January 30, 2013

4 Rules of the Road for Getting Your Inn PR

Greetings from the Innkeeping Conference in Las Vegas! I think conferences are beneficial for many reasons. Not only is it an invaluable experience to meet one another and network in person, but also to learn from each other and industry professionals. The enthusiasm here is contagious, and it has given most innkeepers I have spoken with and me a renewed commitment and excitement about our industry. Meeting innkeepers and helping them promote their inns is always the highlight of conferences for me. Yesterday, I taught a workshop called “Unraveling the Secrets of PR Today” with Marti Mayne of Maynely Marketing. I thought I would use this blog to briefly recap the secrets for those innkeepers who were in attendance and to share them with the rest of you.

The Queen Victoria, Cape May, NJ
The old method of “spray and pray” no longer works when it comes to PR. At one time it was common practice to write a press release, perhaps put it on the wire and/or send it to journalists and editors, then hope (and pray) you got pickup. Today, this is guaranteed not to work; instead you must create splash and sizzle while following the rules of the road for PR. These include:
  1. Timing is everything. First, you should develop a calendar of important holidays, timely stories, events, etc. so you can plan and pitch at the right time. Then you need to understand when to pitch different media outlets (for example, magazines can be 3 months - 2 years ahead of the event; newspapers and websites about 2-4 weeks out and news outlets, both local and national, can be a month or more ahead of time and up to the actual time of the event).

  2. Spin your story into something interesting by finding problems and solving them or tying your story into timely themes. For B&Bs for Vets, we pitched the story and history of the campaign e.g. "How one innkeeper inspired thousands of others to honor military members with free stays"...rather than pitch what the media might think of as boring - the ubiquitous free room. We wanted a story that stood out because even hotels are giving away free room nights which are no longer a unique promotion. 

  3. As you get ready to pitch your story, you will need a properly crafted press release and pitch email.  Key elements to keep in mind when creating these materials are an attention-grabbing headline, a quote to hook them and any available statistics to back up your claim. In your press release, be sure to include relevant links and a boiler plate. Your pitch email should let the media know how to get additional information including high resolution photos, which are a must along with proper grammar.

  4. Decide who you should pitch your story to and create a media list. Make sure to target the right media. You can use a number of free sources to find media including Google alerts, HARO requests and social media, or you can use subscription-based services such as Vocus, Cision and BnBFinder.
B Street House, Virginia City, NV
The most important thing is probably the flexibility of your story angle. For instance, gas prices typically rise in the summer, so we usually get high-level pickup for gas savings specials such as gas cards. Last year, however, gas prices leveled off and even declined. So, we tweaked our pitch to one-tank trips and staycations because people were interested in saving money and staying closer to home due to the economy. We garnered national newspaper pickup as well as local TV and radio mentions for our inns including a TV interview for the innkeeper with this theme.

So, keep these tips in mind when you’re thinking about getting the word out for important occasions such as your inn’s anniversary, awards the inn receives, seasonal events and other noteworthy moments.

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