MASTERCLASS: Capitalise on the power of good photography

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Learn how powerful photography is in hotel communications and discover how to make sure your pictures speak a thousand of the right words about your establishment. David Barrett, MD of Pic PR, a creative communications agency specialising in the hospitality sector, shows us how.

If you’re a hotel that cares about attracting guests (and you should be) then it’s vital you consider the quality of your photography. After all, these are the images that – thanks to the internet – are going to represent your hotel to potential guests all over the world. When you think about it in those terms, your images need to be the best they can be.

When it comes to photography, hoteliers should start by going “back-to-basics”. If you’re still using photos that were taken several years ago to promote your hotel, then chances are they’re starting to look a little dated. It may even be that your hotel has been refurbished – maybe several times – since your last set of photos were taken.

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It’s too often in the hospitality industry that guests are mis-sold on outdated or even incorrect imagery. If people are browsing your website and looking to book a standard room, then make sure the image they’re looking at is of the level of room they’re likely to get, and not a higher-grade room. Often hotels cut corners when it comes to photos of their cheaper rooms, saving the best shots for their premier suites. While this can help save on your up-front marketing costs, it’s losing you revenue in the long-term. Few people will return if they feel that the photos on your website misrepresent what’s actually on offer. In short, poor and in-accurate photos do more harm than good.

A library is crucial

Instead, hoteliers should be looking to build a library of high quality, high resolution images. This library should include the full spectrum of potential photographic needs. It should feature various seasonal shots of the hotel (depicting the difference in its look between say, summer and winter) and encapsulate everything – from bedrooms to communal areas to restaurants and bars and the spa facilities. Oh, and let’s not forget food or drink!

The new generation of cameras are able to capture images in far greater detail than their predecessors, and this is something that has become very important in the hospitality sector, where visuals play such a key part in attracting clientele. Guests today expect good images and they expect to see everything your hotel has to offer when at that crucial decision making stage.

The visual element is of such importance to hotels that many have begun to put together portfolios that depict events that the premises can host, such as weddings, parties, corporate events etc. This allows them to offer a “look-book” of different events for which the hotel can be hired out. These photos can then be uploaded to the website, offered on site or both. They can also be used for social media, which I’ll touch more upon later.

Make ‘moments’

At Pic PR we very much believe that your photos should tell a story, that your hotel should appear “lived in”. Of course, images of empty rooms and restaurants have their place and will be needed from time to time, but people want to see the hotel and its amenities in use. This is something we’ve been working on recently with Gisborough Hall when updating their photography portfolio. This approach affords you the opportunity to get creative. Instead of a made-up but empty bedroom, why not feature a luxury cocktail dress hanging from the door of a wardrobe or a pressed suit laid out on the bed. It is these sorts of images that sell a scenario, stir interest and inspire people to book.

Aside from simply uploading photos of the inside of the hotel, you should also consider having scenic shots of the hotel’s surrounding area. For instance, if your premier rooms have panoramic views of a cityscape or overlook the beach, then this is something you should be drawing to the attention of potential guests. Drone photography can be perfect for this, getting those shots that you simply can’t get at ground level.

Get guests to visualise

The same goes for your restaurant or bar, a picturesque view in the background of a shot adds a lot to an image. Hoteliers should always be asking themselves how they can take advantage of their surroundings when photographing their premises and make the most of the area in which the hotel is situated.

The hospitality sector has one of the most crowded and competitive marketplaces of any industry, so if your hotel has unique features or offerings, then it is imperative you capture, showcase and promote them as vigorously as possible. For example, and touching on Gisborough Hall again, they’ve got some beautiful llamas either side of the main entrance when you drive up to the main house, which of course we made sure to capture.

In order to ensure you keep up-to-date with your hotel’s photo gallery, hoteliers should consider putting together a comprehensive image plan; which should be treated as an on-going marketing activity. Photography, much like video, is not a “one-and-done” service, but rather something that should be consistently and comprehensively monitored and reviewed.

Once you’ve put together a strong image library, you can then use them to accompany relevant press materials and compliment your social media profiles and timelines. Imagery is especially important when it comes to social, as photos tend to receive higher engagement from communities than a written post.

Think further than social

And don’t necessarily just think Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Explore other potential platforms such as Pinterest. Brides-to-be frequently turn to Pinterest for inspiration, so use your image library to create a board to help with their wedding plans, showcasing what you offer. Several of our hotel clients take this approach, where we go in take photos of supplier stalls at wedding fairs they host, and incorporating them into their Pinterest boards. It all helps to build an accurate impression of what prospective brides, or guests, will be getting.

It’s not just your social accounts you should be thinking about either. You should be prompting guests and social media followers to produce user-generated content. There are few things as powerful, or useful for gaining traction on social media, as getting guests to snap and share their stay with you.

Sharing pictures allows people to tell their own story of their experience at your hotel, giving it a greater air of authenticity. These aren’t carefully orchestrated marketing shots, but real-life endorsements from genuine guests. A beautiful image of your hotel façade, taken and posted by a guest and accompanied by positive sentiment is the next best thing to a review.

But don’t just simply hope this will happen. On your part, you can encourage guests to get involved by setting up relevant hashtags, running competitions and giving away exclusive prizes. “Picture perfect” reminder cards featuring the hashtag and your account handles can be placed in prominent spots, prompting guests to pull out their cameras.

The importance of imagery can’t be understated for a hotelier. The power in a picture is enormous, so you need to get it right. Make sure you take a professional approach, bring in experts, invest in your images and unlock your hotel’s potential.

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