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5 Ways Travel Brands Can Connect with Consumers
By Licia Walsworth — Communications Strategist travel
What may have started as a year full of excitement about cruises to tropical islands, getaways to the mountains, or first trips to magical theme parks has deflated into canceled plans, disappointment, and postponed dreams for travelers. travel
But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for travel brands.
The spirit of travel is ingrained in us. Being confined for too long takes its mental and physical toll.
According to a recent Destination Analysts survey, almost half of American travelers are open to receiving news and updates about exciting travel destinations. People crave the mental break of reminiscing about places they have visited or dreaming of places they still want to go.
By adopting what is working in today’s unfamiliar travel PR and marketing territory, your brand could still find its voice and have it stand out over the crowd.
1. Silence Is Not Golden travel
The knee-jerk reaction of most brands was to halt all advertising and social media posts immediately. These companies perceived it as the only way to survive. But silence is not always golden. Skift.com recently highlighted how Booking Holdings and their sub-brands (like Booking.com and Agoda) successfully increased their market share over other travel companies, simply by staying the course. Consumers continued to see their advertising — and reacted with their wallets. In the grand scheme of things, Booking Holdings’ overall revenue was down, as it was for most travel brands during this time, but they grew their market share on Trivago from 39% to 54% year over year.
What’s the lesson? You may not be able to grow your market but you can take market share from your competitors and be better positioned as the market recovers. Wouldn’t we all like to see our share of the proverbial pie grow in those kinds of increments? As the age-old saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.
2. The Open Road Is Calling travel
In the same Destination Analysts survey, over 50% of respondents stated they would take a road trip over air travel in the next six months. That means it’s time for destinations to start investing in their own backyards. The drive market is calling. Even the New York Times is drawing attention to the nostalgia of road trip travel from decades ago when packing everyone in the family car and hitting the open road was the norm for summer vacations. Summers at the shore, camping in the mountains, and hiking in the forests have become welcome visuals overcrowded theme parks, city centers, and cruise ships.
The lesson is to let the drive market know you are there, what you offer (family drive-in movies in your parking lot? Drive through grab and go breakfasts?), and how you can help them save that much-needed family vacation— all to help boost your current business with the potential to create lasting loyalty and travel traditions for years to come.
3. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
PerformanceIN suggests that now is the time to leverage your relationships, affiliates, and partners across the industry to find mutually beneficial outcomes. Travel bloggers, media influencers, and attractions need to work together to reach their target audiences, maintain consistent messaging, and make the consumer feel confident about the travel experiences they are considering. Find ways to work with the media to promote how safe, comfortable, and enjoyable your destination is.
While many destinations and resorts have been afraid to host media or influencers given they can’t deliver the full experience or support their site visit with the normal level of service, these writers and personalities are hungry to travel and engage with your brand and share positive socially distanced experiences with their readers and followers. You can also partner with attractions or restaurants to become a sort of one-stop-shop offering value-based add-ons to your clients’ stay. As households plan their travel, they’re looking for space and safety, not for discounts, so don’t chase this market down: add value instead through partnerships. It’s an opportunity to create a win-win situation, and spreading the wealth could be mutually beneficial not only now, but as the basis for long-lasting collaborations into the future.
The lesson here is while we can’t get together physically, we can partner virtually to get messages out and create the best possible travel experience for guests and visitors.
4. Visual Shopping – It’s a Buyers’ Market
The booking window for travel is shrinking — dramatically. Leisure travel used to have an average lead time of 28 to 90 days. According to Phocuswire, that window has whittled down to seven days. And in this period of stress, uncertainty, and distraction, time is of the essence. Consumers want to know that your destination is safe. They want to reassurance that safety protocols are being followed. They want to know that you know what you are doing. And they want to know that as soon as they get to your website.
Making it hard for them to find what they are looking for can mean one of two things: They will simply move on to your competitor’s site, or, they’ll call your hotel for this information, taking up the time of an already busy front-office worker. Don’t make the consumer do the work. Be proud of your message of safety — get it front and center. A video is the best way to show the consumer you mean business. Check out these videos we produced for Welk Resorts and the San Diego Tourism Authority for some great ways to let consumers know you mean business.
The lesson here is to show consumers your health and safety practices to build their confidence and secure their business. Let them see firsthand the steps your company is taking to ease any stress they may be feeling about their trip. Reach out if we can help you create your visual selling tool.
5. Personalization Fulfills Expectations
During a crisis, people want to know they are being heard. They want to be shown compassion. And they want to be able to let their guard down. It all starts with trust. Letting your consumer know that you hear and understand them and that you will cater to their needs speaks volumes. As Salesforce’s leading hospitality and tourism executive told Skift.com, lost are the days where frequent stays will increase a traveler’s loyalty status level. To win them over now, it’s time to get personal and customize their experience. Their information is at your fingertips — from their booking preferences to their age, hometown, and contact information. Building custom- experiences based on the knowledge you already possess will continue to make that customer brand-loyal for life.
According to Skift, more than 80% of customers said they experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. When you are thinking of your next mass e-blast or social media campaign, ask yourself how it speaks to your end consumer, specific personas, or the actual individuals receiving or engaging with your content. Does it get to them on an emotional level?
This lesson is that actively building connections will always yield higher returns than simply hoping for the best. One of my favorite mentors always said: “Hope is not a strategy.” Know your audience and what makes them tick. Then offer it to them. They will thank you in return.
Remember that this too shall pass. While we can’t know how quickly, we can continue to be present, be mindful of our message, and make the most of your assets to sell your story. The only direction to look is forward. Use thoughtful resources to guide your communications. Make every interaction intentional and meaningful. Consumers will remember — and will thank you for it.
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 SafetyVisitors 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 DistancingIn 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 MediaWith 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 ConcernsAccording 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 CommunicationDuring 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 HelpStrategic 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.
Top 5 Social Media Tourism Trends for 2020
What do hospitality PR teams need to know about social media tourism trends for 2020? First, it starts with storytelling—or, more appropriately, story “selling.”
The San Diego Tourism Authority recently hosted a some social media gurus for a workshop on trends to leverage to get your business and brand the most exposure. The following 5 trends and tips topped their lists.
1) The WHY behind the WHAT
Go beyond storytelling and start “story selling.” That’s the key to increasing consumer awareness of and interest in your brand.
Story selling more actively engages them in what you have to offer because it appeals to their emotional needs—their desire to relax in that peaceful place, sip that craft cocktail or take advantage of that once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s how you effectively motivate consumers to go to your hotel, eat in your restaurant, or explore your attraction. You make them want it, whether or not they are actively seeking it out. Immerse your audience in the “where” with your social media images, but make sure that your images show them the “why.”
2) Instagram: Forge a consistent brand presence
Instagram Stories stand out as the most economical platform remaining in advertising. Plus, they offer the “Swipe Up” feature, which allows you to share a link and drive the consumer exactly where you want them to go next.
Perhaps you’ve found yourself watching story after IG story, not realizing how much time has passed. Capitalize on that behavior — with a consistent style.
It’s not as difficult as you might think. You need no more than seven slides at a time. Just keep these simple tips in mind as you capture and share Stories:
- Organization is key. Create a storyboard and timeline in advance. Plan exactly what you are going to post and the sequence or flow — with photos, hashtags, and phrases at the ready.
- Know your brand templates down to the font, color palette, and backgrounds, and integrate them as you plan your content days, weeks, or even months ahead. The moment consumers glimpse your images, they should immediately recognize your brand.
- Post a new Story only after the current one completes — and avoid sending followers from a serene beach to a noisy rollercoaster. Try to tell and share seamless Stories.
- Craft ads that feel like Stories. Even when you are promoting a product or experience, you can keep the content entertaining and authentic so that the consumer won’t feel that you are “selling” and will be more open to your message. Make the message so appealing that they just have to learn more.
3) TikTok: Know your audience
You can’t talk about social media tourism trends in 2020 and not mention TikTok. If your key demographic is 16- to 24-year-olds, this is the medium for you.
This is not the kind of platform where your CEO will deliver a simple message about your brand. Posts require a sense of humor and a creative tack.
What’s recommended in this space? Use an influencer to help sell your brand, and a creative team to help show the fun side of your business. You won’t engage here with your audience, but it will give you brand recognition. Proceed with caution for now; the analytics provided aren’t yet 100% intuitive for determining ROI.
4) YouTube: The return of a classic
A resurgence in YouTube? That’s right.
Create a video — but have a hook to grab the audience right away. Skip the intro music and opening credits. Grab their attention from the first instant.
Teach and tell. Make viewers care about you and the information only you can provide. And don’t focus on the subscribers; focus on views. The more views you have, the more exposure. When the video is over, there’s no need to sign off, or roll credits. Simply lead to the next video and keep the consumer on the platform and your channel. The more times your video leads to another video, the more exposure you get. YouTube’s goal is to keep the viewer on their platform, so don’t even bother saying “visit, comment or subscribe.” Your target users — if they’re engaged in what you have to offer — are smart enough to find you.
P.S. YouTube, like IG, offers Stories. The main difference: YouTube Stories stay for seven days — not just 24 hours. Talk about the power of longevity. Use this feature to drive home what you are about. Create that sense of engagement that will have the consumer wanting to see what else you have to offer.
5) Mindshare: The power of listening
Mindshare media is gaining significant traction, too. People can engage in podcasts while driving, exercising, or folding laundry. The average listener will be on a podcast for 26 minutes. What other platform gives you that level of extended exposure? Google is starting to show podcasts in search results.
Start a show based on your area of expertise: whether that’s wine pairings, the best restaurants in the area, or how to tell when the high tides are coming in. The visitor to your city will want as much knowledge as they can get, so be the one giving it to them. Not to mention the platform is relatively inexpensive to use and an easy way to gain a great ROI.
Look at your next social media campaign: Have you hit all of these trends? Are you organizing content ahead of time? Are you engaging the consumer in a way that taps into their wants? Go outside of your comfort zone and try a different platform rather than relying on what you’ve used in the past. The only thing constant is change, so take this opportunity to see how these trends can work best for you. Remember to not just story tell, story SELL.
By Licia Walsworth — Communications Strategist
Three Essential Marketing Tactics for Hospitality Brands
1. Integrate the influencers
In this era of diminishing trust, the public craves authenticity. This is reflected in the massive growth of a hospitality marketing tactic that recently established itself and is expected to experience five times more growth by 2021– influencer marketing. Rather than sticking to the basic ad placement that’s blatantly meant to sell, influencer marketing creates a sense of sincerity. The influencer isn’t seen as some big corporation looking to make money, but rather as an admired friend that’s looking to inform their followers about a great product or destination that they think they’ll enjoy.
Influencers are now widely used in campaigns, but there are a few important steps you need to take prior to introducing an influencer into your hospitality brand’s campaign.
- Assess the campaign goals as well as the overall goal of the brand
- Analyze the influencer’s audience
- Evaluate the type of content the influencer posts to see if it will actually aid in achieving your brand’s goals (i.e. geotagging, hashtags, tagging, shots of the hotel/destination)
- Most importantly, track the levels of engagement between the influencer and followers
After assessing your goals and properly vetting the influencer, communicate your goals to the influencer. Don’t simply offer money or free product to the influencer in exchange for specific content. Instead, collaborate with the influencer to ensure they understand the mission of your brand and empower them to create the content that will resonate with their followers the best. This process results in content that feels more genuine and is more appropriate for the target audience.
2. Freshen up your storytelling
With the plethora of channels used by consumers to share and exchange information, it’s getting harder and harder for a hospitality brand’s content to stand out. Yes, being an outstanding writer is important, but what communicators now have to consider is how to best present their message to the audience in a fun, creative and visual way. Luckily for us, there’s a variety of exciting new storytelling tools at our disposal. From virtual reality to drones to infographics to 360 ° cameras, take advantage of these tools to create unique stories that immerse the viewer and hint at the kind of experience they will have if they choose your hospitality brand.
The point of using these technologies is to help spark a feeling about your brand through content. The ultimate at doing this is Disney. Instead of focusing on specifications and features – X number of beds, X amenities, $X per night, etc. – you should be focusing on the experience they deliver and the emotions surrounding it.
Sidenote, if you’re interested in hearing more about how to use 360° cameras in your campaign, read this post by WOC President and Founder Julie Wright.
3. Listen and engage
Two-way communication has never been more important than it is today. Users are not only consuming content, but they’re also creating it. Not only does user-generated content remove some of the hassle of creating original content, but it also creates a feeling of authenticity. Plus, an unpaid consumer sharing their experience with your brand is third party validation just like great media coverage.
Take advantage of this user-generated content and find ways to include it in your communications strategies. To find this content, deploy social listening campaigns. Through social listening, hospitality brands are able to spot content where they’re featured and identify what’s being said about them. An excellent social listening tool is Hootsuite, which enables you to link and create dashboards for multiple social platforms that show streams of mentions, comments or shares so you can quickly and easily share or respond.
Natalia Xibille —Communications Coordinator
3 PR & Marketing Tactics to Dump in 2017
By Julie Wright—President and Founder
Out with the old. In with the new! What stale PR and marketing tactics will you shed in 2017?
I’ve got a few on my naughty list this holiday season. They’re activities that perhaps at one time were strategic but now are automatic things PR and marketing professionals are doing without really thinking. Isn’t it time to leave these three things behind?
- Your Press Releases No One Reads
It’s well past time to ditch the traditional press release.
If you want media coverage, then spend your energy and budget on developing your brand’s story and pitching it to a carefully cultivated list of media targets.
Just as advertising is the price you pay for being unremarkable, press releases are what you do when you don’t have a real PR strategy.
They’re a PR crutch and are often abused by people who think press releases are public relations.
In 2017, empower your agency or PR department to generate media coverage with creative ideas and storytelling. Focus on your communications goals and then determine if press releases are really going to help you achieve them. If not, get creative and strategic with the tactics that will actually impact your communications and business goals.
While they may not generate media coverage, you can be strategic in your use of press releases. Use them to raise online visibility for your brand or key content to spur discovery through keyword analysis and search engine-optimized content, and to share exceptional visual content such as great photos, videos and graphics.
Just don’t continue putting them out as a proxy for a real PR strategy.
- Your Facebook Page that No One Sees
How much time does your team spend drafting and posting content to Facebook? Now how many likes or comments does that content get you? How much traffic to your website? How much brand engagement and equity is all this effort producing?
Be honest with yourself. Is it worth it? What would happen to your business if you dumped your Facebook page? Or your Twitter account, for that matter?
If you’re doing it right, hopefully the answer would be “quite a lot.” Website visits would fall, event attendance dip and top of mind awareness would suffer.
If you can’t answer that question satisfactorily, take a hard look at what you’ve been doing and ask yourself why? Do you know what impact you want this activity to have on your business?
Now flip things around and pretend that Facebook was your only channel for reaching your audience. How would you approach it differently? Would you do more research and target better? Would you dedicate more budget to advertising? Would you study what type of content performs best?
So develop a plan in 2017 to do social media right. Or stop doing it.
Set goals for your social media activity that will support the impact you want to see for your business and then produce the content, schedule, promotion and targeting that will reach them.
- The Content You Spend More Time Marketing than Your Actual Product or Service
I get the concept behind content marketing. Provide people with helpful, well-packaged information that draws them in and predisposes them to like, trust and value your business so they’ll consider doing business with you.
Do this on a massive scale and you’ll have a lead generation machine, the theory goes. With every blog post or white paper, an email has been captured so that the prospect can be continuously marketed with more friendly, helpful emails, blog posts and white papers.
That said, it’s a shit-ton of work to do this right. And if you’re the prospect, you could now have five or 10 companies trying to move you through their content marketing funnel. Your email inbox will implode!
So how much of your marketing department’s time or agency budget do you want to spend generating and marketing helpful blog posts, infographics, videos, white papers and case studies, and how much do you want to spend actually marketing your product or service to your target buyers?
I may be out of fashion here, but content marketing has to have jumped the shark a few years ago.
“With over 90% of B2B marketers cranking out ‘content,’ prospective buyers are inundated with information.”
How many buyers will be saying to themselves in 2017, “Boy, if only I could find more content?” I’m skeptical. Content is important but it is not the end in and of itself. It’s the means to an end. So in 2017 stop slaving away at the content game and make sure it’s serving your needs and not vice versa.
What tactics will you be dumping in 2017? Let us know with a comment or tweet!