While data-driven insights undeniably play a crucial role in marketing and communications, there are times when being led by data without considering its context and potential biases can lead to flawed decision-making. We explore when to listen to your gut over the numbers and how embracing your instincts can fuel innovation and success.Continue reading
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.
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.
By Julie Wright —President
The future of public relations and journalism are two sides of the same coin, and both are experiencing powerful technological advances that are reshaping how the media and professional communicators tell and distribute stories. While these changes have disrupted old business models and best practices, they’ve also benefited people by making it easier to access and consume the news and content they want, whenever and wherever they want.
The next wave of innovation is immersive storytelling and it’s poised to take content producers and consumers well beyond the two-dimensional experience of today’s news reports or public relations’ white papers, case studies, press releases and b-roll.
What Does the Future Look Like for Journalism?
There are already more mobile phones on the planet than toothbrushes or working toilets. USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Associate Professor Robert Hernandez shared this insight to provide context during his opening remarks April 28 to the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2018 regional conference hosted by the Greater Los Angeles SPJ chapter.
The annual conference attracted hundreds of journalists from across the southwest to the Universal City Hilton, and (W)right On Communications was proud to sponsor Hernandez’s presentation, “What Does the Future Look Like for Journalism?”
Well regarded in media circles as an academic and as a veteran of web journalism, Hernandez urged journalists to become early adopters of new technologies and embrace it for storytelling. It’s a message that holds true for PR pros, content marketers and brand journalists concerned about the future of public relations.
Hernandez pointed out that TV took 38 years and radio 14 years to reach 50 million users but the web took only four, the iPod three and Facebook two to reach the same milestone. Technology is changing how we communicate and doing so at a breakneck pace.
On May 1, Facebook announced that it is introducing augmented reality into its Messenger platform. Soon, Facebook advertisers will be able to provide filters in Messenger that potential customers can apply to experience their product—like a new lip color, furniture or fashion—before buying.
On April 30, NBCUniversal and Google announced that they’ll be partnering to produce original virtual reality content for the NBC, Bravo and Syfy networks including NBC’s Saturday Night Live and Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules, which already has some 360 video available on YouTube. Will virtual reality content for NBC News be close behind?
My guess is that Hernandez would hope so. He urged news media to jump on these new technologies—including immersive 360-degree video, augmented reality and virtual reality platforms—and begin using them as storytelling platforms.
“If you think this is the final form, you’re fooling yourself,” said Hernandez of today’s mobile phones, mobile cameras and social media platforms.
The Future of Public Relations is Tied to New Storytelling Tech Too
Public relations professionals—particularly content marketers—should also be experimenting with these platforms and preparing for the near future of public relations where immersive storytelling becomes mainstream. We have the opportunity to adopt and adapt immersive platforms to communicate not just key messages but key experiences. Imagine how much more persuasive such tools would be in motivating a belief or behavior from your target audience.
And imagine how media outlets would appreciate content like 360 video or interactive augmented reality graphics to support a press announcement or event coverage.
With so much content competing to engage consumers and B2B customers today, it only makes sense that communicators adopt the most engaging and breakthrough new technologies to raise their content and messages above the din.
As Hernandez noted, for cash-strapped newsrooms, this technology doesn’t have to be expensive. He shared a VR tip sheet that includes apps to convert your mobile phone to a virtual reality recording device, several 360 video cameras and VR headsets at varying price points.
Hernandez heads up a VR journalism program at the Annenberg School, creatively named JOVRNALISM. He and his students have produced 360 video reports from places like Friendship Park at the border between San Diego and Tijuana and Korea’s demilitarized zone.
In this video, you can use your tablet or smart phone screen to explore a 360-degree view of the DMZ and listen while South Korea’s loudspeakers blast Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” across the border.
Media outlets on the forefront of augmented reality include The New York Times. Hernandez cited their AR piece on David Bowie, which documents his costumes and style through the ages. Open The New York Times mobile app or navigate to their mobile website and search “augmented reality” on your iPhone or Android device to see and experience and be inspired by these incredible AR features.
Hernandez described AR as a “new type of journalism.” Here’s how The New York Times described it in their AR guide for readers:
“If photography freed journalists to visually capture important moments, and video allowed us to record sight, sound and motion, then our augmented reality feature goes a step further, making flat images three-dimensional. AR brings our report to you in a way that makes it more immediate than ever before. Imagine if journalists applied this technology to stories on the homeless and other topics where immersive technology can bring an experience to life.”
– Your Guide to Augmented Reality in The Times
Imagine what content marketers can do when they deliver an immersive case study experience for their targets rather than another six-page white paper.
It’s not difficult to see how immersive storytelling could more effectively drive behavior change or swell a nonprofits’ donor rolls with an immersive public service campaign. Imagine using virtual reality to put your target audience in the passenger seat next to a distracted or drunk driver, in a homeless shelter, in an animal shelter or in a wilderness refuge being threatened by deforestation or climate change.
With augmented reality, imagine that for every donation of $100 to a wildlife cause, an app creates a 360 video of you surrounded by elephants at a watering hole or sitting with a panda bear in a tree and gives you the option to share it on your social networks. On the other end of the spectrum, picture an immersive corporate annual report that takes shareholders into the boardroom, onto the factory floor and into the field.
A new frontier is opening up that incorporates sensors with immersive technologies, says Hernandez. He has tried on a virtual glove that allows you to feel things in a 3D world—from a spider running across your hand to a cup of hot coffee. While this technology is still in the lab, it’s what’s coming next.
Hernandez didn’t omit the ethical questions that these immersive storytelling technologies prompt. In the immediate future, these technologies will be used to manipulate reality for “fake news” and misinformation where virtual reality cannot be distinguished from truth or actual reality. This is a scary downside, given how susceptible to fake news and conspiracy theories the public has shown itself to be.
Just like data privacy, cybersecurity breaches and social media bots; manipulation of virtual reality is another threat that communicators, journalists and society will need to navigate, but the sooner we adopt and become proficient in these technologies, the sooner we can put them to use for better storytelling experiences and the future of public relations and journalism.
“Content is king. This is still holding true. It doesn’t matter what technology we use. It’s how we use it to tell stories. It’s your attitude as a journalist and how you view that technology that determines the future of journalism.”
– Robert Hernandez, USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism
If your attitude as a communicator is one of curiosity and comfort with change (and I hope it is!), then immersive storytelling technologies should excite you about the future of public relations and the new frontiers they will open for our craft.
The first quarter of 2018 was a roller-coaster ride for communicators grappling with Facebook’s big changes and PR troubles. We’ve strapped in and are waiting to see where its twists and turns take us next. But, in the meantime, Facebook gave us a timely topic for the first issue of our new publication, The Strategist newsletter.
Get our newsletter to stay in the know
(W)right On Communications launched The Strategist newsletter as a service to clients and friends last week. It’s a bite-sized serving of what’s new, now and next in communications.
Each issue, we tackle a subject of big-time interest to brands and communicators. We share our own professional experiences, links to the best articles from our industry reading and relevant content from our own writings and presentations.
So, we invite you to subscribe to the The Strategist newsletter. You’ll also find the subscription pop-up window here on our website.
Read our inaugural issue
In case you missed it, we’ve provided a link to our first issue here.
In it, we shared a roundup of recommended reading on Facebook. These include:
- An analysis on the regulatory impact of the Cambridge Analytics’ privacy breach.
- A link to our latest blog post on what Facebook’s changes mean for businesses.
- A white paper featuring 8 Smart Ways for Brands to Adapt to Facebook’s Changes in 2018.
Our team manages multiple Facebook pages for our clients. And it has been an interesting time. Our experience has shown that Facebook’s changes are beneficial to businesses and nonprofits who have cultivated dedicated local followings. When page managers engage their followers with “throwbacks,” heartfelt content and smart boosting and targeting, Facebook is an incredibly productive platform.
We would love to hear your feedback
Please drop us a line. Let us know what kind of content you’d like to see tackled in a future issue of The Strategist. Send your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
By Julie Wright —President
Passion is an awesome thing. It gives you the drive needed to push past obstacles and embrace challenges. But passion alone isn’t enough.
To succeed as a strategic communicator, you need what the (W)right On Communications team calls contagious passion. Contagious passion is one of our core values. Why?
Because, if your passion for your client, pitch or charitable cause doesn’t infect others, you can’t advance it. With earned media, shared media and word of mouth driving more brand connections than paid strategies today, contagious passion is essential to your success as a communicator.
Any trending hashtag is a symptom of an outbreak of shared passion across the Twittersphere. It signifies that thousands of people are fired up about this Sunday’s game or the most recent national “holiday” celebrating chocolate eclairs or brandied fruit.
Similarly, a long string of comments on a Facebook post will raise a post’s visibility on the platform. In a way, the Facebook algorithm is fueled by contagious passion. But to achieve that kind of engagement you’ve got to develop content that contains an idea, concept or image people can connect to emotionally. Without that shared feeling, there’s no reason to care and without a reason to care, there’s no motivation to act. Which means failure.
I have a friend who has a contagious passion for slowing climate change. When she tells me about a book she encountered that examines the top 100 solutions for reversing global warming and what it taught her, it’s not long before I’m downloading my own copy of Project Drawdown and telling others about it. In a matter of 24 hours, I’ve infected three other people with this book’s intriguing research and ideas.
I’ve been thinking about our agency culture and the importance of our values, like contagious passion, because we added a new team member a few months ago. During the interview process and since joining the team, she has made it clear that she has a passion for communications, for her clients and for the work we do at (W)right On Communications.
Her client partners have quickly taken to her because they can see, and more importantly feel, that she cares about their organizations and achieving results for them. Her fast start has been remarkable but no accident. She brought the passion and infected others with it.
Think about the last time you were in a meeting where someone renewed your enthusiasm for a project or won you over to their vision or idea. I guarantee you that their contagious enthusiasm played a big part, and you probably applied yourself to the task with more gusto because you were inspired by it.
You can fake passion, but it’s hard to fake a contagious passion. If your words don’t align with your body language—animated gestures, leaning forward, maintaining eye contact—people won’t pick up on what you’re putting out. If your heart isn’t in it, then your passion won’t feel authentic to others or move them. Most importantly, it won’t fulfill you.
And that’s important. You should love what you do, care deeply about what you’re communicating and be invested in the success of your idea, client or team.
That passion motivates you to excel, to learn all that you can about your client or craft and to challenge yourself to grow and reach mastery.
We all encounter wet blankets in our work life. People who are genetic anomalies and immune to passion. They’re a bummer to work with or for, of course, and probably don’t understand why no one listens to their ideas or wants to go to lunch with them. Think Eeyore.
Those people are probably just in the wrong job or career. Or they’ve given up and lost their mojo.
For others who love what they do but struggle to muster a contagious passion, the cause can often be their own fear and insecurities. They’ve put a wall around their passion because they’re afraid to be wrong, to fail or to show that they don’t know something they should.
For your passion to be contagious, you need to get in touch with it. What excites you? What’s worth sticking your neck out for?
If you have a contagious passion for a hobby or a sports team, invest the same zeal into your client’s business or your employer’s industry to find the joy. It’s possible. Often, the more you invest yourself in a topic, the more exciting it becomes. It’s the difference between the college courses you had to take in your first year and those you chose to take in your senior year.
In the same way that smiling can make you feel better, choosing to find the joy can make you feel the passion. The cart doesn’t always have to follow the horse. The main point is to find it, feel it and spread it to others.
We spend a lot of time blogging here about communication strategies and tactics, but communication success starts with passion and the ability to make others care. What goes around comes around, and contagious passion is no exception. I hope you’ve felt mine and that this post leaves you a little more stoked to make the most of your work whatever it may be!