As a card–carrying member of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers), I am literally bombarded with emails from those interested in garnering just an ounce of my attention to have me publish their materials. Keeping score this past week – nothing out of the ordinary – I received a total of 82 different press releases from hotel suppliers, properties, travel bureaus and destinations. How can any single release stand out?
Thinking of all the hours that are spent by hotel managers and public relations agencies in preparing this material is mortifying, especially since 99% of these well-crafted pieces of literature will be trashed without the recipient ever getting beyond the headline. What a waste! Moving forward, as the general manager or director of communications, you must find a way to get a better return on your PR investments.
When public relations works, it is a fantastic use of your financial resources. Too bad that most of the materials that get distributed so badly misses the mark. To this end, here are ten pointers that will greatly improve your PR news release program’s efficacy.
- Work to a strategy, not a tactical plan. Your PR strategy should be based upon your product, services or people. Anyone who believes that a strategy is to distribute materials monthly, independent of content, has the cart before the horse!
- Each release must make sense to the reader. Assume nothing. The reader may not know where your property is located relative to geographic reference points or the unique selling points of what makes your hotel great. Similarly, don’t even assume the reader knows the name of your property or its affiliation.
- The headline is more important than all the content that follows. Read the headline. If it does not encourage the reader to continue, hold the release until it does. Funny, catchy, poignant, witty, racy, current, political, timely or historic headlines – all can work when done right so try a few and torture test them with your internal test.
- A visual is critical. The saying, ‘an image is worth a thousand words’ rings true. Readers are far more interested in looking at the photo and will have a higher propensity to read what you have to say, particularly when the picture has a caption. However, more is not necessarily better. For example, a recently received release from a tourism bureau had ten different photos as well as text to accompany each. A single visual has meaning; multiples rarely enhance the communications.
- Brevity please! No one wants to read a 500-word editorial. No one has time! If the recipient is interested, he or she will respond to you for more information. Give them enough to whet their appetites. You have no need to distribute the entire story at once. As the top record for this week, I received a 1,837-word release. Is the sender seriously expecting anyone to read all of this? Would you?
- Personalize if you can. I am far more apt to look at an email if it starts with, ‘Dear Larry’ than one that has no personal introduction. Program your system accordingly.
- What are the next steps? Photos should have a download link and credits identified. A source for more information should include both a phone number and an email. If there is a FAM opportunity, then that too should be specified. Include general website links but also specific addresses to pages containing the most pertinent information.
- Vanity releases are annoying. Sorry, announcing the promotion of the assistant’s assistant to the director of marketing is not a news release. In my mind, the only personnel that are worthy of a news release are the appointment of a general manager and the executive chef. Like the boy who cried wolf, choose your broadcasts wisely.
- Creativity counts. A snappy headline, great photo and a few paragraphs of well-written text is all that is needed. Sounds easy, but often this requires a lot more work than the usual regurgitation of the ‘blather’.
- Encourage your PR agency to focus on results (quality) rather than quantity. I know your agency wants to demonstrate that they are working for you. They believe that sending out materials regularly will justify their fees. If you are hoodwinked by that tactic, then maybe they are not even charging you enough!
(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in HOTELS Magazine on May 2, 2017)