Travel and tourism is consists in selling services, and services are hard to manage. That’s why PR and Promotions are widely used here. In this assignment I will look at real importance of PR and its role for Travel and Tourism industry. I will try to determine criteria for evaluation of PR effectiveness, skills a PR specialist need and types of media available for PR specialists. In last practical part of the assignment I will try to create a PR plan for a luxury hotel and will look at criteria for evaluation of a PR plan.
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Task 1. Evaluate the importance of PR in Travel and Tourism sector.
1.1 Role of PR as a promotional tool.
There are many definitions of PR, such as “the process of creating positive image in third party’s minds” or “practice of managing information flow between an organization and the public”. All these definitions have a common point: PR is used to shape the favorable image of a product, organization, and individual; to help a business to meet its objectives effectively, efficiently and successfully.
The target of PR is Image (positive in most cases, sometimes negative) and the tool used to achieve it is called “publicity”. Publicity can be positive or negative, and not always can be controlled by the organization. Natural disasters are not controllable by companies managing travel resorts, these disasters however will bring lots of attention of media and damage profits. Scandals and bad rumors about a celebrity person – “face” of a company cannot always be controlled. Some people say that there is no such thing as bad publicity – any publicity is good. This statement is arguable, as bad publicity may create bad image of the business.
PR is closely related to marketing activities of the organization, the targets and objectives of both departments are interrelated and often very much dependent on results of each other. The objectives of marketing are to introduce product to a customer in the right place at the right time, “sell” the product on the market. PR helps to achieve these objectives by making public (market) aware of company and its products, creating good image of the company.
PR is part of Promotional mix (Advertising, PR, sales promotions and direct selling). PR is closely related to advertising, helps to make people aware of a product/business, getting attention of various public and making sales and profit. Various public includes customers, shareholders, community, general public (potential customers), money lenders… However PR and advertisement are different, advertising are controllable, costs more, less credible and PR means less control, lower costs, more credibility.
Different uses of PR include press relations, product publicity, corporate communication, sponsorships, influencing specific groups (community). They all work in different way, but all have the aim of building a good reputation, attracting attention, creating good image of a product or a company inside (corporate communication) and outside the company. Important use of PR is defending product reputation through large amount of positive publicity, covering negative image and scandals related to a product/company.
1.2 Importance of PR in travel and tourism.
PR is important promotional tool for Travel and Tourism. It has multiple purposes, such as promoting an event or destination, building reputation of a company as “green” and responsible citizen, detracting attention of public from negative events (accidents, natural disasters).
Let’s look closer to different uses of PR in Travel and Tourism industry
Promotional tool. PR is used alone or with other elements of promotional mix. The aim of promotion is create positive impact on public. An organization may wish to promote new activity, change in objectives, change in management, etc. PR is very important here, as promotion will be going through press releases, press conferences, sponsorships and prizes in competitions, invitation of journalists to try new activities (hotel, attraction, flight) for free.
Communicational tool. Internal and external communication is very important areas of business existence and PR is widely used in both of them. Internal communication means communication with company’s employees. Is often underestimated, which may result in bad morale and affect quality of products and especially services of the company. Service part is very important for tourism industry, as most of the products here are paired with services. External communication means keeping external parties (customers, shareholders, etc.) informed about changes in business. Is usually done through media releases, conferences with invitation of important guests (where the news are communicated face-to-face).
Creating awareness. Awareness means attention and credit from public (customers, investors, money lenders), is important for any business. Awareness may be general, created through advertisement, supporting local charities; orientated to special person/organization as business plan presented to money lenders (bank); a simple note about changes in opening hours in the shop window. Awareness is important part of PR activities as it gets attention from existing and new stakeholders and creates base for building relationship. New hotel or travel resort opening will be served will waste publicity to bring public attention and create awareness.
Building credibility. Credibility means successful operation of business. PR is important here as simple advertising will not have the same effect as well done press release (people tend to pay better attention an article than to “annoying” adverts). Advertising is done and hidden in journalist review of restaurant or attraction, special press release about Eco project. The key of success here is first-hand experience, Tourism industry sells experience mostly. Sky resort will prefer article in national newspaper written as third party experience to simple advert.
Crisis management. Managing negative publicity is another important task of PR. Bad things happen and cannot always be controlled. Negative rumors can ruin tourism business, as customer experience and good reputation are vital part of tourism services. Overcoming negative consequences and covering them with positive publicity (press releases, official apologies, consequences management plan) is part of PR. After consequences of tsunami 2011 in Japan were liquidated national tour operators invited travel agents and journalists from around the world to visit Japan, to raise the credit and attention of the public again and bring sales to devastated national tourism.
Sponsorship of an event, competition, charity is an effective way of gaining and maintaining good reputation. It has other benefits: is a way to work together with other organizations, establish relationship for mutual benefits, please important stakeholders by presenting them VIP passes to events (such as free VIP Olympic Games passes were presented to travel agencies staff by Games sponsors).
Task 2 Evaluate the effectiveness of PR in Travel and Tourism business and skills necessary for effective PR.
2.1 Determine the range of PR and promotional skills.
Successful PR activity requires certain skills from people engaged in it. In PR quality of information is more important that its quantity, quality PR is the key to success for a Tourism business. Let’s look closer at important for PR person skills:
Recognizing good opportunities quickly. Opportunity is a window to success. The crucial point here is to see good, creative, profitable opportunity and maximize it, use it before competitors do it. This skill forms with education and experience; studying, practicing and constantly refining experience is the way to maximize the PR potential.
Find information which is really interesting for a presenter (press, media). Not all the information is of value for the media, press is only interested in colorful, well written and “hot” stories. Recognizing the value of potential story quickly and presenting it to the media in the right way is valuable knowledge for a PR person. The ability to choose the right media and offer information to necessary people is very much also important.
Ability to present information well (in internal and external publications). Is basic PR skill, requires ability to write grammatically correct, present information in interesting and creative way (style, layout, language, use graphic components as tables and images). Creativity is an important here. Communicational materials (brochures, newsletters, magazines, reports) are of huge use in any business, helping to research and influence the market (promote, draw attention, build image).
Ability to draw attention of right people to organization’ activity. The Importance of PR events cannot be underestimated. Press conferences, functions, opening parties, exhibitions help to bring attention of important people, to establish relationships, get positive feedback in the media. Presence of important people at an event (such as potential investors or journalists) is crucial here.
Ability to build customer relations. This is interpersonal skill and partially formed with experience. However, the base of relationship is natural, personal ability to listen, communicate well and gain empathy of strangers. The ability to find what customers want and need is crucial to building positive customer relations and bringing public attention.
2.2 Effective use of PR in Travel and Tourism.
Case study: budget accommodation (youth hostel) in central London
As we already know PR is crucial for setting and enhancing image of the company. The use of PR may be positive (new product launch) or negative (crisis management).
Let’s look closer at the case study. Piccadilly Hostel is large youth hostel in Central London. It has 7 floors, 300 bedrooms (dormitories of 4, 6, 8 and 10 people and private rooms), able to accommodate 700 guests at a time. The hostel is the only business of Piccadilly Hotel Ltd.
Marketing function here starts with 4P marketing mix (product, price, promotion and place). Product is quality accommodation in central London, closed to underground station and main tourist attractions. The hostel sets budget price, orientated on youth travellers and people who is simply travelling on a budget, people from all around the world. Promotions – hostel is reaching its customers via online advertisement, direct e-mails, social media (Facebook, Twitter), working with international travel agencies and posting on comparison websites such as Trip Advisor. Place – the hostel sells most of its beds online, directly on the website or through travel agents.
Promotional approaches used are:
Sales promotions, direct marketing .The hostel sets price offers in off-peak periods, e-mails vouchers and money off coupons to its former customers, sets price offers for big groups of people and customers who stays for long time.
Educational visits. Hostel works closely with various travel agencies and investors groups. The representatives are often invited for short educational tour (observe the hotel facilities) and to try the hotel facilities (stay in the hotel).
Advertisement and articles online and in social media. The hostel regularly advertises online, places articles on international travel websites around the world (TripAdvisor, Expedia). Hostel has official accounts on Facebook and Twitter, using them to communicate to fellow customers and post latest price offers and news.
Street advertising. Piccadilly Hostel places advertisement on a huge electronic billboard next to closest underground station, where it can be seen by many tourists every day.
By combining different means of PR and advertising Piccadilly Hostel gets attention of public around the world and acts as successful business with huge customer base, represents interest for potential partners and investors.
Task 3 Understand the use of media in PR applied to Travel and Tourism.
3.1 Types of media used by PR.
The term Media relates to print, broadcasting media, electronic and on-line media (relatively new and becoming increasingly popular), face-to-face contact.
Printed media. Newspapers, magazines, journals and directories and catalogues always played huge role in advertising and PR activities of Tourism industry. Press releases covering new hotel or attraction, brochures about a company’s services (hotel, flight, and travel agency), articles in newspapers and magazines, printed directories for travellers with contact information of attractions and venues have always been of large use in Tourism. Printed press can cover large amount of customers at a time at relatively low cost, it can be addressed to a specific group of customers (business magazines, free newspapers read by large group of potential travellers, etc.). Is mobile, gives opportunity to calculate readers response by special coupons, has additional credibility factor (advertisement in form of news or review article). Press presents experience in interesting, colorful way. Is important for Travel and Tourism industry which relies on selling mostly experience.
Broadcasting is often referred to radio and television, although cinema, theatre and relatively new electronic and social media form part of broadcasting media. Each media has own advantages and disadvantages, that’s why broadcasting media often used in complex.
a) Television has always been widely used in PR for promoting products and services (especially by FMCG companies). It can cover large amount of customers in real time, can be zoned (divided by regions, different PR can be used in different areas), is interactive (provides opportunity for real time responses – and sales), is popular, can be viewed at customer’s home in comfort.
b) Radio is owned and listened by large amount of people, is very mobile (doesn’t require a special set, can be listened on the go via mobile phone), real time and up to date, broadcasts 24/7. Although radio has disadvantages – no picture can be transmitted, which is not good for advertisement of a travel destination.
c) Cinema and theatre are important media for Travel advertisement, as customers can be shown a colorful advertisement (restaurant, tourist destination). People cannot skip a cinema ad, and tend to be loyal and less annoyed by advertising as they came to the cinema/theatre to enjoy.
Electronic media appeared not long ago, but getting increasingly popular, especially in youth auditory; with advantages as low cost, popularity, coverage of different audiences, real time operation. Websites, social media, direct e-mails provide good mean of communication, PR, sales. Sales and reviews of new product (new flight, attraction) can be done through own website for free or through partners website for a fee (travel agency). Online accounts on social media (Facebook) give opportunity for live updates and real time customer communication at low cost. Review websites as Trip Advisor provide free, real time and credible reviews of tourism business. The popularity of electronic media is rising with growing use of computers and Internet, low cost mobile Broadband and free Wi-Fi hotspots. However, the disadvantage here may be the need of special equipment (computer, tablet, smartphone) and special skills to use it.
Sponsorship is a mean of attracting attention to company’s services, creating favorable image in the community (customers), widely used in Tourism business. Travel channels, competition sponsorships, celebrities using services of a company, tourist services featured in movies (resort, flight) are good means of PR. Often public doesn’t notice the PR part in it, such as movie featuring a resort or celebrity choice of flight/hotel. Sponsorships however are expensive (although very effective) means of PR.
3.2 Uses of PR in Travel and tourism business.
Different types of media have different advantages and disadvantages. The choice of appropriate medium means careful work and depends on nature of event or product promoted. The PR person can choose from editorials (printed media), press conferences, product presentation events, educational visits.
Editorials are presented in form of news article, although have indirect function of advertising. Paid as advertisement by a company but controlled by editorial media staff. Editorials are liked by Tourism businesses because of credibility factor and presentation in form of first hand (journalists) experience. Editorial doesn’t look like advertisement (getting more attention of public) but acts in advertising way (attracting attention, creating good image). Examples are promotional articles about hotels, flights, resorts in newspapers and magazines.
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Press conferences are used to make a special announcement, demonstrate new product. They are attended by journalists from different media (press, broadcasting, electronic) and used for spreading message across different media simultaneously, in real time. Press conferences have benefits of being personalized, real time events (opportunity of asking questions, establish important contacts). The disadvantage here is the possibility of difficult questions (which need to be answered) and not knowing how many guests will exactly turn up. Press conference is ideal mean of crisis management (such as accidents and natural disasters handling which unfortunately are common for Tourism industry).
Product launch is a big and less formal occasion, usually is opening party. Is aimed to bring attention and get reaction in media. It can be a cocktail reception, dinner, seminar, with invitation of journalists, celebrities, partners, potential investors, senior members of community. The presence of TV at the event is welcomed as live translation is good for the host company. New resort openings, new jet demonstrations, festive parties organized by large companies (with invitation of journalists and celebrities) are common for Travel and Tourism.
Educational visits are popular in Tourism business. Visits involve inviting journalists; travel agencies/partners staff to experience the product (new hotel, resort) in first hand. They are aimed to bring popularity, increase sales, show product to partners (sellers). It’s often followed by advertisement-article describing (usually in good way) the experience. These visits are also used as educational aim for travel agency staff (helps to know better he product they sell).
Sales promotion is separate part of promotional mix, however, very closely related to PR and often used as PR tool. Is short-term price incentive to boost sales, making money is main target here. Usually used in off-peak periods, can be used all around the year. Vouchers, discounts, money off coupons, loyalty cards are part of sales promotions. Most air carriers have loyalty programs, giving discounts and presents for frequent customers.
Task 4 Create PR plan in Travel and Tourism context.
4.1 Create and explain PR plan using Jeffkins model.
Francis Jeffkins created 6 points PR planning model, arguing that planning can be done in 6 simple steps.
Effective PR doesn’t happen by accident, it needs to be carefully planned. As any plan, PR plan has objectives, strategies and actions. The objectives may change with time, PR planning is constant process and reflects any change in circumstances and always uses any free or low cost opportunity for publicity.
Most popular and widely accepted model is Jeffkins model consists in:
Situation Analysis (Research) analyzes current situation as SWOT, mission and values of organization, external factors as pressure groups activity and competition. PR plan should fit in overall marketing planning and never go against goals and mission of the company. PR plan research however needs additional research of target audience and its preferences, effective media, etc.
Establishing the Marketing Objectives part includes defining objectives (goals), strategies and tactics. Most popular objectives of PR plan are creating awareness (new product, new management, new charity program); build credibility (make people believe that the publicity is coming from third party and not a planned and paid effort of the company self); increase sales; build good image; defend declining image and lower promotional costs. Objectives are never static, they change together with circumstances.
Defining the Target Audience (Publics) is defining relevant audience and researching issues important for given audience. Building right message for the right public is crucial for success of PR plan. Important thing here is creating messages that don’t deny each other (for different groups interests) and carefully check that a message is not offensive for other, not target, audiences.
Media Selection. The media will bring the message to the target audience, choosing the right media means choosing best way to achieve the audience. Media available for PR specialists include printed press, TV and radio broadcasting, conferences and events (charity events, sponsorships, opening parties, press conferences), Internet (quite new but already very powerful mean of communication and PR).
Establishing a Budget. PR, as any other activity of organization should be cost effective and budget planning helps to find optimal cost-result way for PR. Some PR activities come for free (as word of mouth) but most are paid and sometimes quite expensive. The costs include salaries of PR staff, agents and media fees, costs of setting up events and sponsorships, etc. There are hidden costs that need to be counted for, as costs of free promotional items (food samples, hotel rooms) and revenue lost because these items were not sold (“opportunity cost”).
Implementation and Control. Implementation is about making PR plan work. Not all press releases or online articles will be published, grand openings and sponsorships need to be reflected about in media to get attention and make PR plan work. Making PR events interesting for media and establishing good relationship with media owners is crucial point of PR plan implementation. Control is an important point as it shows how effective PR plan was (by comparing forecasted results of PR activity with actual ones). The control points may be presented by sales, brand loyalty, market position, attention from the public, etc.
Practical task: PR plan for Opening of new branch of luxury hotel.
Hilton is international hotel chain providing luxury services for travellers. It plans to open new hotel in London, UK. PR specialists created plan to undermine the opening.
Situation analysis. London is huge city with developed network of accommodation for any pocket, including luxury services, the competition is great here. There are still areas in Central London with great potential where no luxury accommodation exists. Hilton is brand recognized worldwide with brilliant reputation. Corporation plans to build luxury accommodation and bring new life to the Central London area, with casino and bars, luxury shopping center, 5 star dining and strictly guarded hotel access to protect privacy of the guests.
Target audience includes celebrities, members of worldwide governments, wealthy businessmen, famous music and movie stars.
PR campaign will consist of:
Press conference before even starting the building works to draw attention of journalists worldwide.
Articles about Hilton Corporation featuring plans for new hotel in London in press around the world, TV broadcasting during music shows and concerts to draw attention of general public and make people talk about new hotel.
Constant updates in worldwide press and TV about how building, decorating, furnishing works are going to keep the public interested, TV program featuring new hotel when is ready to open.
Inviting worldwide famous chefs, barmen to work for new hotel venues, featuring this on the TV worldwide.
Grand opening party with concert of the worldwide famous stars; journalists from around the world and other important guests, welcoming of the stars, journalists and guests to stay for free after party.
The media used are press, TV for their worldwide coverage and ability to reach target audience: celebrities and stars mostly. Internet will be used as secondary media, featuring new hotel in blogs and celebrity websites (is cheaper that TV)
The budget of this PR plan is huge, constant TV broadcasting; final opening party, famous chefs to work at Hilton and free night for the guests will cost fortune. The Hilton Corporation will make sure it has the money to cover building works and PR campaign.
4.2 Identify and explain ways to determine the effectiveness of PR plan.
PR is part of Promotional mix and comes in scope with other elements. That’s why checking the effectiveness of PR only as promotional tool may be difficult. The possible ways to see how effective PR is are:
Exposures in the media is attention from the public brought by PR. Ways to measure it are online and press comments, search engine ranks, positive discussions in the media, raise in public awareness. PR agencies supply clients with “clipping books” showing all exposure achieved in a time period (for example last month) in all the media (TV, radio, press, online). However, exposure may be hard to count (is impossible to know exactly how many people seen the TV ad) and quantity of exposure solely doesn’t show PR effectiveness (not all the exposure may come from target audience). For example, aircraft presentation will bring exposure from the public in form of online comments and discussions, video viewings online, TV and radio discussions not paid by the company owing the aircraft. All this exposure will be carefully checked and measured to see how effective the presentation was.
Awareness from the public is another way to measure PR effectiveness, is change in public attention due to PR event. Is measured in research, checking how well people witnessed PR event (presentation, opening, news) can recall this event. Awareness is effective way to check stand-alone PR activity. However is not so efficient when PR event went together with other promotions (sales promotion, advertising). If hotel opening event was supported by advertising is hard to tell which of these two brought more attention.
Attitude change is one of the key objectives of PR campaign and a way to measure its success. Any PR activity will result in attitude change which is monitored in researches. On-line panels, phone or personal interviews will show the shift in public attitude before and after PR event. Promotional campaign showing benefits of ecotourism by travel agency will raise the demand and positive attitude of public to ecotourism. Surveying the people after the campaign will show how effective it was. However, attitude shift may not only be the result of this given PR campaign (but other related news and articles, not related to given campaign). Popularity of ecotourism may be partially the result of government campaign or activity of “green” groups.
Media relations as way to measure success of PR plan are about level of cooperation with different media. Successful PR campaign will raise the attention of journalists and make them want to be part of the campaign now and in future. That’s why journalists, important people from the media and various celebrities are often invited grand hotel openings, new aircraft presentations, new tourist destination launches. The more famous guests are present, the better will be attention in the media.
Contribution to profits is most effective way to measure PR plan success. Raising sales and profits are best news for company directors. PR plan is part of overall company activity though and raising sales may not be the result of PR campaign only, is hard to determine exactly which percentage of sales was contributed by PR activity.
Any PR plan has own objectives, determining how effectively and efficiently these objectives achieved is the way to see effectiveness of a PR plan. PR plan, however forms part of overall business activity and promotional mix, is hard to measure effectiveness PR plan individually.
Importance of PR is hard to underestimate, it helps tourism businesses grow and expand, make profit in quickly changing circumstances. It is relatively new, but growing more popular area of science, with demand for good PR specialists. PR is about creating and managing the image of companies, products and whole industries and Travel industry is not an exception.
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