    • You’ll have to manually look at a few posts for this, but comments are important because it means they’re resonating with their audience, which assures your brand campaign will be seen.
  • Average likes?
    • This one’s easy enough because all you really need to do is look at their number of followers and check a couple posts for how many likes they average. If they have 100k followers but 85 likes on most posts, those are most likely bought followers.
    • This can also be quickly assessed using tools like HypeAuditor to view engagement rates or another nifty tool, PeopleMap, which primarily analyzes Instagram. Here are a few reports from PeopleMap:

Also, be sure you look at different posts to get a true average. For fitness influencers, their shirtless post-workout poses might drive much more engagement than a selfie while they’re traveling. Knowing what types of posts do the best will help you better evaluate fit and help you determine what sort of content might be most suitable for a partnership.

5. Quality of Content – Tone, Writing Style, Topics

When researching influencers, especially bloggers, evaluate their ability to tell a story and frame it well. It’s hard to make sponsored content feel organic, but it’s impossible to do if the influencer has built an audience purely on personality and not on content or storytelling. Reading their posts is a start, but also ask:

    • What is the overall tone of their content? Is it authentic, static, dull, relatable, short, trendy, basic, long, like a blog?
    • Does their tone align with your brand’s tone and values?
    • How often do they post?
    • Where is the content published? Multiple social accounts, blogs, media websites?
    • What topics do they primarily focus on and which ones receive the most engagement?

6. Previous Brand Collaborations – Quality and Quantity

Each influencer approaches partnerships and campaigns differently. Some want comped meals and activities, while some charge a fee. Depending on your campaign goals, budget, and expected ROI, in addition to vetting the quality of the influencer’s audience engagement and past partnership posts, you should also consider:

    • Have they promoted brands before?
    • How many?
    • Are they your competitors?
Of course, there’s no fool-proof formula for evaluating whether an influencer partnership campaign will pop or flop. Influencer marketing is constantly changing, so it’s important to stay up to date on the latest industry trends and listen to feedback from influencers.
Remember, these are only the essentials, so if you want to learn more and avoid that field of hay, reach out to us!