Welcome, dear reader, to the world of Public Relations! You've hired a PR agency to work their magic and get your brand in the spotlight, and now you want to make sure you make the most of your investment and their expertise.
Fear not, for I shall be your trusty guide on this exciting journey. So, let's dive in and discover how to unleash the full potential of your PR agency with charm, wit, and a sprinkle of humour!
Hit the ground running
Meet your account team face to face if you can – and if you are a DMO or hotel make sure we get to see the destination and property first hand
Building a strong relationship with your PR agency means your PR agency will understand your business goals and therefore get you more coverage, and more relevant coverage!
If you are a tour operator meet your PR team at your offices. If you run a hotel or are a DMO get them to visit the destination so the team can immerse themselves in your product first hand.
Ideally, if you can afford it invite 2-3 team members. Trust us, it’s a million times easier to pitch if you have first-hand knowledge of the product.
We often get asked by journalists “so have you been to client XYZ”. If you can answer that question with a yes, guess what – you’ve immediately got brownie points on trust. The investment in hosting your PR team will pay off in more and better coverage.
There is no magic in magic, it’s all in the detail
To set your PR agency up for success, provide them with as much information and detail about your business as possible from the offset, no matter how unimportant you think some of the details are. What you may see as an insignificant detail, your PR agency could well see as a golden nugget of information that makes you stand out from the rest. This will not only immerse your agency partner in your brand, but it will equip them with the tools they need from the very beginning (and avoid them pestering you with lots of questions.
One of our family-run clients shared an email detailing the sustainability information for their hotel, requested during our bedding in process. From this, we then facilitated an opportunity with Times LUXX, who is writing a feature about sustainable hotels abroad that are in their second generation of ownership. Highlighting how even small details can turn into a great story.
Define clear goals and expectations to remove the guesswork.
PR is like archery – you need a clear target to hit bullseye. Know what your objectives are, and be clear with your PR team about it.
Tell us exactly what you want to achieve through PR, and let us build your strategy around that. Understanding your goals will help your agency build a strategy that will target these areas. Regularly assess and discuss progress toward these objectives to ensure everyone stays on track.
In our last blog post we introduced you to the “Get To By” framework. Every PR strategy (or indeed every marketing strategy) should bring about a change in behaviour amongst your target audience. The formula being;
Get - Target consumer
Who - Consumer Problem
To - Desired response
By - One message/action
I.e. “get families with toddlers to book our hotel”; “get foodies to book our escorted tours” ; “get more Brits to visit the lesser known parts of our destinations and participate in sports activities”. You can have multiple of those goals. Give them to your PR agency and they should be able to turn that objective into an implementable strategy. Or ask us to help you define your “Get-To-By” statement together with you.
What makes a story, and what doesn’t – trust the experts
We aim high. We always do. But in some cases, we will manage your expectations. This is not because we are pessimistic (we promise!) but because we know the media landscape inside and out, and we know what works and when we need to be more targeted. Whilst some stories have the potential to be national news, some are more suited for local publications. And some stories are non- stories. We know this because we talk to the media every hour of every day. We know what works for whom and why.
- An award you won by one publication (like Conde Nast Gold List) will not be covered by another. That result is best amplified via your own social, on your website and via your newsletter.
- A new chef – mildly exciting and more likely to get you regional or trade coverage than national coverage
- Press events are great for building relationships – but rarely get you coverage. Use your money more wisely if more coverage is your KPI.
- Press releases in 2023 are much less relevant than they used to be. You’ll get better coverage via a dedicated press office team and daily pitching via ResponseSource or Travmedia.
PRs often have a reputation for saying yes to everything – and if things don’t materialize the client is disappointed. We don’t think that’s the right approach. You’ve hired experts for a reason. So we are sure you’ll want to listen when the PR says they don’t think the story will run. A good PR agency will instead suggest another story that has a greater chance of getting you results.
When we get going…
Communication is key
Above all, effective and clear communication with your PR agency is a must. Please don't leave us hanging, just let us know if you're particularly busy. We understand, and we can work with you to work around schedules. More often than not, if we chase you there is a journalist on the other end of the phone chasing us, so we want to be as prepared as possible. Or we know that if we don’t get the story out of the door, the opportunity will be gone. So, as much as we are agile, being 'in the know' or aware of your time-constraints helps us work with you the best we can.
Keep information flowing
Ensure that you provide your PR agency with timely and up-to-date information on a regular basis. This includes information about things that you might consider to be small or irrelevant. We save the information and file it away in our “knowledge library” that we set up for each client. You never know when it might be helpful.
Time is money (and coverage)
Always provide as much notice as possible before making a big announcement, hosting an event or in any circumstance where you want to generate as much buzz as possible. As much as your PR friends are innately good at working under pressure, providing the time to create strategic, carefully crafted work is more likely to lead to a well-executed outcome with respective results.
But more importantly, the media are those whose diaries you need to be mindful of. Journalists have jam-packed schedules, when it comes to both their free time and their schedule of work. So the closer it comes to the big moment, the less likely it is your top tier targets will have the capacity to be a part of it.
Also, please don’t forget that PR belongs to the category of organic marketing strategies (such as content marketing and SEO). This means they are cheaper than paid marketing strategies, but are more likely to positively affect medium to long term results. So if you have say a lull in bookings in two weeks then PR is unlikely to be the right strategy to help with occupancy (unless you have some spectacularly discounted last minute deals which we can pitch in to the "Last Minute Offers" sections of the papers). If you have a last minute challenge you are more likely to turn things around through paid social or paid influencer work.
Which brings us to the next point:
Be aware of cultural differences
Ah, the wonders of cultural differences! In the enchanting lands of the Mediterranean, press events may bloom like wildflowers at the last minute. But hold your horses! In the UK, that's a whole different story, and a last-minute approach can lead to a less than blooming picture. Group press trips and media events should be thoughtfully planned three months ahead for the best results. Right now we are working on some group trips for November!
And while we're at it, let's talk about cultural news disparities. What's buzzworthy in your country might fall flat on its face in the UK. Trust your PR agency when they say, 'Not the right fit for the UK!' Take it from the tale of an Italian hotel with dreams of national headlines for their new cryotherapy chamber. We had to break the news to our Italian hotel that the cryotherapy chamber trend in hotels had been hot news in London 18 months prior – talk about a ship that sailed! Thankfully, the owner of the hotel understood and we pitched another story instead.
Speed is of the essence
When it comes to reactive story-telling or newsjacking, the brands who find themselves in the conversation are those who are able to respond quickest with a quote or a comment.
If your PR team make an urgent request, they will do so ONLY if they feel your time is 100% worth the effort.
So if an urgent request comes in please work with us quickly: you are playing a vital role in landing the coverage opportunity. Quickly usually means that the information needs to be with us within a few hours – otherwise the opportunity is lost.
We’ve had amazing coverage for clients where they have been agile and quick. One example is Chitra Stern, the founder of Martinhal Family Hotels and Resorts. During Covid the BBC evening news needed commentary from a Portuguese hotelier and we contacted Chitra on Whatsapp. Within 2 hours she was being interviewed by the main BBC evening news for a full 5 minutes.
More recently when the heatwave hit Southern Europe we pitched Huw Owen from Travel Local to provide commentary to the national conversation around travelling in a heatwave. As a result of the client turning this round really quickly we landed coverage in The Daily Telegraph and Metro, as well as Express Online, Yahoo News, and a whole host of other online news outlets.
Equally, if an interview has been agreed to go out at a certain time and date, please supply your PR agency as quickly and efficiently as possible with the information. Delaying the process or changing your mind will jeopardise the relationship between the journalist and your brand. We have Whatsapp groups with our clients. Should something need a really urgent response this is our preferred way to organise interviews.
Collaborate on Storytelling
Collaborate with your PR agency to craft compelling stories that connect with your audience. Share anecdotes, customer testimonials, and personal experiences that can be used to shape meaningful and relatable narratives.
Importance of data
We often ask clients for access to their systems, such as Google Analytics, or their CRM. We ask this because it often uncovers really great stories. In the case of Direct Ferries, we were able to jump onto a growing trend for no-fly travel using their enquiry data as the news hook. You can read the full case study here. We also ask for access to Google Analytics, as it helps us create targeted media lists, based on data, not guesswork. This proves you with a accurate benchmark against your competition when we begin working together.
Don’t disappear into the Bermuda triangle of communication during high season
Don’t go quiet on us and drop off the radar throughout the summer. When it hits peak season, we know you’re busy, but it’s also when press in the UK are most busy with rounding up destinations for summer or visiting destinations themselves which means we can more easily, conveniently and cost effectively organise press visits. This works especially well if you are able to offer family trips (don’t worry – the flight or train tickets for the family should always be paid for by the journalist themselves. You only pay for the journalist flights/train).
Share bad news with us – it can help avoid a PR disaster
Share bad news with us and what keeps you up at night – it might just help avoid a PR disaster. A client – who shall remain nameless – didn’t tell us about an employee tribunal that was underway. We only found out when the employee decided to go to the media, by which time it was too late to avoid negative coverage. Had we known about the tribunal beforehand we could have helped avoid a PR crisis. It would have given us valuable time to discuss a response and prepare a press release -especially since the judge ruled against the employee and in favour of the travel brand in the end. Please note this is not the same as glossing over bad news - if you have made a mistake you must own up to it and improve. But in this instance, where the client was clearly in the right, we could have helped turn things around.
Cultivate a relationship built on transparency and trust with your PR agency. Share both the positives and challenges your company faces. Honest communication allows your PR team to understand your brand's strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to craft messaging that aligns with your values and resonates with your target audience.
Don't be afraid to ask questions – curious minds go further
PR agencies are full of experienced PR Pros who have worked across multiple clients, everyday, often for a number of years, so their knowledge should be what you value the most. Often they can take it for granted, so don't be afraid to ask them questions on weekly calls, or even ask them for a training session on any topics you think you/your team would benefit from. No question is ever too basic!
Take on board our recommendations
Lack of high-res quality imagery is a PR agency’s nightmare, and something that so many clients don’t seem to understand the importance of. If your imagery isn’t strong, you can be pulled from a piece. You’re also infinite times more likely to be featured if your imagery is great. Help us to help you!
Make the most of us!
Forward us everything and anything. Don’t hold back. Things you might think are insignificant or uninteresting because they are ‘everyday’ to you could be front page news for the press.
And there you have it, dear readers – your guide to making the most of your PR agency.
So if you are looking for a travel PR and social media agency you can make the most of – give us a call on 01865 237 990 or email firstname.lastname@example.org