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Motel One

Multi-award-winning, international Digital PR campaign: Europe's most walkable cities.

"Together with Lemongrass we developed and improved our social media strategy on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Within only a few months Lemongrass helped us to build a presence on these social media channels not only in the UK but throughout all crucial markets. We are now feeding our fans and followers with daily content through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The extremely successful campaigns and the profound daily business helped us to win an important social media award, which was a proof for us that Lemongrass only delivers outstanding and high-quality service. Plus, it is always fun working with the whole Lemongrass team."

Motel One

You are a travel brand. You have customers from around the world. But unless you’re a very large travel brand you won’t have budgets to retain an agency in each and every market, so what can you do?

Munich-based budget hotel group, Motel One, prides itself on giving guests designer interiors – without the designer price tag.

The group has over 75 hotels spanning the European continent; from Berlin to Prague, Basel to Vienna, and multiple locations in the UK.

We worked with them for a decade and just completed an international digital PR campaign for them.

So even though they are a reasonably large hotel group, they don’t have agencies they retain in every market they operate in (and have guests from). Like most travel brands they have agencies in their core markets, in this case Germany, Austria and the UK.

The challenge

To secure international press coverage, high quality links and boost SEO - all whilst communicating their brand values of great design hotels in city centre locations at an affordable price.

The result

  • 79 pieces of coverage (and counting!)
  • 53 pieces of online coverage
  • 43 powerful backlinks for SEO (30% with a DA of 60 or higher)
  • 4 million reach
  • 2 million social reach

International coverage:

– United Kingdom
– Germany
– Canada
– Japan
– New Zealand
– Austria
– Greece
– UAE and beyond

The impact of our campaign has reached far beyond the European audience it was geared towards, finding footing intercontinentally in Asia, the Middle East and Australasia. It’s proof that a good idea can outrun its intended purpose and outperform expectations – and with the challenge set by Motel One, we needed a really good idea to hit our targets.


Travmedia Awards: Digital PR Campaign of the Year 2023 Finalist

PR Moment Awards 2023 Finalist

Econsultancy: Inclusion in their worldwide library of 2023 best travel marketing campaigns

The challenge

One of the most important KPIs was to get coverage internationally, but also to improve their search visibility and rankings internationally. So, we had to come up with a campaign that was highly relevant, but also highly adaptable to international European audiences, not just to UK audiences.

That wasn’t going to be easy. City travel had been slow to recover, but we knew it was going to return (actually, it’s only really now that we’re seeing a real increase in people wanting to explore cities again).

Nevertheless, Motel One had over 75 hotels to promote, in key city centre locations across Europe. They wanted to be known for city breaks in their city centre locations – which are often just a short walk away from attractions and transport stations.

So we played the long game – and designed our ideas around a PR idea that would be internationally successful, improve SEO in key regions, and get coverage in publications across Europe.

It’s safe to say, we delivered. And then some.

How we did it

The big challenge was making something that would appeal to enough journalists internationally, for them to cover as a story, and importantly, to link to.

But unlike an SEO, who just thinks about links, we also want to convey the story and the brand pillars. City centre locations. Design. Affordable.

Why were we after backlinks, exactly? Isn’t this an SEO’s job? And isn’t this meant to be a PR campaign?

Well, Google works in mysterious ways. But we know that it likes to show users web pages with more of the right kind of backlinks (and the best backlinks come from PR, provided your PR agency is clued up to how to curate a highly relevant, varied and high DA backlink profile). Backlinks are a mark of trust and credibility; because if people link to a resource often, it has to have good, useful, or unique information.

As a result, Google’s top-ranking results, for pages in highly competitive spaces, tend to have lots of links. But not just any old links: the links have to come from trustworthy sources themselves (read: newspapers such as The Times, magazines such as Geo Saison or Conde Nast Traveller, highly relevant websites to the niche your travel brand operates in, high DA sites).

We got to thinking… What if we could design something that was an index, or a head-to-head between European countries? Something tangible, and relevant to the Motel One group’s brand pillars of city centre locations. Something competitive, that would show a “best” country or city?

We threw around some ideas.

Best design hotels in Europe? It’s been done.

Tallest buildings? Wrong part of the world.

Top affordable hotels? Yawn…

The Google trends gave us the inspiration. Searches for walking routes in cities had shot up.

So what about:

Most walkable cities in Europe?


We knew Motel One was keen to promote their central locations, within walking distance of the major attractions in Europe’s most epic cities.

We had a winning idea, and a pretty decent hunch that press in each top-ranking city would be keen to cover it – but how were we going to do it? And how were we going to get covered with links?

Developing the idea

The secret to winning a link with digital PR is creating a unique asset: a resource that the covering journalist can just link to for full details. As long as it’s a credible resource, backed up with proof, it’s got a chance of winning links.

We landed on the idea of Europe’s Most Walkable Cities – a Digital PR campaign that would allow us to build up strong backlinks for the Motel One website, while highlighting the city break focus.

The idea was to do a top 20 or top 30 list of walkable cities, and see the walking time required to cover the top attractions in each one. And to make the resource as credible as possible, we began a painstaking research mission – basing everything on facts and available data.

Gathering the data

Well, you can’t just make up an “index of the most walkable cities”. For a journalist to cover the story we knew the campaign neededto be rooted in fact and evidence.

First, we had to look for Europe’s most popular city destinations.

To make our cities list, the Lemongrass team checked to see which destinations have the busiest airports, the most flights booked, and headed to Google Trends to see which locations showed rising demand.

Next, we needed to find the top attractions in each town and city. We headed to Google once more – and sought out results from Tripadvisor, Google Maps, as well as Trends.

We looked for at least five showstopping attractions in each location, and plotted them into a walking route on Google Maps. If any other major attractions fell within the route, these were added to the list as stops, too.

The final part of the data gathering process was to measure the distances between top attractions – which was a long (but ultimately highly rewarding) process.

We pulled all the data from Google Maps manually; total walking time, total walking distance, and total elevation. We used this tool to calculate steps from kilometres to get our final data point.

All of our data went into a spreadsheet, where we able to create a ranking table – and find our top most walkable cities in Europe!

We started with a longlist of around 30, which we finalised down to a top 20 after all our data collection had finished.

Gathering the assets

Working closely with Motel One’s design team, we created our primary linkable asset: the campaign landing page which ranks cities by walkability, links out to each walking route, and includes a data download for curious journalists who want to know more.

We wanted an end-to-end cycle for the campaign, and longevity for SEObeyond the PR push. We designed the content itself to bring people to the Motel One website when they were looking for walking guides, by developing rich image and text content for each of the cities. We took this further still, creating sales content for each destination featured in the campaign – contained within this page.

So as you can see there’s a ton of work that goes into the research part of an idea. But if you don’t put the time in here, you won’t see the results later (we’ve learnt the hard way, trust us). And if you put the time in….well, let’s take a look at the international results.

The results

Our expert pitching (and relevant asset) landed coverage in just about every country we included in the campaign: UK, Ireland, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, and many more.

The campaign then went viral and took on a life of its own: We got coverage in Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Dubai and beyond.

122.1 million total reach & 8.2 million social media users reached, and counting

Over the course of the eight week campaign the content has been covered 79 times in total, delivering 134 brand mentions and 53 online pieces. The campaign has reached 122.1 million online users through newswebsites, magazine websites, and blogs.

8.2 million social media users have been reached through post shares.

Currently, 43 out of the 53 websites that covered the story have linked back to Motel One and the asset we created for them. We hope to increase this with ongoing promotion and outreach, and have a further 26pending opportunities.

And just take a look at the quality of the links we’ve gained:

The Domain Authority Rank (also called DA, or DAR) is a metric that tells you how authoritative (or trustworthy) the websites linking back to you are.

A good backlink profile will have a mix of many kinds of websites – but the better the DA, the better the link. The better the link, the more trustworthy Google finds your content. And the more trusted your content is, the higher Google will want to rank it in search results.

As an indicator, any link with a DA between 60 and 80 is extremely powerful. Anything above DA80 is top tier, knock-your-sock-off stuff. 30% of the links our campaign has won are of sock-knocking-off potency.

The impact of these high powered, international links is an elevated search presence in the majority of Motel One’s key regions. When people around the world Google for “city centre budget hotels” their offering, they have a better chance of beating their competitors in non-paid results.

And, thanks to the forward-thinking way we developed sales content around the campaign, interested users can book a walking city break for themselves.
So what’s the conclusion?

Should you now give the boot to your international agencies and handle all of your PR out of the UK?

No, absolutely not. Pick your key source markets and retain local agencies in those markets if the budget allows. PR requires a deep understanding of local trends and cultural sensitivities. We are fortunate at Lemongrass to have team members who have worked in different European markets such as Spain, France and Germany. From experience we know that what works in one market may not fly in another.

However, Digital PR allows you to supplement local campaigns with overarching international campaigns. We can now design campaigns that work internationally, generate links internationally and thus boost links, coverage and search findability in markets where you can’t retain an agency.

So if ever you need a series of international campaigns to bolster your coverage and links in markets where you can’t afford to retain a year round PR agency you know who to call.