Hurricane Sandy’s Effects on Travel

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Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects are being revealed daily, while the long-lasting repercussions of the storm will exist for years to come.

As a PR travel professional I am reviewing and revising my PR plans for the immediate future and into the New Year. Why? Many of my clients are dependent on the mid-Atlantic coast to supply travelers to their destinations. Since much of the mid-Atlantic coast was hit by the hurricane, many will be spending their discretionary savings on home repairs and other essentials, which leads me to believe that travel plans will be negated.

Now what?

PR and social media are immediate marketing tools that destinations, resorts, and attractions can utilize to reach alternative target markets. In example, news releases can be targeted to international travelers or pitched within the US to mid-west travelers or travelers in the southeast. This is a great time to showcase your destination’s and/or property’s unique amenities. Do keep in mind when creating packages that they need to be relevant so do your homework: make it newsworthy and enticing. Social media is another great way to target new guests. You can immediately generate a Facebook promotion utilizing a discount. It could be a resort credit, savings on spa treatment or a buy-one- get-one free deal. Of course, you will want to utilize some type of Facebook advertising to support the promotion and reach into these new target markets to help spread the word. Pinterest is another powerful avenue to explore and of course Twitter is timely as you can immediately start to target journalist and influencers to tweet and build followers.

Low costs, and immediacy are just a few reasons why these mediums are powerful marketing tools. Let me know what you’ve tried and how it worked. Or if you have any questions I’m happy to assist.

Hurricane Sandy will most likely be the storm of the century, but with any natural disaster the power of travel will prevail. To all that were in the path of Hurricane Sandy my thoughts are with you.

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Five Good Reasons Brand Evangelism Is Right For Social Media

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Everyone is trying to define social media’s ROI. Each marketing tool offers a unique ROI and social media is no exception. Advertising as you know is a direct, one-way sales message, while traditional PR often leverages perception building via an informative and educational-sharing platform.

Today, PR professionals are turning to social media in droves to generate a deeper, more meaningful relationship between brands and their constituents. The best way to build relationships is to develop brand evangelists. Why are brand evangelists important? Here are a few good reasons:

  1. Brand evangelists tout positive messages about your brand
  2. Brand evangelists are a great resource to bounce new product ideas or services off of as they are truthful and loyal
  3. Brand evangelists often alert you to a competitive threat
  4. Brand evangelists share news with friends and family
  5. Brand evangelists willingly share personal recommendations

Donna Karan, a luxury fashion brand happens to agree with this philosophy stating brand evangelism trumps ROI. Her social media channels are a testament to the success of this philosophy with more than 420,103 Twitter followers, and 15,125 Likes on Facebook and a wonderful portfolio on Tumblr.

Remember it’s not about how many people follow and Like, it’s about the engagement and DKNY apparently has found a way to generate valuable content that generates brand evangelism that surpasses traditional ROI.

Defining ROI within social media is nearly impossible and defining brand evangelists, while not easy, can be done through monitoring, tone and engagement levels.

Maybe it’s time to rethink “the social” in social media and find a way to turn fans, and followers into brand evangelist’s instead of just another click, tweet or comment.

The Quebec Aquarium’s anti-tourism campaign

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I read in disbelief how two gorgeous Harp Seals will be put to death at the end of tourism season on Saturday, September 15th at The Quebec Aquarium. The Quebec Aquarium will execute these innocent creatures in the name of research. Really! Flimsy excuse for murder, wouldn’t you say?

The fisheries and wildlife team went in and captured these friendly pups and took them back to the Aquarium where, as you will see in the video, people don’t even give these gorgeous creatures a second glance.

This is anti-tourism, and travelers from across the land should boycott the Quebec Aquarium for this cruel and unjust behavior. Please help me and sign this petition today! Click here to sign the petition: http://bit.ly/Sdul6J

Thank you!

Advice from the package queen!

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Some call me the ‘package queen’. I’m grateful for the title, but more importantly, it’s a strategic move in my PR arsenal. First and foremost good PR pro’s, especially in lifestyle and travel, should always be looking to develop targeted news packages. How else can a resort, attraction or theme park showcase their unique brand attributes and gain media attention? According to socialmediatoday.com; “75% of consumers say they ‘sometimes,’ ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ visit a corporate news website or online newsroom when using social media.” Newsrooms today are not just for journalists. Consumers now look to newsrooms to gain the latest news. Additionally, posting releases in newsrooms assist with SEO, a huge factor in today’s digital world.

In anticipation of the 2012 summer Olympics, I had advised a client to pursue an engaging, fun and photo driven campaign. The resort is family-friendly so I suggested a “wacky Olympics” PR package. The resort boasts a wide-variety of activities so we put our heads together and created a fun, wacky package the entire family could enjoy. Not only did the package gain media attention, the proactive approach allowed the reservations staff to sell this package at a higher rate than their traditional summer package. It also assisted the reservations staff in selling against their competitors as the offer was unique.

Press releases give properties with active social media channels, the opportunity to be social. The wacky package was posted on the resort’s blog and on Twitter, and it was presented on Facebook in a more conversational way. Pictures were uploaded and conversations started about the many wacky Olympic-styled activities. Engagement was robust during the summer Olympic time period; 1,589 stories were generated from the Facebook page, while 3,200 people where talking about the Page posts.

I do relish the title of package queen, but I don’t take it lightly. All vacation packages can and should be used to leverage marketing goals. I’m not talking about multi-page, fluffy, press releases. I’m talking about newsworthy, marketing-oriented releases that have value not only for the media but for consumers as well. Oh, and please don’t just post the press releases across all social channels without regard to engagement, news or reader value.

Time to go create a package!

Sell Luxury via Personal Brand Stories

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Louis Vuitton is using personal brand stories to showcase it’s iconic monogram series.  This new campaign uses renowned celebrities such as Catherine Deneuve, Marc Jacobs, Cate Blanchette and others who share personal stories of how they discovered; or what monogram series means to them.

The campaign touts the high recognition of the monogram series, its value as a product, its history, and how the series associates its user with extraordinary luxury.  The campaign is even more effective as its peppered with personal stories that reach into consumers’ personal lives.  We can all relate to a cherished item that has been passed down from generation to generation. The same sentiment applies to how one discovers a product, a new food or great wine; these stories of discovery are personal and emotionally connective. From a wallet to a piece of luggage, the item you purchase is not as important as the association with the brand. You’ve landed in the luxury strata coveted by many; how will you share your story?

Of course, I love this campaign, as it’s exactly the strategy I recommend to all of my clients.  My mantra stories sell, period!

Hope you enjoy this campaign as much as I am and do share what stories you use to sell your brand.

Luxury Branding on Social Media

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In today’s day and age of instant gratification and social media as an expected extension of a brand, how do luxury resorts and hotels compete in a global marketplace? An interesting article appeared on Luxury Daily that addresses this issue. The article was insightful, compelling and in my humble opinion, spot on.

As a PR professional who has, and does, represent luxury clients in the lifestyle tour and travel industry, the issue of social media and its intervention with luxury branding has arisen quite often.

Oftentimes, luxury travel clients resist having a presence on social media. Their thought process usually flows as such, “affluent consumers or aspirational clients aren’t online and don’t pay attention to social media.” Well I beg to differ, and it appears that other industry experts noted in the Luxury Daily article agree.

Luxury travel brands need to have a consistent image. This should start with the online experience be it a website, blog, Facebook, Tumblr, and/or Pinterest and move to the buying experience and beyond. Luxury consumers today are very aware, as the vast majority associate their own personal brand with what they wear, what they drive, where they travel and so on. With that said, if the social media channels don’t support the brand culture, many high-end travelers will look for a brand that does.

The article goes on to discuss how luxury brands can “humanize” their image via social media, which builds on my theory of story sharing. Affluent consumers want to share brand stories, which resonate with their own personal beliefs, values and lifestyles. Stories are the perfect way for the über wealthy to share their affection, endorse the brands they love and make recommendations.

Have you incorporated story sharing?  If not, you may want to consider a story sharing strategy, which allows you to connect emotionally and illustrates true-to-life experiences. This will certainly set your brand apart from your competitors.

So what’s your story?  Please share, as I’d love to hear yours.

Storytelling in a social world

As all of you know, storytelling is my claim to fame. For years now I’ve been sharing client’s stories via press trips, press releases, fact sheets and more. Today is an exciting time to be in PR as storytelling has grown exponentially. Now, I can easily share via social networks and not just one story, but many, that make-up the brand collective. Below are a few tips I’ve learned about storytelling.

1. Storytelling draws people in

Just a few years ago I would have to push out client stories to writers in hopes they would share them. Very often they did, but they would put their own spin on them, so the brand story was not truly authentic.  Another aspect of traditional PR is consumers have to find these stories in magazines, newspapers, etc., and if they didn’t subscribe or read the daily that day, the story would be missed. (That’s why I’m a stickler for a targeted PR approach as you reach them eventually.)

In today’s social world, the PR universe has shifted significantly. I can blog, tweet, Facebook and more all the while sharing a narrative in the convenience of a client brand space. Now when visitors come to a client site: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blog, or Tumblr, they can read as much or as little all in one linked space. This is why posting original, branded content is critical. Nobody wants to jump from social channel to social channel only to find the same information. Why bother? If they do, I guarantee they won’t be coming back for long as the information is not engaging or interesting. Put yourself in your fans shoes and socialize from that vantage point.

2. Storytelling can be entertaining and fun – it should never be one-way sales messaging.

Brands that share entertaining and fun stories get so much more traction on their Facebook pages, Twitter streams, blog posts and more.  A great example is The Outer Banks, North Carolina. They share quick interesting facts via Facebook, yet they rarely sell.  They leave that to their fans, which ultimately creates powerful third party credibility. Oreo is another brand that is out to have a blast on their Facebook page, and they too are relevant and engaging, which naturally draws you in!

3. Storytelling should draw from both emotions and characters

Truly great storytelling touches us emotionally, but as you know, all stories have main characters that resonate and connect. A great example of this is NASA’s new mohawk nerd, Bobak Ferdowsi. He is a Twitter sensation. His story is fun and entertaining and embraced by his co-workers who vote on his hairstyle for each mission. It appears that 30,000 followers on Twitter also agree with the stars and stripes mohawk. Employees provide a treasure trove of captivating stories. Why not share employee stories about awards, unique hobbies or community involvement, pet stories and more? Brands can also share what’s happening externally as well. You may want to highlight a unique class, event, and/or a special promotional opportunity. So many stories to share, but be mindful the stories need to resonate with your target market.

What’s your brand story? How are you sharing it with your fans and followers? If you do consider brand story sharing, do it strategically to ensure it impacts your brand communications. Don’t do it simply because it is “trendy.” Do it because you truly want to listen and you are willing to be generous, authentic and collectively creative. Most importantly, be willing to give up a bit of control. If you do you will find great success now and in the future.

Hope you learned a thing or two, and please don’t hesitate to share your favorite brand story.

Unique Lobby Spaces – Invite Sales

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A trend in hotels’ unique lobby spaces, has been on the forefront for a few years and continues to grow.  Gaylord Palms was a true originator of this trend.  The Orlando Gaylord is themed to represent unique areas around the state complete with live gators. Their guests love it and it showcases The Gaylord’s brand culture perfectly.

A recent post by Bloomberg Businessweek offered an interesting article on the topic. The article reports that hotels are offering doctors offices, yoga studios, art galleries and more. Of course, money is a motivating factor behind these distinct spaces.

While I love the idea, I am wondering if hoteliers are considering the “story value” of these unique services, or are they rushing in to make a quick buck? How does the brand story convey in each of these amenities? How will their guests interact with the venue? If a hotel wants to take advantage of this trend, they need to look closely at their customer base and find unique amenities that cater to their specific guest preferences. These spaces should definitely match the brand culture of the property and yes, make money in the process.

Lobby spaces offer hoteliers opportunities to build relationships with their guests. It also allows for fun and creative posts via the social media universe: a cool photo on Pinterest or Instagram, a tweet on Twitter or an interactive post on Facebook. It may even lend itself to a blog post if the subject matter requires further details such as a class, seminar, event, etc.

Distinctive Lobby spaces are also a great way to learn more about guests. GM’s or management personnel who mingle amongst guests can casually ask critical questions that can help them improve guest relations, culinary offerings, in-room services and more.

What kind of cool lobby concepts have you experienced? Please share your top picks.

 

Katie Holmes PR Coup

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As a veteran PR professional it takes a lot to wow me. Katie Holmes and her publicist are quite the storytellers, and have launched a very impressive and effective PR campaign. They’ve orchestrated a perfectly choreographed story positioning Katie Holmes as a loving doting mother who will, and did, go to great lengths to keep her daughter happy, regardless of her personal life.

But the story didn’t start with her numerous outings in New York City.  It started many months or even years ago.  This is easily assumed as a cover of a magazine takes time to secure yet low-and-behold Katie Holmes is looking gorgeous on the July issue of Elle Magazine. The interview is lengthy and very telling. The headline on the magazine cover reads, “Katie Holmes Unleashes Her New Sexy Side.” The narrative is perfect. Her publicist paints Holmes as a star with a new leash on life. Holmes delivers a five-star quote stating, “Now I’m starting to come into my own. It’s like a new phase.”  Indeed it is. A prelude of what was to come for sure.  Regardless, she is a dramatic actress who has already proved her ability and Holmes even admits she is a late bloomer.  Don’t be surprised if we see a sudden “Holmes” Hollywood groundswell.

Let’s not forget her successful label The Holmes & Yang line with forever friend Jeanne Yang. The line is already on a path to succeed and it will only grow more, as Holmes starts her new single life, and impresses upon single women everywhere that casual, unpretentious elegance is unabashedly cool.  Of course, the boutique location in the trendy Chelsea Market only helps sell the brand.

I can’t wait to see how the story unfolds but I do know we’ve not read the last chapter!

Solo Travel – It’s a Good Thing!

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Solo Travel, is a good thing, and it appears to be a trend that is here to stay. The latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker reports, “More will pack for one this year, with 16% of travelers planning to hit the road and skies alone, up from 12% in 2011.”

Long gone are the days when women, or men for that matter, are ashamed to travel solo. Today’s solo travelers are empowered, seeking new experiences, cultural activities, culinary opportunities and are looking to meet new friends and try new things sans the shackles of a partner, girlfriend, family member etc.  If you think about it, solo travel is more freeing.  Eat when you want, shop the day away, spend the day in an art gallery, lounge by the pool or go full throttle for a high-adventure escape.

CNN penned a great article on the subject, Five joys of traveling solo. Why not share your joys for solo travel? Ok, I’ll start – not being on someone else’s schedule, and now it’s your turn.  Share your reasons on why you travel solo or why you would like to travel solo.  I’m sure a variety of different reasons will support why this trend is here to stay!