Taking stock of your situation and keeping an eye on your budget are two things to keep in mind when considering PR agencies.
In today’s rough and highly competitive hotel climate, when senior managers find themselves making budget cuts at the line-item level, it’s often tempting to drastically cut or eliminate public relations expenses. But this is exactly the wrong approach to take.
The right PR agency can help put a property on the map and reignite and extend awareness. PR can also help a property differentiate itself from among many competing brands, introduce the product to revenue-rich niche markets, and turn on the spigot for much-needed cash. PR is an essential tool to help grow new business and spur word-of-mouth in just the right circles.
Here are five top considerations when preparing to engage a PR agency: Charlotte Novom
First, do your homework and define your specific PR goals. This requires internal soul-searching on your part and being willing to do a realistic SWOT appraisal of your organization. You also need to articulate the PR services you need. Is it straight-forward media relations, getting ink and digital and broadcast coverage? Or a hybrid—a more integrated and strategic approach that includes media relations, marketing partnerships and promotions, events and event management, crisis management, etc.? Equally important, define the qualities you are seeking when hiring an agency. Is the agency a good fit with your culture?
2. Age-Old Question: In-house or external?
Often, but not always, hoteliers have the support of corporate PR and/or an internal PR staff member. Having worked on both sides, my experience is that the corporate team has a large terrain to cover in representing the brand and its major messages. An on-property PR person must, out of necessity, wear many hats. The PR agency can be the solution—serving as that valuable partner, taking over specific proactive media relations and the higher level initiatives. Your on-property person will be excited to have this resource.
3. Evaluating an Agency: Pay close attention to detail
Here are a few keys I believe are imperative. Learn about the agency. An initial interview/meeting lets you screen for capabilities, style and culture. Do they think strategically or do they provide a cookie cutter approach? Have they done their homework in learning about your property? What steps would they take to analyze your needs in preparation for proposing an engagement? Look carefully at each agency’s specialties, the experience and longevity of key staffers who will serve on your account, and pay close attention to both writing and oral presentation skills. Ask questions related to their methods, internally and with the media, the technology tools they use, and how they would handle two hypothetical situations that closely resemble your own business goals.
4. Measuring Results: More than numbers
These days, management is fixated on ROI. But, in PR, ROI is not always expressed in mathematical terms. Agencies can report on the media impressions, circulation, audience size, unique visitors and advertising equivalency. Publicity placements typically do not happen overnight; results require nurturing. You need to work with an agency that understands this and can provide some statistics, but that first and foremost understands how to position your product. Ask yourself: Can this agency produce value at a continuously high level over a period of several years?
5. The Budget: It always comes down to money
Decide in advance the budget you can spend on PR for the year. Be realistic and prepare to be a little flexible. Learn how each agency will structure and bill for their services. Get into the details of what services will be included, what services might be extra, and find out if there will be any one time or other charges. It makes sense to dedicate a substantial budget for a qualified agency because they are going to provide solutions to your marketing challenges on many levels and be your PR collaborators.
Charlotte Novom, ISHC, is principal of Novom Marketing, a hospitality marketing and public relations consultancy established in 1993. With a strong international background, Novom held key sales and marketing positions at the Westin Century Plaza Hotel; The Plaza Hotel, New York; and The Peninsula Hotel, Beverly Hills. She currently provides strategic marketing counsel and public relations expertise to such clients as the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, L’Auberge de Sedona, Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts of Mexico and the Egyptian Tourist Authority. Selected past clients have included The Resort at Paws Up, Destination Hotels and Resorts, The Savoy Group of London, the region of Provence, and the Big Island of Hawaii in addition to a large number of luxury hotels, resorts, and retail shopping center developers. She brings a unique perspective to hospitality public relations, with the experience of having to evaluate, engage, and direct public relations agencies when she worked on the client side. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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