Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Is the Term PR Dead?

The term “public relations” may be on its way out according to an article in O’Dwyer’s, a leading PR industry publication. Of 103 members in the PR Council, one of the leading organizations of prominent firms across the US, only eight use PR In their titles. And at the 2014 conference of the PR Society last October, only 11% of the 1450 registrants used PR as a part of their title. The word “communications”, however, was used by 386 or 26% of the registrants. One of the problems with this name change is, in this age of twitter and other social media, communications takes up too much real estate!

I never really liked the term PR. It might be because I always have to explain it. Most people don’t know what it means, many taking its literal meaning — dealing with the public as in  guest relations, customer relations or giving events. I remember years ago in walking around a tony area of Madrid I saw a sign, courses in public relations and learning to be an airline stewardess. Today, it’s not that bad but it’s still not understood.

“Communications” is certainly a clearer term, but it doesn’t begin to cover the breadth of what PR can be, especially in today’s business world, where the discipline has some overlap with strategic marketing and branding. “Communications” also seems a kind of passive term to me, not reflecting the creativity and proactivity of the job. An expanded role in all aspects of content management is becoming an increasingly part of PR’s role, but it also wouldn’t suit as a title.

So, you’re probably asking me what term do I like? I wish I had an answer. Any ideas on your end?

 

 

Spirits Tourism

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Wine tourism has been around for decades – tours of vineyards, wine hotels, and wine trails, from California and New York to New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the southern tier of South America and more. Of late, thanks to craft breweries we’re seeing a growing number of craft beer festivals and museum like brewery tours. The newest link in the chain, not surprising given the celebrity status of mixologists and interest in new beverage taste sensations, is spirits (as in liquor) tourism. Spirits tourism is following what is a major growth in spirits revenue nationwide. Excluding wine and beer it has doubled to over $50 billion from 2000. Its appeal is also based on an interest in local products and history and, similar to craft beers, the boom in craft liquors. A recent google search revealed a surprising number of states – Delaware, Washington, Oregon, New York, that have gotten on the bandwagon with spirits trails, sometimes combining them with wineries and breweries.

Not only distillers, but also state and local governments see this as a new source of tax revenue and jobs, as well as a new tourism niche. Kentucky, in particular, is getting in on the act, enjoying a special upswing from bourbon, with new distilleries being built, complete with a tasting room for sipping bourbon and looking at the local scenery. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a collection of distilleries on a scenic route, attracts thousands of visitors annually. Distilleries offer behind the scenes tours where one can watch vats of yeast bubbling and workmen rolling barrels of whiskey as they’ve done for decades. In downtown Louisville, Whiskey Row is being revived with a new distillery for Old Forester, the country’s first bottled bourbon. Another producer, Wild Turkey, has paid double in taxes this year, twice what it paid in 2010 thanks to robust sales. For hotels and restaurants, craft spirits are a new avenue for public relations, with the media devoting more space to everything from drink recipes and signature cocktails to star mixologists. One of the more clever outtakes is the bar at the new Traymore restaurant at the Metropolitan by COMO. It has a gin bar boasting 40 different kinds of gin and the Apotheker at the Shelbourne Wyndham Grand South Beach, a riff on bar as pharmacy.

Photo courtesy of NationalGeographic.com

Native Advertising: A Quick Primer

One of the top three topics at the recent Advertising Week conference was native advertising and I’m not surprised. A question I often hear bandied about – is native advertising a new term for advertorials? In my book, no. Advertorials were mostly about fluff, little substance and I frankly always wondered who was reading them. In an article on the topic in PR Tactics, Joe McCambley, founder and creative director of The Wonder Factory summed it up well: “Native advertising, at its best, is indistinguishable from good journalism. It’s created with the intention to be as helpful to a reader as possible,” he said.

A more apt synonym is probably sponsored content. Whatever you call it, here’s a great guide to three general categories of native advertising courtesy of Brian Conlin from Vocus :

 

  • Paid syndication: When a brand produces stories, videos or infographics that appear alongside regular news
  • Paid integration: When a publication inserts a brand’s messages into a regular news piece
  • Paid co creation: When a media outlet receives money to produce content on a specific topic or theme

For low cost/no cost sponsored content, one of the best vehicles is the service piece, tips and advice from a company executive, department head, or just a service provider, for the consumer or industry colleagues (B to B).

We recently sent out a series on tips for travel with baby from the baby concierges at Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico. The most recent one was a page and a half article on Tips on Baby’s First Vacation, how to travel. The news release which we sent out through paid distribution garnered 58 million readers and appeared everywhere from Reuters and the San Francisco Chronicle to the Boston Globe and LA Daily News.

One of the best examples of sponsored coverage I’ve seen, albeit at a very comfortable budget, is Netflix’s coverage of women’s prison issues in The New York Times, tying in to the release of the series “Orange is the new Black”.

Whatever you do, be relevant, be authentic and be substantive.

 

 

 

Travel Awards Inflation and Marketing

Are travel awards still an effective branding tool and if so, how? Magazines, professional organizations, tour operators and more are giving awards on a regular basis. Some companies exist only for their award programs as a stand alone business, reaping revenues from entry fees. All of this has resulted in award inflation. And where they’re so prevalent, they’re less meaningful in the eyes of the consumer.

So what is their value? To the entity giving the award it’s an effective way to make new friends and reinforce relationships. Plus, in this age of social media, lists of Top 10 and Best of always rate high in views.   Award recipients undoubtedly appreciate the recognition, getting their name out there, and being in  rarefied company as in you’re known by the company you keep.

But how about their effectiveness for branding, and how to promote them through public relations? Here are  do’s and don’t’s:

First the “don’ts”:

Too often the knee jerk reaction is let’s do a press release. If an award is given by a media property, other magazines or newspapers won’t be interested – that’s the competition.

It’s important not to send too many award releases to the same media or run the risk of  overkill and their not opening your email after a while.

Think twice about how significant the award is. If it’s not from a well recognized organization, promoting the award can look as if the recipient is desperate to get a distinction and it won’t reflect positively on your brand.

Then the ‘do’s:

Think paid distribution channels as in online industry media (e.g.Hotels Online, HNET) as a vehicle to get the award news out. That helps build recognition within the industry and also helps SEO.

Send the award releases to past press guests who have visited your hotel(s), taken a cruise, whatever. It is a good way to keep in touch and reinforces the fact that you’re maintaining a quality product.

Social media which has an appetite for constant content is a perfect distribution channel for news of awards.

If the award is not from a media property, do consider sending it out to a wider distribution if it’s truly impressive, as in your being in the top 10, 25 or even 100 (e.g.Virtuoso’s bests, Expedia’s Insider Select).

And outside of PR, there are numerous ways to get the word out, especially if the award is impressive, from adding it to your signature and sending an eblast to your internal database, to highlighting it on your website, collateral,  and more.

4 Trends in the Business of Restaurants

kwe blog le locamerchant-1Not much has happened in the business of restaurants in recent years. I’m talking about innovations other than in the cooking itself or culinary approach, to increase revenues. With the tremendous competition now and rising rents and food costs, we’re finally beginning to see some new, creative ideas that are worth noting. Expect to see a lot more in coming months, especially with Priceline’s recent purchase of OpenTable.  Here are several restaurant trends that have a lot of promise:

!.How to increase covers in the downtimes of 5:30 to 6:30/7? Fine restaurants are trying to make diners feel as if they’re special, going out of their way with attention and service. Restaurants realize they need to overcome the traditional stigma of diners feeling like second class citizens, part of an “early bird special” group.  In addition, all matters of special incentives are being offered, from smaller portions (and prices) of signature dishes and a small bites menu to unique menus such as New York’s Le Cirque offering what they call a heritage menu with items like Dover sole and wild Burgundy Escargots. Read more in “No Shame in a Table at 5:30” in the Wall Street Journal.

2.As the top 1% get richer and the stock market continues on an upward trajectory, demand at the top restaurants in peak hours has been off the charts. New apps have sprung up like Zurvu and Resy that cooperate with restaurants sharing revenue for the most in demand dining times  and access to prime tables (a “commission” from $10 a person to $50 a table).

3.Restaurants hosting a visiting chef from out of town or out of country has been around for a long time. But now there’s a new twist – a visiting local chef.  Harry’s Pizzeria owned by star Miami chef Michael Schwartz hosted a series of themed dinners with Miami colleagues. We’re also seeing several chefs team up to do special dinners at a colleague’s restaurant. The idea? Copromotion which makes a lot of sense.

4.Reservation websites are providing incentives for early bookings. Members of Opentable get more points for booking early time slots and another app. leloca, gives last minute discounts at participating restaurants to users (like the restaurant counterpart to Hotel Tonight).

Emotional Marketing and Music

You can’t help reading these days about emotional marketing —  forging an emotional connection with potential buyers or clients as a key to sales success. Story telling and appealing to the senses are touted as  effective ways (and I concur as you’ve read). In the case of the latter,  incorporating aromatherapy and visual candy (design, art, fashion) into the product and marketing are becoming a “given” with many hotels and lifestyle products. But what about the hearing sense? Some interesting information and data recently crossed my desk . Rightune makes music for websites, 1000 of them right now that are active, as well as online ads and applications. They claim this has increased business by 15 to 20%, the highside being in the hotel, travel and lifestyle industries. Here’s an example of what CEO Erez Perlmuter says is one of the more successful of the sites (click on the name to hear the music):

Europa Hotel 

How does this work?  They customize the music based on branding values, target audience, mood to be created and business goal (e.g.lead generation, purchase, staying time). The client then gets a code snippet to embed on their website which will give a user a playlist. The user’s behavior is tracked and music updated as needed. Clients get a dashboard where they can see what was played and its impact on website business performance. What kind of music works? Not surprisingly, soothing tunes in the morning and more upbeat works in the afternoon.

I asked the obvious question, how do they know how many people to the site don’t like the music? They said on average 4% of visitors mute or lower the volume and 96% stayed longer.  I have to say, I found the music on the Europa Hotel relaxing (he said the music increased their business by 50%). What do you think?

Insatiable Luxury in China

luxury in china

Peninsula Shanghai image from www.sienacharles.com

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera

We’ve all read about the boom in sales of luxury products in China. But nothing prepared me for the reality — the quantity and size of stores of the big names in luxury brands. Staying at The Peninsula Beijing, within two blocks there were several Chanel stores, one larger than the next. Within the hotel itself, besides the entrance being flanked by Chanel and Louis Vuitton shops, there’s a two story arcade exclusively with all the big brands. And this is repeated throughout the city.  Curiously, walking past the shops there was seldom anyone inside. Why? Our guide said that wealthy clients get the brochure of the new collection (or see it online), call the shop, and have the item or items sent to their residences much as mere mortals would order take out food.

I asked the same guide why there weren’t more top Chinese fashion designers. She said why would anyone buy a local fashion brand and pay a lot for a name no one knows. Anyone in the luxury business should not miss a visit to the “knock off” multi-leveled emporiums – the Silk Market in Beijing and several in Shanghai. It’s fascinating to see what brands are being counterfeited besides the obvious – Hermes, LVMH, Prada, etc. Beats headphones and speakers seem to be “hot” items. No wonder Apple recently announced a possible purchase of Beats. It was also interesting to see how luxury brands have to quickly come out with new lines to stay ahead of the counterfeiters. Of course new models help fuel purchases but you can’t help thinking that in any case, this counterfeiting greatly debases the brand.

Speaking of luxury and hotels, I also had a chance to see the latest in hotel technology in action by the master, Peninsula. At the hotel in Shanghai, here are some of the picks for top features:

  • Built in “nail dryer” in the dressing room
  • VOIP for free international calls
  • Humidity control for the guest rooms
  • Preset internet radio channels
  • A Yamaha speaker built into a lacquered cabinet, totally unobtrusive
  • And then the bathtub that even they have taken up a notch: luxuriate in the tub watching tv, having a conference call by speaker phone, choosing your favorite spa music, and more

All this being said I kept asking if and when the bubble will burst. As someone said, throughout the country there are thousands and thousands of unoccupied apartments bought for speculation (said one friend, in China the crane is the national bird). Makes for an unstable situation, no?

Service, Small Business and CRM

No one doubts the effectiveness of CRM systems and loyalty programs though for small businesses, the costs of implementation in dollars and human resources can be a challenge. So what’s a small business – be it hotel, restaurant, service provider to do? Here are two examples of the right way and wrong way based on my recent experiences, and then a look at the takeaway.

Two hair salons. Both I’ve been going to for several years. Salon 1: Oribe in South Beach. When the hair stylist is running late they let me know. If there’s a big traffic tie up they give a call. And the best yet, this week I called to make an appointment. First, and unbelieve, the receptionist recognized my voice ( I go every 6 weeks). Then, she asked if I’d like an appointment in the morning, remembering my preferred time. Whenever I walk in, she makes me feel as if I’m coming home.

Salon 2. They have all of the tech stuff – as soon as I make an appointment I get a text confirming it. Then, a day before I get another text and a call (overkill). The problem. When I call they always ask me for my phone number which is in the computer, act as if this is my first time at the salon, and have me spell my name more than once.

Now which salon will I recommend? What’s the takeaway? It’s so important in a service company to have a good receptionist and do whatever to keep him/her so there’s longevity and he/she gets to know the client. Tech goes just so far.

Madigan Pratt, President of MP & A Digital and Advertising who has serious credentials in CRM summed it up. “Today CRM software allows companies with a culture of great customer service to move up to another level. When they do they can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Problem arises when companies think office automation software is the answer to their customer service problems. Staff may know how to push buttons, but do they really know how to empathize a customer? More often than not, the answer is no.

“CRM with a human touch just may be the answer”, he concluded.

Images for Blogs: Branding and Photography

images for blogs

Just as all employees need to be trained on the importance of how to deal with online reviews, an equal amount of attention needs to be paid to training them on catering to bloggers’ photography needs. As we all know, images affect branding – especially in luxury. But the fact is, we can try to direct, but cannot control, bloggers’ output. And the best way to maximize your visual coverage is to train staff in effective ways to deal with bloggers’ photography and video needs.

Here are four tips:

1. Don’t ban photography.

By doing that, you risk having media decide not to feature you and/or it will create a bad impression. Case in point – I saw a handbag in a Madison Avenue storefront that I wanted to feature on my personal blog. Since images without glass photograph better, I walked inside the store and asked to see the handbag to photograph it. They said corporate policy prohibits photography in the store and that I’d have to call the PR department to waive the policy. The upshot of this? I used the photo taken through the window, not the best quality, so I could post it immediately. This inconveniences a reporter who is  probably on deadline and used to taking pictures — and sharing them with friends — whenever they want.

Besides taking the risk of not being featured in a publication, you also run the risk of missing a captivating image that you hadn’t thought to take. A case in point: as she recently told me, when former USA TODAY hotels reporter Barbara DeLollis took a hard-hat tour of the Capella Washington D.C. with Capella CEO Horst Shulze a year ago, she looked at the large, circular bathtub in the luxury boutique hotel’s premier suite and asked its size so she could tell readers about it. Before someone could respond, she stepped inside the tub and asked GM Alex Obertop to take her picture sitting inside it – in, of course, her suit and heels.

“The tub was so sumptuous that simply stating its dimensions wouldn’t give readers the whole story,” said DeLollis (soon to launch the travel site barbdelollis.com). “Showing them a photo of someone they know sitting inside it was worth 10,000 words. That picture, by the way, generated a lot of comments on social media.”

2. Make it quick and easy for bloggers to obtain images.

Have the staff know where to retrieve images for blogs (ideally online without a password) or, better yet, have them offer to get a particular image the blogger wants sent to him/her. If you know that a writer is on deadline, it would be wise to ask them if they would like you to email them a particular image to save them time. Or, at the least, have business cards for the PR contact/agency ready to be handed out by staff/employees or the list of contacts available at easy access to give to bloggers on the spot.

3. Create USB memory sticks with property or product images for blogs.

If they like the images, they’ll tend to use them rather than take their own. One caveat: Others will insist on taking their own images as they’ll want to express their own voice or take their own pictures because they’re more “real” than generic, touched up images.

4. Plan ahead.

When a press visit is confirmed, be sure that the person – before they arrive – receives a few relevant images (spa, food and beverage, sports, etc., depending on their interests) along with the link to the image gallery. Ideally they’ll have a look before their trip.

Tactics to Drive Direct Bookings Vs. OTAs

hotel direct booking

With OTAs (Online Travel Agents) driving over 20 percent of total room bookings, taking commission fees ranging from 10-25 percent, what can a hotel do to drive direct bookings to its website? A survey of 2500 consumers by Software Advice, a source for hospitality system reviews, revealed perks hotels can offer to get direct bookings. Here are the  results of their findings:

Main Takeaways to Drive Direct Bookings

1. A free Room Upgrade
It is the top incentive that will convince customers to book directly. This can be as simple as a better view, balcony or kitchenette.

2. Free Meals Top the List of In-Room Perks
When asked which in-room perk would convince respondents to book directly, 43 percent said they could be swayed with a free room-service meal. Tied for second was an in-room massage and free access to the minibar and snacks (19 percent), followed by free movies on demand (16 percent).

3. Free Food and Drinks Also Outrank Other Amenities
When asked which on-site amenity would convince guests to use direct booking through a hotel website, a vast majority (55 percent) chose free food and drinks.

For many hotels, offering a free meal isn’t new. Incentives like this already exist, and many hotels likely understand their effectiveness. The second most convincing amenity was a free spa package, at 23 percent. Trailing behind are a free fitness class (11 percent) and free golf or tennis reservations (7 percent).

4. A Restaurant Gift Card Is the Most Popular Offsite Perk

45 percent of respondents said they would be convinced to book directly if they received a gift card to a popular restaurant as an incentive over other types of gift cards. Far behind are free tickets to a popular event and free transportation services.

You can read the full report here: http://overnight-success.softwareadvice.com/skip-ota-with-incentives-0214/