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Never Stop Exploring: 5 PR Pros Talk Travel and Tourism


August 1, 2014

Tactics spoke with five communicators on the executive committee of PRSA’s Travel & Tourism Professional Interest Section. Here, they share their thoughts on their experiences working in this specialty area and discuss building their brands, keeping audiences engaged and how social media is changing the profession.

Nathan Kam is the president of the public relations group at Anthology, a Honolulu-based integrated marketing company. 

What role does public relations play in building your company’s brand?

Public relations leads Anthology’s branding efforts in organizing internal and external communications efforts. We have become the glue that brings our disciplines together — public relations, advertising, digital, social media/mobile and research — working with each group to ensure we are getting the right messaging out to our audiences.

What are the challenges of reaching audiences from different backgrounds?

Most of our client work currently focuses on the North America market and, with Hawaii being a mature destination, there’s a lot of research that is available bringing clarity to the types of media travelers are consuming. The challenge remains in the digital space and keeping up with the ever-shifting landscape with online publications, blogs and social media — consumers have a lot of options these days to get their information.

What issues and trends are top of mind when you talk to peers in the profession?

First, the continued shrinking of the editorial landscape across the country and fragmentation of the media are forcing PR pros to rethink the way we approach our jobs and getting our clients the results they desire. Second, we’re seeing more reports and data that business travel is on the rise. For many destinations, the meetings, conventions and incentives part of our business is important to sustained success.

What advice do you have for young people who want to work in travel and tourism?

Do it. It’s a dynamic and rewarding industry to work in, filled with challenges, fulfillment and opportunities to travel, meet new people and share the incredible experiences of your destination, hotel, attraction or restaurant with others.

How has outreach developed as the media landscape has changed?

It’s critical to maintain relationships with media and understand their evolving needs. Reporters are not only covering a story, but also shooting video for the website or blog, and engaging in social media. They have become a one-person team trying to get the story right and in on deadline. PR people need to adapt their approach to working in this new normal and ensure they are providing the media with resources.

Lauren Jarrell is the owner of LJ Communications, an Atlanta-based PR agency specializing in strategic communications for travel and consumer brands.

What role does public relations play in building your company’s brand?

As a new business, public relations is critical to building awareness of our services and how a potential client could benefit from working with us. We have to introduce ourselves to the market and showcase our expertise, but be focused so that doing our own public relations doesn’t detract from servicing our existing clients.

What are the challenges of reaching audiences from different backgrounds?

Backgrounds of consumers may impact the message, but every audience is short on time and telling your story to them requires permission. Understanding how your audience engages with information and where to find them is the first step. Then, tell your story.

What issues and trends are top of mind when you talk to peers in the profession?

Everyone seems energized about the dynamics between public relations and marketing as paid, earned and owned media become more interconnected. This takes storytelling to the next level and public relations can have a voice in how that takes shape.

What advice do you have for young people who want to work in travel and tourism?

The ability to write simple and memorable copy will always have a place at the center of public relations. Also, as Millennials move to the next phase of their lives and increase their value as a customer, knowing where they are consuming their information and how to speak to them will make you a valuable employee to have at the table.

How has outreach developed as the media landscape has changed?

Marketers are moving ad dollars from traditional outlets to digital, so paying attention to the new media models is critical for public relations too. Understanding the various news cycles as headline news switches to a social-driven format and publications adopt a platform approach will be key to effective pitching. The end goal is producing the right mix of coverage through traditional and new media outlets and using that content as part of a digital strategy to give it legs and third-party credibility.

Derek Klaus is a senior communications manager with the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association (KCCVA) in Missouri.

What role does public relations play in building your company’s brand?

Within our organization, public relations encompasses traditional media relations, content creation and social media initiatives. I’m lucky to work for an organization that values and respects public relations as an essential and growing component to any marketing mix. Our destination went through a rebranding effort in 2012, and media relations played, and continues to play, a significant role in managing that new identity.

What are the challenges of reaching audiences from different backgrounds?

I welcome it more as an opportunity than a challenge. Our common-sense goal has been to communicate with our customers where they congregate. Often, we find ourselves forgoing the opportunity to make a big splash and instead, establish a relationship with a niche publication that reaches a diverse audience — quality over quantity.

What issues and trends are top of mind when you talk to peers in the profession?

It seems like more of our peers are taking a hard look at the Barcelona Principles, and judging how they might apply to travel and tourism. That’s great to see. Content marketing, culinary tourism and multigenerational travel continue to be the subjects of many other conversations, too.

What advice do you have for young people who want to work in travel and tourism?

Specialize. It seems like graduates today try to be jacks-of-all-trades in an effort to better market themselves as holistic communicators. Those skills will come in time, but I find it far more refreshing when an interviewee touts a skill or topic that they are truly passionate about — something that they own.

How has outreach developed as the media landscape has changed?

Like most organizations, social media has significantly impacted how we communicate. Though the staff position may reside with the PR team, we view social media as an organizational tactic — something that everyone in our company should embrace, as ambassadors of the brand. The challenge, moving forward, is providing adequate training and establishing policies that will protect the brand and empower our team.

Ali Lundberg, based in San Diego, is the vice president of JPR, a hospitality-based PR agency.

What role does public relations play in building your company’s brand?

The value the agency brings is the ability to tell your story in a compelling way that makes the media want to write about you. Unlike advertisements, marketing pieces and social media, editorial coverage lends itself to third-party credibility.

Public relations is an art, not a science; and it’s a long-term strategy. Consistent, ongoing media placements generate awareness and exposure, and help achieve revenue goals. A strong brand base can increase bookings, encourage engagement and build a lasting, positive reputation.

What are the challenges of reach ing audiences from different backgrounds?

When setting goals for a campaign, it’s a priority to determine which audiences you are trying to reach and how they are influenced. What newspapers, magazines, broadcasts, blogs and newsletters do they receive their news from? Look beyond media and research which influencers and brands carry  weight with the demographic you want to reach, and figure out ways to partner and gain exposure through their channels.

What issues and trends are top of mind when you talk to peers in the profession?

The rise of digital as PR practitioners look for new ways to get exposure in non-traditional methods — social has continued to evolve our industry and is proving to be an effective way to reach consumers. Creativity is needed, as there is so much competition for earned editorial space. Also, at JPR, we are passionate about creating brand partnerships.

What advice do you have for young people who want to work in travel and tourism?

Start by finding out who is involved nearby and set up a time to connect. We should always be looking for ways to develop new working relationships. Attending our annual conference is an excellent way to connect with colleagues, destinations, hotels, attractions and agencies — plus, have the chance to engage with top-tier travel writers.

How has outreach developed as the media landscape has changed?

There are many different media outlets and creative ways to reach your potential consumers, but it’s not about blasting your message out to everyone, it’s finding the appropriate channels to reach your target audiences and tailoring your pitch to their needs.

Matt Owen is the corporate director of public relations for Salamander Hotels & Resorts, a Virginia-based luxury hotel company, and lives in Charleston, S.C.

What role does public relations play in building your company’s brand?

I am fortunate that my company fully recognizes the value of public relations, and allows me to lead branding efforts for our hotels and management services through editorial placements. In recognition of the evolution of social media, responsibility for population and usage of this tool was recently returned to report to public relations.

What are the challenges of reaching audiences from different backgrounds?

There are so many different audiences in the travel industry that writing and implementing multiple plans can result in too much strategic work, leaving too little time for implementation. Striking a good balance is key. 

What issues and trends are top of mind when you talk to peers in the profession?

I moderated the hotels and resorts roundtable at the recent PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference in Tampa. Populating, managing and incorporating social media into our daily workflow was the biggest challenge — and it has been for the past three years.

What advice do you have for young people who want to work in travel and tourism?

Educate yourself like a multimedia journalist, and understand the intricacies of photography and videography. You’ll need these skills.

How has outreach developed as the media landscape has changed?

While methods of outreach have evolved in the past three years, nothing beats being able to tell a compelling story. So, pick up the phone and call someone. It happens less than you think now, and it often takes a journalist less time to speak than to answer an email or sort through social platforms.

Amy Jacques Amy Jacques is the managing editor of Tactics. She holds a master’s in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Email: amy.jacques at prsa.org



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