I had my own “saved by the bell” type moment a few months ago. (And no, unfortunately I’m not talking about the awesome early ‘90s Saturday morning TV show.)
It happened in late May while in London attending the Boutique Hotel Summit. Myself and a handful of intrepid panelists were in the lobby doing some last-minute prep before our seminar on “Press, PR and Social Media.” And literally as we were walking into the main hall at the appointed time, the building’s fire alarm went off.
Everyone—my panel, conference attendees and the office buildings with hundreds of other tenants—were ushered several blocks away to a charming urban park so we could do a headcount. By the time we were allowed back in the building (it was a false alarm), our time had expired and the conference agenda moved on.
So maybe “saved” isn’t the right word here. It was more of an “annoyed by the bell” type experience.
Fortunately, my panelists got a mulligan and held a stand-alone seminar on the subject earlier this week. I was not able to make the transatlantic flight myself, so the always-ready Piers Brown, organizer of the Boutique Hotel Summit, stepped in with my notes and preparation in hand. You can watch the video highlights below.
For those of you averse to video content, I’ve pulled out five key points of the discussion here:
1. The playing field is leveled online. This was the assumption at the dawn of the Internet age, but as distribution, marketing and digital content became more complex, many within the industry asserted (and still do) that the scale is tipped in favor of big brands and other companies that have the time, resources and savvy to devote to the space.
But the panelists, including Aline Keuroghlian, who heads PR and marketing for Mr & Mrs Smith, said equality reins in the boutique landscape.
“From a boutique hotelier point of view, it does offer great opportunities for leveling the playing field,” she said. “As long as you’ve got your basics right of having a great website with good images and good content, optimized for SEO, you can be competing with global brands.”
2. Don’t get carried away with social media. The panelists agreed that social media certainly is important, but that does not mean the likes of Facebook and Twitter are more important than other marketing platforms.
“Don’t get so carried away with social media that you do it at the expense of traditional media, which are still as relevant as ever,” said George Sell, editor of Boutique Hotel News.
3. Print is still relevant. In a move that perhaps shocked some attendees (but undoubtedly delighted the journalism community), Sell even went so far as to say print is as relevant as ever.
“People do spend a lot of time researching online … but especially for this boutique hotel market, people still like to sit down on a Sunday and pore through the travel sections and find out where the journalists whose opinions they trust … (are) going.”
Jo Johnson, deputy managing director of travel marketing firm Four bgb, said engaging with print journalists has an added advantage: Most of them are highly engaged in social media, so you’ll often get more bang for your buck.
4. Share when going social. While many hotel companies are hiring a single social media representative or a team of them to tackle this next frontier, their efforts should not be kept in a silo. Instead, Keuroghlian argued, key stats and customer interactions should be regularly shared throughout an organization.
At Mr & Mrs Smith, the team even goes as far as constantly projecting a social media dashboard on an office wall. “Then everybody on the team can look on the wall and see how many Twitter followers we’ve got and look at the Twitter feed that’s being updated all the time. That’s one way of being able to inform people.”
5. Keep yourself interesting. Perhaps the most important takeaway when marketing your property online: Keep it interesting, Keuroghlian said.
Johnson suggested figuring out the story you want to tell before, not after, you dive into social media. “Work out what your story is that you’re looking to tell and then try all social media platforms but don’t rush in and try to do all of them.”
And now on to the usual goodies …
Stat of the week
32%: The percentage of commercial mortgage-backed securities that paid off on their balloon date in June—the second lowest total in 21 months, according to research from Trepp LLC. This is one that slipped through the cracks from last week, but I felt it worth highlighting here. That’s a scary bad pay-off average. As point of comparison, pay-off averages were routinely higher than 70% BGD (before global downturn). Cue ominous music.
Quote of the week
“In summary, it appears that (1) the management agreement RFP process was flawed and poorly run, (2) the Marriott Agreement was poorly negotiated, (3) the prospects for a successful four hotel (real-estate investment trust) Owner are dim, and (4) the status quo with improved efficiency is a better option. The Marriott Agreement is so onerous to the REIT Owner, that it is in the best long term interest of the stockholders to reject the Proposed Transaction.”
—TRT Holdings’ James D. Caldwell, in an open letter to Gaylord’s stockholder, expressing his displeasures with the proposed sale of Gaylord’s brand and management company to Marriott International.
It appears the prognostications might come true. Things are about to get interesting, folks.
Comment of the week
“The problem is the hotels just accept whatever they are handed as if the the (sic) per diem is some kind of government law and they have to accept it. If the hotels were to just say no to the absurd rate, the feds would have no place to stay.”
—Commenter “KrispyKreme” (yum) responding to the U.S. General Services Administration’s proposed per-diem cuts in “Proposed per-diem changes raise concerns.”
I’ve heard this reaction quite a bit in recent weeks. In a vacuum, it has validity. “You’re going to offer me a lower rate, Mr. GSA? Well then I’ll just target other higher-rate business, thank you very much!” The problem in reality, however, is that a lot of properties rely so heavily on government business that to refuse it would mean a crippling cut to demand.
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
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