We are spiraling, trying to catch our breath. Just days ago, I gave advice to hotels on making the most of marketing to fight diminished demand, but with many hotels and resorts forced to suspend operations, that advice is already pretty much out the window. Whether you’re temporarily closed or still open, below are some ideas for how and what to communicate today, along with ways to plan and prepare for the eventual turnaround.
HOW TRANSPARENT SHOULD I BE IN MY COMMUNICATION?
Transparency is paramount right now. It’s how we can earn and maintain trust both with employees and guests.
Many of you are already sending out operational updates via your marketing channels, detailing housekeeping standards, how you’re keeping your team and guests safe, etc. For those who have not yet done this, below are some ideas and considerations:
1.Define your message and key talking points. If you don’t have in-house or corporate resources to help you, it’s worth seeking out a crisis communications professional to help you—it’s that important. Determine the key messages you want to convey and build around those. Keep them succinct and specific.
2. Define the process by which this message will be communicated. This includes the message to your team, your partners and vendors, your guests, your clients, the press if needed, in short: everyone. Clearly establish and communicate to your team who is to speak to the press, who is to represent the hotel on digital channels, how to obtain updated messaging, etc. You want to eliminate confusion and give your associates confidence in knowing what to say and how to answer questions. Also, keep in mind that your messaging may very well need to change with new developments. With things moving so fast right now, if you can take the time to define your message and the process for communicating that message, when you have to shift gears, it won’t be nearly as difficult.
3. Be responsive and truthful on your social channels. In times with disappointing messages to communicate, we may worry so much about what people will think that we just don’t say anything. We fear making the situation worse. If we don’t answer the question posed to us online, maybe there’s no real damage done. But just because we can’t see damage, doesn’t mean it may not be happening. We risk losing people’s trust when we shut them out. Online, the potential damage is magnified—everyone can see if you have just ignored a potential guest. This can speak volumes to online users about how you would care for them during a stay at your property. Trust is essential.
So please speak up. We are all in unchartered waters. The public knows that we’re figuring it out as we go, and if they’re asking the question in the first place, there is some hope that we will give them a truthful answer. They know it may not be exactly what they want to hear, but that is open communication. That is how we earn trust. That’s how we build loyalty. It’s like any relationship – there are good and bad times, but it’s how we behave during the bad times that can make or break the relationship. The more transparent we can be in answering questions, the more genuine and human we are in all our communication, the more likely people will be to entrust our hotels and resorts to their first post-crisis, carefree days.
SHOULD I BE MARKETING PACKAGES AND OFFERS RIGHT NOW?
I’m getting this specific question from many of my Revenue Management friends right now. It’s difficult to give advice, as we all have to do what we think is best for our circumstances. Everyone’s circumstances and realities are different right now. We’re trying to figure out the most effective way to navigate a rapidly changing situation, and we’re doing it under unprecedented pressures. In speaking with my friends, the one thought I keep coming back to is that if public health officials are advising people to stay at home, we don’t want to appear as if we are contradicting that message. From my personal perspective on marketing, I don’t believe now is the time to try to stimulate demand.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN I CAN START MARKETING PACKAGES AND OFFERS AGAIN?
The best barometer we have right now is to pay attention to what’s going on around us and take our cues from health officials and the public. A couple of things that are crucial for hoteliers to keep in mind:
1.People choose to buy – or not buy – products and services based on emotional need. Packages and offers do not drive emotional need, as much as we would love for them to. They can only help rationalize the choice to buy. We’re seeing this in action right now. The current need for safety and self-preservation supersedes the need to travel. This will change at some point, but it will happen organically.
2. As we start to see bookings increase, that’s another indicator that we have opportunity to shift messaging. Why? It signals that people’s emotional needs are shifting and that they are ready to start traveling again.
SO HOW SHOULD I BE MARKETING NOW?
We typically think of Marketing as a department for revenue-generation or branding, but currently, we would do well to think of Marketing as more of an ops department, with the top priority being to care for our guests. This is how we can show the public that – even through all of this – our guests continue to be our top priority.
Just this week, PureWow posed a question to their followers on Instagram: What kind of content do you want to see from us right now? Their followers overwhelming replied with two requests: (1) We want to be distracted/to lift our spirits and (2) we want life hacks and ways to be constructive with our time at home.
Hotels and resorts are ripe for providing this type of content and value to their followers. We are just a few days into social distancing, and people are already tired of it. They’re stuck at home. They’re worried, yes, but they’re also bored, trying to figure out ways to be happy and productive. So inspire them. Entertain them. Give them distractions. This is also a terrific way not only to build trust, but to showcase your amenities and offerings. A few possible ideas to get you started:
- Cocktail recipes from the bartender that are easy to make at home
- Tips on how to provide massages to your spouse from the Spa Director
- Easy-to-make comfort food recipes from Chef
- Tips for DIY manis/pedis from the Spa Director
- Have your Recreation Director provide DIY craft ideas for the kids
- Have your Catering Sales Manager provide their tips on décor/flower/etc. ideas for the different event spaces around your property for weddings
- You could even have your Engineering Director providing tips on how to make at-home repairs (ok, that one’s a bit of a stretch, but you see where I’m going)
- Run contests for free stays, or dinners or spa appointments. This also provides an opportunity to gain new followers and email addresses.
WHAT ELSE COULD I BE DOING RIGHT NOW TO PREPARE FOR THE TURNAROUND?
Now is also a great time to take a hard look at your resources and determine whether they match your revenue needs. Ask yourself:
- Knowing that leisure transient is going to be the first segment to kick in post-crisis, do I have all of the resources needed to drive as much of that business as I can through my direct channels?
- Have my business segments shifted in the last few years, and is the old way of doing things – sales, marketing and revenue management – still working for me?
- Do we have the right technology platforms in place and if so, are we making the most of them? If not, why not and how do we go about changing that?
- Do I have the right people doing the right jobs? Are their skill sets still aligned with my property’s needs? Am I missing critical skill sets?
Finally, I’m linking an article my good friend, Mike Medsker at Focal Revenue Solutions posted today on his tips for how to make the most of this time and hit the ground running for the turnaround. Well worth the read.
If you have any questions, or quite honestly just want someone to listen, please don’t hesitate to reach out. This is a trying and painful time for all of us, and we’re all doing our part to be as supportive and helpful as we can.
Please stay safe. Please stay healthy. We’ll all get through this together, and be stronger on the other side for it.