Why your company needs a strong PR strategy in the pandemic
The hospitality industry is already highly competitive, and the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the market to a level never before seen or expected. Not only do companies in the hotel, entertainment, and restaurant industry face stiff competition from one another, but the heightened need for safety and hygiene has increased the need for a finely-tuned public relations (PR) strategy.
While much has been written about the novel coronavirus and its effects on the broader economic landscape, little has been developed to help hospitality companies navigate the minefield that is doing business in today’s difficult market and climate.
Many companies and organizations, lacking a clear and concise PR strategy for handling the various facets of doing business in a global pandemic, have stumbled over themselves in an attempt to keep up with the various elements of a situation that is ever-evolving. The result? A patchwork plan and policy that leaves companies creating a worse PR nightmare than they began with – leading to losing customers and devastating their financial situation.
Rather than developing situation-by-situation PR strategies, the best offense is a great defense. Perhaps its time to return to the basics of putting together a successful PR strategy, regardless of the industry you and your team are operating in.
Developing A Pandemic-Proof PR Strategy
Rather than leaving your team guessing as to what to do in each unique situation, a true PR strategy is built upon foundational principles that allow for both flexibility and adaptability. With a strong PR strategy, everyone involved in the organization knows how to react to a situation, regardless of the specifics.
The Best Policies Begin With Planning
Before setting out to implement a PR strategy, it is vital to begin with proper planning. When you sit down for yearly planning and preparation meetings, ensure that a PR professional or plan has a seat at the table. With a full-year calendar in front of you and your team, you can see when and where PR wins can be worked into your industry’s major events.
Get an eye on the seasonal nature of the hospitality industry, and see where resources can be focused on building your PR presence, as well as any easy wins that can be captured in the calendar. As always, ensure that you have a consistent flow of content rolling in and through various media outlets and publications that feature your company.
Build Your Media Presence & Reputation
How friendly is your company with the media?
Do you know how the public perceives you through your media presence?
When it comes to your PR strategy, the media is one of your greatest allies and worst enemies – depending on how you engage with both the various media streams and the public. Go on the offensive with your media presence, and ensure that your team has the right contacts in the right media outlets to ensure that your company drives the narrative – and not the other way around. Building ongoing relationships with media companies – both digital and print – can help you stay on the good side of a media that is always looking for a bleeding headline.
Know Your Budget
When it comes to PR, many companies simply budget their marketing, advertising, and PR money together in a single pool. However, advertising is a hungry monster, and public relations will often receive leftovers in most hospitality operational budgets.
Plan ahead for your PR budget to include time and resources toward the development of media-specific press releases, media engagement, and content outside simply advertising and marketing. There are many areas of public relations that may appear to be anything but advertising, but with the right coverage, can provide far greater organic promotion than paid advertising!
Hire An All-Start Team
A final step in your PR strategy process is to consider hiring a PR professional or contractor to help you develop and implement public relations. This means far more than simply hiring a great advertiser. Those professionals who thrive in public relations have the ability to handle the necessary elements of marketing with an eye on media relations and brand management.
Many PR professionals will have experience working in journalism or broadcast media, as knowing and living in the media world gives them an insight into how a company can put their best foot forward in all seasons. When you go to hire an individual or team for your hospitality company, hire for experience as well as company fit.
A Study In Pandemic PR – Alaska Airlines
For an example of a hospitality and tourism company that is handling their public relations in the COVID-19 pandemic with success, look no further than Alaska Airlines. As part of its efforts to serve those serving in the healthcare field, Alaska Airlines has undertaken a massive effort that may surprise you during this economic period – free flights.
From the Alaska Airlines website:
We’re beyond grateful for medical workers everywhere who are going the extra mile to keep people safe and healthy. In appreciation of their heroic efforts, we’re giving each medical worker flying on us to provide coronavirus support a roundtrip ticket for some much-needed R&R in the future.
The pandemic has been devastating for airlines, and a company such as Alaska Airlines could focus their resources on many other aspects of keeping their operations moving forward as bookings plummet. However, Alaska Airlines is taking advantage of its PR strategy and responding quickly with an eye on the public’s favorite heroes of the pandemic – healthcare workers and frontline employees.
The airline’s PR strategy is paying off as their teams work hard to ensure that healthcare workers have access to travel to virus hotspots that need frontline help but that they are able to look forward to a free round-trip vacation when the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Instead of focusing on protecting themselves, they are protecting others – taking advantage of a public sentiment that is eager to help one another in a difficult time.
Alaska Airlines shows a prime example of a forward-thinking company that is capitalizing on a situation with a PR strategy that is already in place – and it shows. When travel resumes at a safe rate and travelers begin to think of which company to fly with, they will undoubtedly remember Alaska Airline’s care for others.