“A good forecaster is not smarter than everyone else, he merely has his ignorance better organized.” This sentiment, source unknown, captures the power of good PR planning to navigate hotel launch plans that zig instead of zag.
Reflecting on 15 years in the hospitality business, the only surety in a launch date is its likelihood to change. Construction interruptions, permitting issues, staffing problems and financing are but a few of the snags that can trip up plans. But all is not lost when dates change, and then change again. A flexible public relations launch plan will keep your business relevant through ribbon-cutting day.
Think broadly. From the start, consider your launch date a moving target. The first date shared with press and consumers should be the planned year of opening, followed by the season, then the month, and last, but certainly not least, the official date once it’s assured. This strategy offers flexibility and minimizes the appearance of delays.
Extend the conversation. Oversharing is a conversation killer. Keep journalists, past guests and new followers intrigued, but still hungry for more. Plan a steady stream of communications that touch on different points of interest, extending the dialog.
For example, hard hat tours are a great way to update the media on your progress, highlighting model rooms, special views, and already completed amenities and features. Getting feet on the ground will bring blueprints and renderings to life for the press and give important executives such as the hotel’s general manager an opportunity for relationship-building face time. Plus, toured journalists are more likely to accept a return invitation to report on the finished product.
That said, a dusty construction site offers little to your future guests’ social media streams. Not every follower can imagine the possibilities, potentially sending them searching for the “unfollow” button rather than your website. Instead, keep photo sharing selective and think small (as in the smallest details). Consider more artistic photos, like a close-up of the window treatment pattern or the in-room bath amenities, or even a tight shot of the (quickly cleaned) doorknobs with a “We can’t wait to open these soon” message.
Home in on your brand-defining services and find ways to sample them in advance. Leading up to the reopening of a historic hotel in Washington, D.C., we organized a luxurious sit-down media dinner at a nearby townhouse, crafted by the newly named executive chef. Every element of the meal, from the china to the wines, reflected the hotel’s restaurant plans. The event stimulated plenty of media chatter for the award-winning dining experience yet to come.
This over-the-top idea can be modified to match the tone of your brand and venue, such as a casual media mixer with light bites and room for plenty of conversation. Or, consider bringing your dining experience directly to the press, thanks to great options like Hearst’s Cafe57 guest chef program in New York City, where you’ll find a captive audience of writers and editors from the iconic publishing organization.
For hotels centered on wellness, spa sampler parties for press and VIPs can help build pre-opening buzz, even when held off-site while occupancy permits are in process. For example, seasoned therapists can take inspiration from the spa menu to offer special “hand facials” that reflect the products and essences that will ultimately debut. These types of services are fun and informative and can be experienced mid-party without sending guests away for a traditional spa therapy. Or, consider a special media mailer in coordination with your beauty product partner, sending a sampling of the skincare line with handsomely crafted press materials that outline the hotel’s spa plans.
Shift the focus. The inside scoop on an interesting amenity or special rate can change the conversation when truly unexpected last-minute delays strike. These back-pocket details can be used to build more flexibility into your plan, extend the conversation and shift the focus.
Ultimately, a well-designed, nimble PR plan can drive business forward, long before doors open. It’s about generating buzz that has staying power, even when “coming soon” means “sooner or later.”
Whether you’re introducing a new service, a new location or a new hotel brand, Mower’s PR and marketing pros have the launch expertise to take you to the top of your market. To start the conversation, contact Mary Gendron, our SVP — managing director and Travel & Tourism team leader.